Plans to lift a B.C. orca calf out of remote lagoon aim for two-week timeline

ZEBALLOS, B.C. — A rescue effort that involves lifting a killer whale calf out of a remote tidal lagoon off northern Vancouver Island could happen within the next two weeks. 

Federal Fisheries Department officials, the area’s Ehattesaht First Nation and marine mammal rescue experts say they’re convinced the only way to save the two-year-old orca calf is to risk hoisting it from the tidal lagoon near Zeballos, B.C. 

Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal co-ordinator with the department, says rescue crews will attempt to place the young whale in a sling and lift it to the open ocean.

He says the plan then involves placing the orca calf in a large net pen in the ocean where its health can be examined and the chances of it meeting its family pod are greatest. 

Ehattesaht First Nation Chief Simon John says other attempts to entice the young whale to leave the lagoon have not been successful and the nation wants to take every opportunity available to save its life. 

The orca calf has been stranded near Little Espinosa Inlet since March 23, when its pregnant mother became trapped on a rocky beach at high tide and died. 

Zeballos is located more than 450 kilometres northwest of Victoria. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2024. 

The Canadian Press