Orca calf stranded in Canadian lagoon will be airlifted out, rescuers say

Plans are under way to airlift a stranded killer whale calf out of a remote tidal lagoon off northern Vancouver Island in an effort to reunite the young orca with its extended family, Canadian authorities said.

Canadian Fisheries Department and First Nations officials said the plan involves placing the two-year-old calf into a sling, lifting it out of the lagoon by helicopter and putting it in a net pen in the ocean while they wait for its family pod to be near before release.

Rescuers have been unable to coax the young whale out of the area since its pregnant mother was stranded at low tide in the lagoon and died on March 23.

The plan was agreed to during a meeting between members of the Ehattesaht First Nation council, Fisheries Department officials and marine technical experts.

Ehattesaht First Nation chief Simon John said his people have deep cultural and spiritual connections to orcas and the nation has been receiving calls of concern and support from around the world.

Paul Cottrell, a marine mammal co-ordinator with the Fisheries Department, said the rescue could occur within days, but more likely within the next two weeks.

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