Washington Environmental Council

Fighting to protect endangered Orcas and the Pacific Ocean

Puget Sound, Washington

While Tahlequah’s sad journey brought people to attention, everyone struggled with what to do. Suggesting driving less or using less pesticide did not do justice to the intense moment created. The 17 Days 17 Ways campaign resonated with many groups and individuals and created a central theme to rally around.
-Mindy Roberts, Puget Sound program director,
Washington Environmental Council
The Situation

In the summer of 2018, the world was rocked by a heartbreaking image of an orca named Tahlequah, who carried her deceased newborn calf around Puget Sound, after it had died due to malnutrition. Orcas are under constant threat due to lack of prey (Chinook salmon), toxic chemicals and vessel noise, interfering with their ability to hunt. While there have been many efforts to try to help Puget Sound’s resident orca and salmon, this event underscored the urgency behind this issue for many lawmakers, agency staff, funders and nonprofit organizations.

Our Role

Washington Environmental Council was a leader in promoting solutions through the governor-convened Orca Task Force and they needed a communications campaign that would keep alive the image and memory of Tahlequah and her baby. As the legislature was entering into negotiations around budget, resources and research, it would’ve been easy to get bogged down in process and bureaucracy, and the urgency of the plight of the orcas to be de-prioritized. Resource Media created a campaign concept, 17 Days, 17 Ways, that created a visual identity to ensure that the story of Tahlequah and her calf remained a main driver behind budget and legislative negotiations. The accompanying public campaign rallied the public to get involved with the public process, and take behavioral steps to help orcas over 17 days, to honor the number of days that Tahlequah held her baby throughout Puget Sound.

The Impact

The logo and messaging that we created were used in print and social materials throughout WEC’s outreach and press events at the Capitol, including signs, banners, postcards and infographic handouts. These assets were also shared with a coalition of orca groups. Because of the hard work from WEC, orca advocates and lawmakers, all four orca recovery priority bills have passed the Washington state legislature. The #RememberTahlequah campaign has been shared by Orca Salmon Alliance member groups, the Seattle Aquarium, Dam Sense, Salmon For the Future, Thurston Climate Action Team, Environment Washington and Citizens for a Healthy Bay, among others. Recent Seattle Times coverage of orcas one year later showed persistent mention of Tahlequah and her baby calf.