Breaching SRKW by M Sears Permit 16163-01

Good news! The Whale Trail is featured in a Seattle Times story about sustainable whale-watching:

How to Watch Whales Responsibly in Puget Sound

We are so glad to be part of this story, and hope it helps more people spot whales from shore. It’s a great time of year to explore The Whale Trail, and discover new regions or places.

Shore-based whale-watching can be strategic or serendipitous. Use the site descriptions on this website to plan your trip – find out what animals you are likely to see.  Download the free app Whale Alert and check for recent sightings.

Summer is the season to look for humpback whales. The mammoth mammals are resurgent, and might be seen all along the Whale Trail. Keep an eye out for harbor seals, sea lions, dolphins or porpoises, which are commonly seen from most Whale Trail locations.

People often ask if we support boat-based whale-watching. We do! With one big caveat:

We support whale-watching from boats so long as it is sustainable for the species that are being watched. 

Which means, we don’t support watching the endangered southern resident orcas (J, K and L pods) from boats (except ferries). Vessel noise and disturbance is a key threat for these vulnerable pods, and makes it harder for them to forage, rest and socialize. The harmful impacts are increasingly clear, and worse than we thought:

Happily, we don’t need to choose between watching southern residents from boats or not seeing them at all. The Whale Trail has identified more than 60 locations where you might spot southern residents, along the Pacific Coast and throughout the Salish Sea. Your chances of seeing them depend on the time of year.

  • May through September, look for southern residents in the San Juan and Gulf Islands, as the whales return to Haro and Georgia Straits.
  • October through February, watch for them in the lower Puget Sound, as they follow fall salmon runs.
  • Pacific Coast sightings are less predictable, but keep an eye out all along the coast, especially from places like Point Arena Light Station. Noyo Center in Fort Bragg, and La Push in Washington. Sometimes the whales are less than a mile offshore.

Washington State recently passed a law requiring all boats to stay 1000 yards away from southern residents. The law doesn’t take effect until 2025, so the whales need our voluntary help until then.

  • Boaters, take the voluntary pledge to stay 1000 yards away from southern residents at givethemspace.org. For all other species, follow the guidelines on NOAA’s website here.
  • If you are going out with a whale-watching company, support the companies who avoid southern residents, even during the months that is still allowed in Washington State (July through September).

Thanks again to the Times, and to all our of our partners, site hosts and supporters who make The Whale Trail go.

Wishing you whales, and a wonderful rest of summer.

Donna