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Orca Recovery Day 2023 - Whale Done

The Southern Resident orcas are one of the most iconic species of the Salish Sea, but without community care and action their future is uncertain. Orca Recovery Day is an annual collective day of action to support these special creatures and encourage a connection between communities and the land they steward.

Saturday, October 14th, marked the 6th Annual Orca Recovery Day! Over 50 events took place across Washington State. Organized by Conservation Districts, each event connected community members with actions to support Southern Resident orca recovery. This year Whatcom Conservation District teamed up with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) and the Whatcom Land Trust to host a restoration work party along California Creek in Blaine.

A man stands with an inflatable orca, shovel, & tree.
A volunteer poses with a representative orca and their newly planted tree. While the tree currently blends in with the surrounding invasive grasses, in several years the tree canopy will shade out the grass brining back a natural understory.

Despite raining that morning and afternoon, the entire event remained dry for the 58 volunteers who arrived Saturday morning. For over three hours these dedicated volunteers planted 400 native trees and shrubs and removed invasive species. Planting native plants and removing invasive plants along California Creek can help improve two of the three major threats to Southern Resident Orcas, prey availability and pollutants.

California Creek is home to Chum, Coho and Chinook salmon but has experienced habitat degradation. Chinook salmon make up 80% of a Southern Resident orca’s diet and are also endangered. Planting native plants and removing invasive species next to streams improves salmon habitat in several ways. Salmon require shade over streams, to keep the water cool. Native plants also help filter pollutants from rain run-off before they reach our water while providing cover and food for the insects that salmon need. The sub basin of California Creek makes up 40% of the Drayton Harbor watershed, which means this is an opportunity to impact and improve water quality both in the local aquatic and marine environment.

Two women hold up a shovel and pruners along with an inflatable orca.
Volunteers take a break from removing invasive species and planting native plants to celebrate orcas and the work they have accomplished.

The work performed by volunteers at Orca Recovery Day helps to make a difference in improving conditions for our endangered Southern Resident Orca Whales. Since Orca Recovery Day began, over 5,000 volunteers have restored 64 acres of streamside habitat, removed 59,000 pounds of trash, and planted 30,000 native plants. Collectively these actions work to improve local streams and water quality for our salmon and our orcas.

However, orca recovery doesn’t stop at Orca Recovery Day. There is strength in numbers if we all contribute year round! Check out the actions you can take every day to help orcas at If you are looking for opportunities to restore salmon habitat on your land, you can reach out to a Whatcom Conservation District habitat specialist. Excited to volunteer at more salmon restoration work parties? Check out NSEA’s Fall Work Party schedule to help salmon and help orcas!

Thank you to all the volunteers who participated in the 6th Annual Orca Recovery Day! Thank to Otherside Bagel Co., the Community Food Co-Op, Flax4Life, Tony’s Coffee and The Bagelry for donating warm drinks and nourishing food for our volunteers.

A group of people pose in front of tents.
Thank you to the volunteers of Orca Recovery Day 2023!

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