Killer whale found dead off Canada part of endangered population

Scientists say an orca found dead off the coast of British Columbia belongs to the endangered population of killer whales that spend time in Washington state waters.

Center for Whale Research scientist Ken Balcomb said yesterday that he and others have confirmed the whale was an 18-year-old male called J-34. They based the identification on photographs and its unique markings.

The orca was seen floating near the shore Tuesday near Sechelt, about 40 miles northwest of Vancouver.

The whale was towed to a beach, and Canadian officials performed a necropsy on Wednesday. The centre is awaiting those results for a cause of death.

Balcomb said in a statement that at least four members of the J pod, one of three families of southern resident killer whales, have died this year. The pod now stands at 25 members. K pod has 19 members and L pod has 35.

He said the killer whales have not been getting enough salmon - their chief food source - for years. He said policymakers should be considering stricter salmon catch limits and strategic dam removals to improve wild salmon populations.