Our History

Learn how this grassroots organization began back in 2004 and how we got to where we are today.

Harbor WildWatch was founded in 2004 by a Gig Harbor resident (Dee Dee Holser) who wanted to introduce the public to the wonders of the Puget Sound. Beginning with a few “touch-tank” events at the city pier, visitors were given the chance to see moon snails, sea stars, and nudibranchs up close and personal – while knowledgeable volunteers answered their questions and provided tips for improved stewardship practices. Community support for these fun, family-friendly events inspired the development of educational resources about the local marine life. This included a series of interpretive natural history signs placed in Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula parks and the publication of a natural history reference guide entitled Puget Sound’s Wildside.

By 2009, additional programs were developed to focus on educating local youth to include a series of classroom workshops and a junior naturalist training program. In 2012, HWW’s first Executive Director was hired followed by the transition of three, part-time contractors to full-time staff positions. 2013 brought even more program expansion, including the debut of community science, internships, and new opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

In 2014, Harbor WildWatch celebrated ten years of delivering environmental education and our first public office space at the Skansie Visitor & Interpretive Center in Downtown Gig Harbor. Through a partnership with the City of Gig Harbor, Harbor WildWatch was selected to occupy this historic landmark in order to enhance the educational and cultural vitality of the downtown community. We operated this facility successfully for 10 years – expanding aquariums, exhibits, and weathering a pandemic – with over 65,000 visitors from all over the world! 

In 2024, Harbor WildWatch negotiated a lease renewal with the City of Gig Harbor that included two important changes – an increase in the lease term to 20 years and the elimination of the visitor information requirements. These changes allowed the opening of the Harbor WildWatch Marine Life Center in 2024!  

Twenty years later, our mission remains the same – to inspire stewardship of the Salish Sea through education. We do this by offering a variety of marine education programs for people of all ages from around the world. Our dedicated staff and volunteers now deliver hundreds of interactive environmental education programs to over 30,000 residents and visitors of Pierce and Kitsap Counties each year.

We invite you to join us! 

“We truly believe that exposing people to the unique creatures in the Salish Sea will inspire them to care about those animals. They are then more likely to take steps to protect that creature and the habitat it relies on through personal behavior choices at home, work, and school.” – Executive Director, Lindsey Stover