Join Puget Sound Express, The Port Townsend Marine Science Center, and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce for a month-long celebration of Orca Awareness Month in Port Townsend. Public events June 3 – June 24, 2017 will bring together whale experts, educators, tribal representatives and artists, for educational and fun-filled days of exploration around the area’s orca population and the broader whale ecosystem in the Salish Sea.

2017 marks the 11th year that Washingtonians celebrate Orca Awareness Month. Started over a decade ago by Susan Berta and Howard Garrett of Orca Network, and proclaimed a tradition by Governor Jay Inslee, Orca Awareness Month raises awareness of endangered Southern Resident orcas and the need to help them recover to a healthy population.

All Month: J-Pod Scavenger Hunt

Starting at the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center, get to know the largest pod of Southern Resident Orcas by following clues and collecting trading cards with each member of the famous J-Pod of orcas.

Kiki, a young orca, and her mother have been separated from their pod. Can you help reunite them with their family? Follow Kiki and her mom to 10 different locations in Port Townsend. Along the way you will learn a lot about orcas, and the chance to win a whale watching trip to see orcas in the wild. The first part of Kiki’s story is in the Visitor Information Center. It will tell you where to go next. Orcas are naturally curious about new environments. You will need to make like an orca and explore each location to find the next part of Kiki’s story.

Start at the Port Townsend Visitor Information Center . You’ll collect trading cards at various PT locations to get to know the members of J-Pod. Collect them all and win great prizes, including free whale watching tours! Take a free “Orca Selfie” at the VIC. Alba Backgrounds, Inc.and photographer Koen Hoekemeijer have generously donated a stunning photo backdrop of orcas from Koen’s native Norway that frames a life-size baby orca sculpture created by local artist Tom Booth. Tag your selfie #ptorcafest and get automatically entered to win a free custom photo backdrop. Get on it and celebrate J-Pod and Orca Awareness Month!

The first two participants to complete the hunt receive free whale watching tours from Puget Sound Express.  All other participants who complete the scavenger hunt will be entered into a raffle with a variety of fun prizes. Every completed entry wins!  The drawing will take place on June 24th at the Summer Kick Off and Beach Party.

June 24, 2017 – Summer Kick Off and Beach Party

Port Townsend Marine Science Center, 11am-5pm
Discover Pass Required for Fort Worden State Park; free admission to PTMSC

A jam-packed day with fun and educational events to celebrate the start of summer and reinforce our connection to the Salish Sea.

June is Orca Awareness Month in Washington State, and Port Townsend is wrapping up the month with a summer-kickoff and beach party on June 24th at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, at Fort Worden State Park. Running from 11am-5pm, guests can expect a day full of fun and educational activities to celebrate the start of summer and reinforce our connection to the Salish Sea.

2017 marks the 11th annual Orca Awareness Month, dedicated to promoting education about the endangered Southern Resident orca population—but this party is the first of its kind for Port Townsend. “Port Townsend’s central location in the Salish Sea makes it one of the nation’s finest destinations for learning about orcas,” says Executive Director of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center Janine Boire.

The Marine Science Center will be opening its doors to the public, where visitors can listen to whales over hydrophones, explore the touch tanks and learn about the marine ecosystems for the Salish Sea. Local artist Jesse Watson will facilitate sand sculpture making down on the beach, and Locust Street Taxi will raise spirits—and feet—with a concert on the pier! Guests will also have the opportunity to take a free boat tour with Puget Sound Express, and view the Hope skeleton Natural History Exhibit—one of only eight fully articulated orca skeletons in the world.

The North Olympic Salmon Coalition’s involvement in the Orca Festival is important, since salmon are an important part of an orca’s diet and there is a strong relationship between the health of each endangered population. Many Chinook salmon runs within the Southern Residents’ range have been listed on the Endangered Species Act for almost two decades, and the Southern Residents themselves have been listed for over a decade—yet both species remain in dire straits. This festival is an important opportunity to engage with the local organizations that are working to restore these populations, and learn how we can contribute, as individuals and a community, to promoting the health of these two beloved northwest icons.

The event is free and open to the public, however Discovery Passes will still be required to park down by the beach at Fort Worden.

The celebration is sponsored the Marine Science Center, Puget Sound Express, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, NOAA and Thunderbull Productions.


On the Beach
– 11AM – Opening Ceremony
– 11AM – 3PM – Sand sculpture making with Jesse Watson
– 3:00 PM – Community Portrait
– Beach games with Jeff. Co. Parks and Rec.

On the Pier
– Free entrance to the Marine Science Center
– Listen to whales using a hydrophone
– 1PM -3PM- Locust Street Taxi performance
– 3PM – 5PM – Free boat tours with Puget Sound Express

Natural History Exhibit
– Hope skeleton viewing
– Climb inside of NOSC’s larger-than-life Fin the Salmon
– Art projects with NOSC
– Life-size Inflatable orca on display

Port Townsend’s central location in the Salish Sea makes it one of the nation’s finest destinations for learning about orcas. Our area is home to a special community of orcas called the Southern Residents. This is a federally protected sub-species that primarily eats salmon. Decreased salmon stocks, and environmental pressures are putting real pressure on this community.Janine Boire, PTMSC
Our family has been connecting residents and visitors with orcas and the other whales in our region for more than 3 decades. We hope Port Townsend Orca Fest will connect our community more deeply with the culture, science, and future of these amazing animals.Pete Hanke, Jr. PSE

June 3, 2017 – The Day of the Orca

Port Townsend Marine Science Center, 11am-3pm
Free Admission to Fort Worden State Park; Free Admission to PTMSC

Get to know the Southern Resident and Transient Orca populations that call our area home. Family as well as Adult-oriented sessions.

Ken Balcomb

  • Welcome – with Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director Janine Boire, and Jamestown S’Kallam tribal member and Chief Chetzemoka descendent Marlin Holden
  • Introduction to Our Orcas – with Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research, PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire, and photographer and Puget Sound Express Naturalist Bart Rulon (Seating is limited)
  • How to ID Orcas – with Puget Sound Express Naturalist Bart Rulon
  • Get To Know Your Orcas session for children and families
  • Tours of Hope – one of only 8 fully-articulated orca skeletons in the world
  • Free Boat Tours on Puget Sound Express whale watching vessels
  • Listen to Orcas – Learn how orcas communicate and listen in via the Hydrophone Listening Network
  • Family-Oriented Art Projects take place throughout the day