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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

Local MP Elizabeth May says the public has a right to know the identity of the company that plans to operate the massive warehouse proposed for Sidney on airport lands but residents who want to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May says public has right to know identity of Sidney warehouse operator

Residents wanting to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts, said May

Bukwila by Art Thompson, set at the steps of Lansdowne campus’ Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, has been welcoming students to campus since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
World-renowned artist’s legacy lives on at Camosun College

Art Thompson made untold contributions toward Indigenous education, art and advocacy

Did you know, according to the CRD, every person produces an average of 185–200 litres of wastewater per day? Here’s where most of it gets treated, at the new wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. (CRD image)
View Royal signs on to wastewater funding plan

Capital Regional District requesting to borrow up to $34.3 million to upgrade infrastructure

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read