NOAA says it is likely J50 died and sank

A week after the ailing orca known as J50 was last seen off the San Juan Islands, federal scientists say it is unlikely she's still alive.

"These are wild animals. It's hard to know. Unfortunately, it's likely that she's no longer with her group and that she's died," said Lynne Barre, of NOAA Fisheries.

Still, a significant search continued Friday that included a Coast Guard helicopter.

NOAA officials ask people in boats and planes to watch for J50, especially in Rosario Strait and the south end of Georgia Strait up to the Canadian border.

"Unfortunately with her poor body condition and not a thick blubber layer, she's most likely to sink, but she was seen in some shallow areas, so it's possible she could wash up on the beach," Barre said.

NOAA officials say if they can recover her body, it would be valuable to understanding the plight of the southern resident killer whales.

NOAA plans weekend public meetings about orca recovery.

They are set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Friday Harbor High School and 1 p.m. Sunday at Haggett Hall at the University of Washington.

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