Orca found off the coast of BC died of blunt trauma, experts say

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Initial necropsy results of an endangered Puget Sound orca found off the coast of British Columbia suggests that it was blunt force trauma that killed the killer whale and another animals wasn’t responsible for its death.

Experts at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada say that the 18-year-old male killer whale was alive at the time he was hit and it died of blunt trauma to its head and dorsal side. According to Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal coordinator with the agency, the whale was likely struck by something. Officials with the federal Fisheries Department have been careful not to speculate about what caused the animal’s injuries – specifically if it was caused by a vessel.

The 22-foot long whale called J-34 was seen floating Tuesday near the shore of Sechelt, northwest of Vancouver. The investigations haven’t concluded yet and experts are still conducting more blood and tissue tests on the whale. J-34 was part of the endangered southern resident killer whale population, which live in the waters off southern B.C. and Washington state. The group’s population is now 79.

Fate of killer whales

Orcas are a bunch of endangered species and their fate in the Pacific Northwest region of B.C. and Washington State has become a central issue in the debate about the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion from Alberta to B.C. The government has already approved the project in November, but there has been intense opposition from environmentalists and others with claims that the increased tanker traffic associated with the pipeline would put whales in serious danger.

Ships may strike the whales and could either severely injure them or cause their deaths or the noise of the ships could disrupt the whales’ ability to track prey and communicate. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit last week challenging the federal approval of the pipeline because, they argue, the government did not adequately consider the impact on the whales.

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