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What You Need to Know About the Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research was founded in 1976 and has been serving Pacific Northwest wildlife throughout its existence. This prestigious center in Friday Harbor is dedicated to the study and conservation of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orca). Orcas are one major draw to the San Juan Islands. You can often see these magnificent creatures between the islands while embarking on a whale watching tour. The peak season is March through October. Organizations such as the Center for Whale Research try to ensure that these whales are protected. We all want them to continue to come back and inhabit the waters of Puget Sound. Discover more about the Center for Whale Research so you will know just what they contribute to your very own San Juan Island experience!

Find out more about all of the wonderful Pacific Northwest wildlife near Tucker House Inn and subsequent tours and attractions when you download our free Vacation Guide. It offers some great recommendations for places to know about during your stay in the San Juan Islands, like the Center for Whale Research.

History of the Southern Resident Killer Whale

In the late 1960s through mid-1970s, Orcas were being captured for display in marine parks. They were believed to be vicious and dangerous but were then proven to be quite docile and intelligent. In 1976, an Orca Survey was launched to determine the status of the newly defined population known as the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW). During these early years of research, it was discovered that these whales could be identified based on a whitish-grey patch on their back called a saddle patch. These unique spots, much like human fingerprints, could identify individual whales. It also became clear there were many less Orcas than originally thought in the wild and that they traveled in groups called pods. This has led to the most recent declaration of an endangered population under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  

About the Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research has been a staple in the community for 40 years, providing helpful research and conservation of local Orcas. The organization was founded by zoologist and biologist, Ken Balcomb, using pioneer methods, such as photo-identification. The Center for Whale Research monitors and conducts an annual photo-identification census of all Orcas in western Washington State and southern British Columbia. This system allows researchers to monitor whales on a day-to-day basis and know when the whales are frequenting the San Juan Islands.

As a part of the survey, hundreds of photographs and data points are recorded and sorted into a massive database. This provides demographic and geographic information to government agencies for future conservation purposes! The Center for Whale Research hopes to continue observing and learning more about these wonderful creatures, even after funding cuts. The Center for Whale Research wants to make sure that Orcas keep returning to the San Juan Islands! 

Go Whale Watching

Whale watching is a great way for you to experience Orcas firsthand during your San Juan Islands travels. Knowledgeable naturalists are on board all of the whale watching boats to provide you with the most recent facts. Then, if you go to the Whale Museum at Lime Kiln Light House, you can discover ever more about Orcas! There is an exhibit at the lighthouse along with docents during the summer season.

Stay at Tucker House Inn

At Tucker House Inn, we are avid supporters of the efforts of the Center for Whale Research. We want to make sure our guests continue to receive the enjoyable experience of experiencing Orcas firsthand! Be sure to stay at our luxurious bed and breakfast during your visit to the San Juan Islands.

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Recognized by Travel & Leisure Magazine

We have been humbly recognized by Travel & Leisure Magazine as the best place to stay when visiting Friday Harbor and San Juan Island.

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