In this photo taken July 31, 2015, passengers aboard a boat watch a pair of orca whales swim past in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Southern resident killer whale died of blunt trauma, likely from ship

J34 was found more than two years ago near Sechelt, but the necropsy findings have now been released

A southern resident killer whale found in West Coast waters died of blunt trauma, likely caused by a ship or large boat.

The report, posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website Monday, comes more than two years since J34 was found dead near Sechelt in December 2016. The 18-year-old male killer whale, dubbed DoubleStuf, was the first of two calves birthed by J22 (nicknamed Oreo).

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada said that the blunt trauma was sustained on the dorsal side of the whale, located on his top side or back. That injury caused a hematoma, the report found, which means J34 was alive at the time of the injury and would have survived the initial trauma for a period of time prior to his death.

Southern resident pods tend to migrate seasonally from B.C. coastal waters as far south as California, believed to be based on salmon supply. It’s unclear exactly where the male orca was when he was injured.

ALSO READ: Sick orca J50 declared dead by 1 group while scientists remain hopeful

Otherwise, J34 was in moderate to good health, the report said.

It’s estimated that the whale was dead for three to five days before it was spotted off B.C. shores, according to reports at the time. Government officials worked with the Sechelt First Nation to bring the body to the mainland for biologists to complete a necropsy.

The report comes as environmentalists and whale advocates have voiced ample concern over how an increase in oil tanker traffic from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could put the remaining whales at risk, specifically from possible oil spills and disrupting noises caused by the vessels.

ALSO READ: Conservation groups sue Ottawa to protect endangered killer whales

READ MORE: Two southern resident killer whales missing as experts fear for the population

The expansion project, recently green-lit for a second time by the federal government, will increase tanker traffic sevenfold where the various pods feed and live.

There are just over 70 of these whales left in the entire world.

Black Press Media has reached out to Environment Minister George Heyman for further comment.

WATCH: B.C. man films up-close view of orca breaching near Victoria


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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