Breaching humpback whale, courtesy of Todd Chandler
Sea otters in Morro Bay, courtesy of City of Morro Bay
THE WHALE TRAIL
The Whale Trail is a series of sites to view marine mammals from shore along the Pacific Coast. Each site has a page on our website, and many feature interpretive signs.
OVER 100 SITES
From inaugural 16 sites there are now more than 100, spanning the west coast from California to British Columbia.
Through our sites, signs and programs, we reach more than 50 million people each year.
Our mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of orcas, other marine mammals and the marine environment by identifying a network of viewing sites along the whales’ trails through the Salish Sea and along the Pacific Coast.
Our vision is a fully recovered southern resident orca population thriving in a healthy seas for generations to come.
Increase awareness that our marine waters are home to whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.
Connect Whale Trail visitors to whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions, otters, other marine wildlife and their habitat. Connect people and communities to each other.
Promote shore-based whale watching and protect marine ecosystems.
Inspire stewardship and build community.
The Whale Trail is a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington. The project is steered by a core team of partners and regional planning teams. Lead partners include NOAA Fisheries, National Marine Sanctuaries, BC Cetacean Sighting Network, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and many others. We work closely with site hosts, biologists, community members and sponsors to accomplish our mission and goals. The Whale Trail was founded and is led by Donna Sandstrom.
Many team members first met when they worked together to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod. It is the only successful orca rehabilitation in history. Donna was inspired by that collaborative effort to found The Whale Trail.
The Whale Trail is a true collaboration that has its roots in a rare conservation success – the successful return of the orphaned orca Springer. To get the whale home, we had to learn to work together – across organizational and national boundaries. Above all, we put the whale’s best interest first.
The Whale Trail was founded in that same spirit, and by many of the same members. Together we are creating a powerful piece of common ground, with a shared goal of inspiring appreciation and stewardship for marine mammals, and recovering the southern resident orcas. Our mission has been embraced and championed across four states and two countries.
The Whale Trail is a backbone organization. We provide the tools and methods for local partners to implement our shared vision. The project has grown quickly, and organically, improving and evolving as new regions, partners and communities come on board. We are pioneering a model that can be adapted and implemented globally.
Conservation starts with awareness. The Whale Trail is a simple and powerful way to connect people to marine mammals and their environment. We encourage people to travel lightly, and to watch wildlife responsibly.
Shore-based wildlife viewing is an economical and affordable experience that anyone can participate in. The Whale Trail is attracting new visitors to coastal communities, and reaches a wide and diverse audience.
Shore-based whale-watching is at once a deeply local and widely shared experience. The Whale Trail both celebrates local landscapes and communities, and connects them to each other. Travelers experience the locations as a connected whole.
By promoting and facilitating citizen sightings, The Whale Trail provides data for researchers and managers. As The Whale Trail grows, we are engaging and galvanizing human communities, with unlimited potential to have a beneficial impact for the orcas, the ocean and all its creatures.
- By promoting and facilitating citizen sightings, The Whale Trail provides data to help close research gaps about where the southern residents go in the winter.
- By promoting and facilitating shore-based whale-watching, The Whale Trail makes it easy for the anyone to participate in a specific recovery action.
- The Whale Trail is a specific action in NOAA’s Killer Whale Recovery Plan, and a recognized partner in its education, outreach and conservation efforts.
The Whale Trail is funded through grants, individual and corporate donations and sponsorships. See our sponsors and supporters here.