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Dr. Roger Payne Archives | Ocean Alliance

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Japan’s Latest Move, by Roger Payne

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The recent sudden departure by Japan for the Antarctic is a particularly grim development on several counts. In spite of the ruling by the International Court of Justice in the Hague ordering Japan to cease their “Scientific Whaling Program” because it does not qualify as scientific research, they unilaterally awarded themselves a quota of 330 minke whales and slipped their moorings and left.

The quota they gave themselves is a third of what they took last time they went whaling in the Antarctic. 330 is clearly an arbitrary round number that has no possible scientific justification, particularly in light of the fact that when the zero quota came into effect Japan argued vigorously for increasing the numbers of whales they killed—claiming that they needed larger sample sizes to produce valid results. That argument was their response to criticism of their “research” proposals by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which reviewed their proposals every year (and rejected their proposals every year). In doing so, one of the things that the committee discussed was that there was already so much data of the kind Japan proposed to take that regardless of what those data showed the sample size would be so small it couldn’t make a valid difference to the conclusions one could already draw from the much larger existing dataset that dated back to the commercial whaling era.

In every year the Scientific Committee recommended to the Commission that it ask Japan not to issue a permit to its whalers and in every year the Commission complied with that recommendation by formally asking Japan not to issue a permit to its whalers. However, every year Japan went ahead and issued a permit to its whalers anyway.

In spite of this grim history and the fact that the recent International Court of Justice ruling saying that Japan’s “scientific research” did not meet the standards of scientific research, Japan has now added to its shame by once again awarding itself a permit in order to re-institute its non-scientific, “scientific whaling.” And having done so slipping its moorings without fanfare, and vanishing over the horizon in the direction of the Antarctic.

The strongest evidence that there is no improved science in the offing but only further subterfuge comes from the fact that by asking for a third as many whales this season as she took in her last hunting season, Japan’s tacit argument is that even smaller sample sizes are important—an argument that runs counter to her earlier claims.

I would like to know whether there is any limit to the willingness of Japan’s whalers to ignore the norms of science? I have always assumed that honesty must have a lower limit below which you cannot go—a point where there is no further truth available that can be removed—an absolute zero of honesty. Have the whalers figured out a way to go below that point? If so is there any limit to their tolerance for shame. Is it perhaps infinite?

– Roger Payne

Dr. Roger Payne, Founder and President of Ocean Alliance, has been the leading proponent of non-invasive whale research for over 45 years.

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Producer of Documentary Film “Jane & Payne” Visits Gloucester

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Argentine filmmaker Dylan Williams recently visited the Paint Factory to share a private screening of his film “Jane & Payne” with our staff.  Back in October 2013, Dylan and fellow filmmaker Boy Olmi arranged an historic meeting between our founder Roger Payne and the noted primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall.  The two scientists have admired each other’s work for decades, but had never met in person before.  Both were approaching their 80th birthdays.

The meeting took place at the Whale Camp in Patagonia, Argentina that Roger had established in the 1970s.  The cameras were rolling to capture their meeting and their subsequent conversations, both alone at the camp and in front of an audience in Buenos Aires.  

Up until this week, Ocean Alliance staff had only seen the trailer, which you can watch here.  A free public screening of the complete film will be held at Woods Hole Historical Museum on October 13th.

“Jayne & Payne” is a poignant film that chronicles not only the noted scientists’ historic meeting, their mutual admiration, and their decades of accomplishments, but also their shared passion for using science and advocacy to preserve and improve life on our planet.  It provokes viewers to think about how they can contribute to helping the planet themselves.

Jane-and-Payne-2Coincidentally, our CEO Iain Kerr had just returned from the same Whale Camp in Patagonia, after conducting the first (and very successful) SnotBot field expedition.  Iain shared some of his dramatic footage from the expedition with Dylan.

In the top photo, Dylan presents Iain with a signed book of photographs that he and another photographer shot in the Argentine National Parks.  Dylan was accompanied by his nephew Christofer Schillachi, who is a Fishery Biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in New Bedford.   Our staff had a fascinating conversation with Christofer about his work with clams.

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Roger Payne Receives Sierra Club’s 2015 EarthCare Award

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Dr. Roger Payne has received the Sierra Club’s 2015 International EarthCare Award for his unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation. The award was presented in San Francisco on September 12.  The Sierra Club noted Dr. Payne’s many accomplishments over the past 50 years, as well as his ongoing research and advocacy, in its news release on the award:

Payne is perhaps best known for his discovery (with Scott McVay) that humpback whales sing songs. One of his National Geographic magazine articles contained a record of whale sounds for which 10.5 million copies were printed — still the largest single print order in the history of the recording industry.

