A Guest Post by Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr:

Odyssey with oil rigOcean Alliance collects data that we hope will be used to affect change. Since the mid-eighties the Japanese and other groups have claimed they are killing whales to collect scientific data. To counter this Roger Payne proved through the development of benign research techniques that you don’t have to kill a whale to understand it biologically. Over the last four years we’ve been working in the Gulf of Mexico looking at the effects on marine mammals of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. In this case we are worried that the cure (the massive use of dispersants) was potentially worse than the illness.

Odyssey and Sea Shepherd crew collecting tar balls Oil is a natural product that is broken down by nature, while the chemical dispersants are a man-made compound. While the use of these dispersants has been banned in Europe and is going through legislation in Australia, we think it is unlikely that they will be banned in the United States. With that in mind, we are hoping to have some effect over the situations in which they are used. For example, to not allow their use within a hundred miles of a coral reef, marine mammal sanctuary, oyster beds, etc. The overview then is we collect the data, we write papers, we go to conferences, and we effect change.

At the end of January we are presenting a poster with the Wise Laboratory at the 2014 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in Mobile, Alabama concerning the toxicity of chemical dispersants in sperm whale cells. Sea Shepherd Netherlands are credited with supporting the analysis of this data, and sending Dr. Wise and me to this conference. We will keep you posted as to how our work is received and what else we learn about the Gulf.

Roger Payne with Oil RigIt is amazing to us how quickly the Gulf Spill has become out of sight and out of mind. We are finding it very hard to raise money to continue this work. Interestingly enough, as we’ve spent time in the Gulf we’ve realized not only how important this ecosystem is to North America but also how it is a great microcosm for threats facing oceans due to the fact that the Mississippi meanders through the heartland of America carrying with it the detritus of our consumer lifestyle – agricultural wash-off, industrial wash-off, it all washes into the Mississippi and then into the Gulf.

We hope the Odyssey will be back in the Gulf this summer.