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King County sends research vessel to help save sick orca

Seattle research vessel SoundGuardian will aid in the effort to save the ailing J-50 and her orca pod.

State, federal and tribal coalitions are working together to help the endangered southern resident orca population in Northwest waters. Now King County will be contributing to the effort.

King County’s research vessel, SoundGuardian, left Seattle Sunday morning to travel north up Puget Sound. The vessel will be aiding the emergency effort to save the ailing J-50 and her orca pod.

King County Executive Dow Constantine directed SoundGuardian to join others already working together to save the whales, including finding the pod's exact location and giving food and medicine.

SoundGuardian, with its crew of three, will dock at Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham. It is King County's primary marine research vessel and is normally used by scientists to collect samples from the Puget Sound and assist in buoy maintenance.

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Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are coordinating the emergency recovery efforts by organizing several vessels involved.

Some are critical that this effort will make no significant change in the health and long-term well-being of the southern resident orca pod; however, those involved with the rescue see the issue as important and necessary to act on.

"Orcas are the Salish Sea’s most iconic residents, and we all share the responsibility of protecting these beloved animals," Constantine says. "We are doing whatever we can to help the orca now, and fulfill long-term goals to improve the health of local waterways and the Salish Sea."

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