A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

Tagged grey whale off Vancouver Island given treatment after developing lesions

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year.

Three grey whales from the Pacific Coast feeding group were satellite tagged off the coast of Washington in September 2020 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA Fisheries. The tagging is part of a research project on the group of whales, conducted in collaboration between NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium.

The tags are aimed to gather information about whales’ behaviour, breeding areas, habitat, feeding and migratory patterns.

“We photographed this particular whale on Sept. 4 prior to tagging. At the time, we determined that the whale was in good condition and was a good candidate for tagging,” said Sharon Melin program manager for the California Current Ecosystem Program at NOAA Fisheries. “We only undertake tagging when we are confident the risk to the animal is low.”

READ ALSO: Rare bird spotted at Vancouver Island backyard feeder

The groups have been monitoring the whale over several months and collected images of it on Sept. 25, Oct. 4 and Dec. 9, 2020, with no abnormalities. However, on March 16, the whale was reported to have a wound around the tagging site, as well as two more lesions on the opposite side of its body.

A panel of U.S. and Canadian whale experts was formed following the veterinarian’s report, who gathered more information on the whale’s condition, and developed a response plan.

Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian with the Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Mammal Rescue, said the wound near the tagging site appeared to have a radius of about 20 to 30 cm, and the corresponding patches were about the same size. It is still unknown why the lesions on the opposite side of the whale’s body occurred, and whether or not they are related to the tagging site.

To try and prevent anything more serious – such as systemic infection – from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. Antibiotics were administered using a CO2 rifle, which shot darts carrying the medicine into the whale’s body.

Along with the antibiotics, the team also collected a breath sample to further evaluate the whale’s well-being, and sample for any bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens of concern.

“The observed animal was also coughing up a little bit of mucus while moving, suggesting irritation in the airway. Antibiotics will help against any respiratory infection as well,” said Haulena.

The panel will continue to monitor the whale but has agreed the lesions did not pose an imminent danger to the animal’s health.

READ ALSO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

It can take anywhere from four months to a year for a tag to migrate out of a whale’s body. The tags act in a similar way as a splinter would in a human, and are designed to eventually work their way out of the whale’s body as the site continues to heal. Tags are implemented into the dorsal midline of the whale.

“We are hopeful that once this satellite tag is extruded, the tissue around the tagging site will heal. But we will continue to monitor the whale’s condition closely,” states the NOAA website. The satellite tag on this whale is said to be the last one remaining.

This tagging study was conducted to learn about the approximately 250 grey whales who make up the Pacific Coast feeding group. The group is part of the eastern north pacific grey population, which totals about 20,000.

“This group is so unique that they don’t migrate like the larger population does. Most travel to Alaska during the summer for breeding, but this group stops off our coast and spends the summer feeding here,” said Melin.

“We don’t know whether they stay all year round, and satellites help us find more information about how they are using the habitats and where they move. We consider them unique and we want to learn more about them.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Whales

Just Posted

Surrey teacher Derek Duke gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the North Surrey clinic on Wednesday, March 24. (submitted photo: Fraser Health)
COVID-19 cases among staff drop 60% after vaccinations: Surrey school district

School-based staff first eligible for vaccine March 24

Shane Ertmoed’s application for Escorted Temporary Absences was granted following a hearing May 4, 2021. (File photo)
Surrey child-killer an ‘average’ risk to sexually reoffend: Parole Board

Written reasons behind approval of Shane Ertmoed’s request for escorted absences shared

Trucks line up for food during a drive-thru event on the PNE grounds last May. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)
Drive-thru food truck fest coming to North Surrey Secondary lot

School a ‘great location – high traffic, very visible, and a very large parking lot’

White Rock has voted to bring two resolutions before the Union of B.C. Municipalities aimed at improving police response to mental health crises. (File photo)
White Rock resolutions aim to limit police involvement in mental health crises

City seeks support from UBCM, and individual municipalities

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

FILE – RCMP (Black Press Media photo)
Man dead, 2 others injured in another suspected gang shooting in the Lower Mainland

Shots rang out at a busy parking lot at Market Crossing in Burnaby at about 8:35 p.m. Thursday

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Lorna Seip touches up the mural on the wall at MRSS, working with students from the Rainbow Club. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Rainbow club puts message of inclusion at Maple Ridge School’s main entrance

Maple Ridge secondary grad says SOGI symbols are powerful

Most Read