June 23rd – All Day

Fort Worden Beaches and Marine Science Center

Celebration – Education – Ceremony – Adventure

The Orca Festival is an annual tradition of celebrating the ecosystems that make up the Salish Sea, and deepening our relationship and responsibility to them. Bringing together whale experts, educators, artists and community, the day offers education, exploration and celebration by the sea. The Orca is an ancient creature that has lived in the Salish Sea for thousands of years, traveling as families and staying connected throughout their lives. However, southern resident orcas are extremely threatened by the dwindling salmon population in the Salish Sea. We seek to celebrate these aquatic relatives, and work towards their healthy future.

This year’s festival lands on the same day as the Rat Island Regatta, a long time Port Townsend tradition that invites any human powered watercraft to race from Fort Worden around Rat Island and back. Visit soundrowers.org for more information about the race.

Featured speakers include: Stephanie Solien, chair Governor’s Orca Recovery Task Force, Erin Ashe, orca researcher with Seattle-based Ocean Initiative, Lucas Hall, project coordinator for Long Live the Kings, and Olivia Vito & Kory Kirby, of the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

Famed rock/ska band Locust Street Taxi performs starting at 1PM. Festival awards ceremony at 2PM will honor winners of the Rat Island Regatta and JPod Scavenger hunt, as well as Governor Jay Inslee for his long-term dedication and support of the Southern Resident Orcas of Puget Sound (Gov. Inslee will not be present). With all this followed by a song and dance by the North Olympic Orca Pod and a celebration of Finn the salmon’s 30th year anniversary, this year’s award ceremony will be one for the history books.

Skeleton of Hope

The skeleton of Hope, a transient female orca that beached and died locally in 2002, now hangs in the Natural History Building at Fort Worden, and is one of few fully articulated orca skeletons in the world. While working with scientists researching her death and preparing her skeleton for display, scientists at the Marine Science Center learned many things about this whale and the community of orcas living along our coast. The exhibit, Learning from Orcas: The Story of Hope, highlights her story and lessons learned from these events. Tours of Hope will take place in the Natural History Exhibit at 1, 2, 3 and 4PM.

JPod Scavenger Hunt

JPod Scavenger Hunt 11AM – 2PM: Starting at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center Natural History Exhibit, get to know the largest pod of Southern Resident Orcas by following clues and collecting trading cards with each member of the famous JPod of orcas. All participants who complete the scavenger hunt will receive a small prize and be entered into a raffle drawing to win free whale watching tours from PSE and a variety of other prizes. Must be 15 or younger to participate.

Event Schedule

  • 9:00 – Rat Island Regatta early start
  • 10:00 – Rat Island Regatta standard start
  • 11:00 – JPod Scavenger Hunt registration opens (Natural History Exhibit)
  • 11:00 1:00 PM – Featured speakers (Natural History Exhibit)
    – Erin Ashe – Oceans Initiative
    – Lucas Hall – Long Live the Kings
    – Olivia Vito and Kory Kirbyn – North Olympic Salmon Coalition
    – Stephanie Solien – Chair Orca Recovery Task Force

  • 1:00 – Locust Street Taxi
  • 2:00 – Award Ceremony on the Pier
  • 2:30 – Locust Street Taxi
  • 3:00 – Puget Sound Express – FREE boat tour
  • 4:00 – Puget Sound Express – FREE boat tour

Throughout the Day

  • 11:00 – 5:00 – Free entrance to Marine Science Center and Natural History Exhibit
  • 11:00 – 2:00 – Salmon & Orca hat making with North Olympic Salmon Coalition
  • 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 – Tours of Hope, one of few fully-articulated orca skeletons
  • 11:00 – 5:00 – Listen to Orcas via the Hydrophone Listening Network
  • 11:00 – 5:00 – Fin the salmon on display – kids educational exhibit
  • 9:00 – 5:00 – Canteen – beachside restaurant and grocery open
  • All Day: BYO beach party & tug of war on the beach

The Port Townsend Orca Festival is produced in partnership between between the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Puget Sound Express and Thunderbull Productions. Additional event partners include the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Port Townsend School District and the North Olympic Orca Pod.

Free event parking on the Fort Worden Parade Grounds – please consider walking, riding or bussing! Discover Pass Required for beach parking

Our Speakers

Stephanie Solien
Co-chair, Governor's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force

Stephanie Solien serves on the Leadership Council of Puget Sound Partnership. In that role she has been appointed co-chair of the Governor's Southern Resident Killer Whale Recovery Task Force. The Task Force is charged with preparing a comprehensive report and recommendations for recovering Southern Residents, with a full draft due by October 1, 2018, and a final report by November 1, 2018. The report will detail actions that will address all of the major threats to Southern Residents, including prey availability, toxic contaminants, and disturbance from noise and vessel traffic.

She has served in significant public sector leadership roles with Governor Booth Gardner, President Bill Clinton and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit. Stephanie earned her degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and her Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington​,​
Evans School of Public Affairs.

Erin Ashe
Co-founder/Researcher, Oceans Initiative

Erin Ashe received her PhD from the University of St Andrews, Scotland and is the co-founder of the research and conservation non-profit, Oceans Initiative. The primary focus of her PhD research is the ecology of Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Pacific Northwest.

She uses photo-identification and acoustics to learn more about the conservation status of these fascinating dolphins. She is also interested in how mammal-eating killer whales (Bigg's) may be impacting Pacific white-sided dolphin population dynamics and behavior. Her research interests include mark-recapture, ecology, conservation biology, demography, acoustics, population viability analysis, marine protected areas. Ashe's research is motivated by a desire to use science to make tangible conservation impacts.

Lucas Hall
Project Coordinator, Long Live the Kings

Born and raised near the Skagit River, Lucas left the Seattle tech startup scene to return to his passion, environmental management in the Pacific Northwest.

With previous experience working with agricultural nonpoint pollution inspectors and Washington State aquaculture polices, he brings a combination of stakeholder engagement, policy analysis, and entrepreneurship to LLTK.

Lucas holds a B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University and a Master of Public Administration degree and Environmental Management Certificate from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington.

Kory Kirby
Education and Outreach, North Olympic Salmon Coalition

Kory grew up in Minnesota flipping over rocks for bugs, building forts, and digging holes in the soil. He spent much of his childhood in the green places of the Midwest before migrating west for college at Montana State University (MSU). While at MSU Kory skied a hundred days a year, worked in a soil lab, fell in love with conservation and educating the next generation of environmental stewards. He also worked as a campaign organizer for American Rivers, taught soil classes, and was Vice-President of a student organization looking to unify student behind local sustainability. In spring of 2017, he earned a B.S. in Land Rehabilitation and Soil Science.

Olivia Vito
Program Assistant, North Olympic Salmon Coalition

Olivia began studying the environment in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where she fell in love with the mountains of Appalachia and began an active lifestyle of community involvement, planting riparian zones, cleaning up streams and hosting ecology seminars. She was able to study environmental issues in a variety of ecosystems from West Virginian strip mines to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which gave her an increased interest in the ways humans impact their environment. Since graduating with a B.S. in Biology, she worked as an environmental educator and conservation crew leader across the U.S.