Celebrate the Return of the Southern Residents to Central Puget Sound

Throughout December With a Welcome Sign, Poem or Story


SEATTLE – (December 11, 2020) – The Whale Trail and Seal Sitters invite the public to celebrate the annual return of the southern resident orcas to central Puget Sound. For 2020, the annual celebration has been transformed from a 1-day event into a series of activities that anyone can do from home. The community can show creativity and support for J, K and L pods while maintaining physical distancing. The endangered orcas return to central Puget Sound each fall and winter, following chum salmon runs that are a critical part of their diet. The recent birth of two new calves is a ray of hope for this struggling population.

How to Celebrate:

  1. Put a Whale In your Window! Children and adults are invited download, color and display a welcome sign in their window.  Use the downloadable template, or make your own. Display the sign in your window and share on social media with #welcometheorcas.
  2. Write for the Whales. Write a poem or share your story. Share what the orcas mean to you, and your hopes for their future. Do you have a favorite orca, or orca story? We want to hear about it! Orca-themed prizes will be awarded for the top three poems or stories in each category: K-2nd grade, 3-5th grade, 6-8th grade, 9-12thgrade, adults. Limit of 3 submissions per person. Submission accepted on The Whale Trail Website. Prizes are non-monetary. Winners will be announced in January 2021.
  3. Snap a Selfie! Take a picture of your welcome sign. If you live near a Whale Trail site, show us what you see. (Wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and follow all other COVID restrictions.)

“There’s nothing like seeing J,K or L pods in our own backyard, an urban fjord where they have thrived for thousands of years,” states Whale Trail director Donna Sandstrom, a former member of Governor Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force. “In one human generation we’ve brought them to the edge of extinction, through threats that are all human-caused. Join with us to welcome the orcas with heart and art and commit to making the Salish Sea a place that can sustain them again.”

From a high of 98 animals in 1996, the southern resident population has declined precipitously, to a current near-historical low of 74 individuals.  In 2019 Governor Inslee’s Task Force recommended 49 actions to recover the southern residents by increasing prey availability, reducing toxin accumulations and reducing noise and disturbance. Welcome the Orcas offers a creative way to celebrate our connection to the orcas and confirm our commitment to protect them.

Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network was founded in 2007 to protect marine mammals and to educate the public about our shared environment. “The Whale Trail is a natural ally in this work, said Lynn Shimamoto, Co-Investigator of Seal Sitters. “We are thrilled to join with all our partners in welcoming the orcas back to Puget Sound.”

Welcome the Orcas is co-sponsored by The Whale Trail, Seal Sitters, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.


About The Whale Trail, a nonprofit organization
Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of orcas, other marine mammals and their environment by identifying a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails through the Salish Sea and along the Pacific Coast. From 16 inaugural sites, there are now more than100 locations, spanning four states and two countries. The Whale Trail has its roots in a rare conservation success—the successful return of the orphaned orca, Springer. Our vision is a fully recovered southern resident orca population thriving in a healthy sea for generations to come. www.thewhaletrail.org