Payne has led more than 100 expeditions to all oceans and studied every species of large whale in the wild. He pioneered many of the benign research techniques now used throughout the world to study free-swimming whales, and has trained many of the current leaders in whale research, both in America and abroad.

In 1971, Payne founded Ocean Alliance, which strives to increase public awareness of the importance of whale and ocean health through research and public education. A major project of Ocean Alliance was the Voyage of the Odyssey, a five-year program designed to gather the first-ever baseline data on levels of synthetic contaminants throughout the world’s oceans, ending in 2005. The crew of the Odyssey collected more than 900 tissue samples from sperm whales in all of the world’s oceans and visited 20 countries to speak with thousands of students, teachers, government officials and members of the general public.

Still fully active in this, his 80th year, Payne has recently written a Declaration of Interdependence, modeled on the 1776 Declaration of Independence which he is asking people to sign. He hopes it will encourage people everywhere to demand that their government recognizes the critical importance of granting rights and values to non-human species.

“We are extremely pleased to honor Dr. Payne for his dedication to whale and ocean conservation. I can recall listening to his recordings of whale songs many years ago, and I know that the songs and his work have inspired many others to recognize the importance of marine mammals and oceans to our efforts to care for the Earth and its wild places,” said Richard Cellarius, Sierra Club International Vice President.

Payne’s many previous honors include a Knighthood in the Netherlands, a MacArthur Fellowship, an Emmy for Best Interview: One on One with Charlie Rose, and a Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). His films have received seven major awards and two Emmy nominations.

In the photo above, Sierra Club International VP Richard Cellarius presents Roger Payne with the EarthCare Award, with Executive Director Michael Brune looking on.

Roger Payne speaking at Parley for the Oceans

Roger Payne Needs Your Help to Write A Declaration of Interdependence

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Dear all,

My January wish for this, the month of the year in which I turn 80, is that you will help write a Declaration of Interdependence that the world can subscribe to. There have been dozens of previous such declarations but none that I feel focus strongly enough on the crucial importance of non-human species, or on such not-so-obvious things as the fact that the health of terrestrial life depends on the health of ocean life (and vice versa). Read More

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EPA Proposal on Dispersant Use Validates Our Five Years in the Gulf of Mexico

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

Sometimes it is hard to measure the direct effects of our work.  As we collect data on marine mammals and our oceans we have two principle goals: the first is to change people’s attitudes as to the importance of our oceans and the second is to collect data that can help policy makers make wise decisions as they relate to sustainable utilization of ocean resources. Read More

Roger with camera

Roger Payne is Dedicating His 80th Year to Changing the Fate of Our Oceans

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

50 years ago when I first became concerned about their fate, whales were being hastened towards extinction by whaling. There was no Save-the-Whales movement; in fact, whales seldom crossed anyone’s mind.

 When Scott McVay and I discovered the powerfully lovely songs of humpback whales I saw them as a way to capture the world’s interest in the plight of whales, and I put all of my efforts into stopping the criminal act that turned whales into cat food and cosmetics.

As time passed the movement succeeded in greatly reducing whaling. But a new threat to whales soon emerged that was potentially worse than whaling: ocean pollution. It was caused by the compounds we synthesize to enjoy “better living” through chemistry.

I later realized that it was not pollution alone but many other interconnecting, interacting, positive feedback loops that threatened whales plus many other ocean species—for example: the buildup of CO2 creates ocean acidification which destroys plankton.

In short, my life has carried me from the specific to the general, and what started as an effort to stop a single fatal force from destroying a species has become an effort to stop dozens of forces from destroying life in all its forms, both in the ocean and on the land.

Thanks to global warming and ocean acidification there has never been a more urgent need for action—never a greater need to put all of our time, effort and treasure into changing the way that we and our fellow humans conduct our lives. Life on Earth and civilization as we know it hang in the balance.

In spite of how scary this situation is it also has a hugely positive side: for it offers our generation the most singular opportunity for greatness ever offered to any generation in history. If we seize that opportunity and act we will be admired and loved above all future generations.

Please join me in pledging to dedicate all of our efforts in the next decade to working to change the fate of the oceans.

Each month in this my 80th year I will announce another of my goals and dreams, and describe why I think it is important to whales, to the ocean, and to all life. I will also describe ways in which you can help achieve that dream.

My dream for January comes from what I consider to be the most consequential scientific discovery of the past 100 years—the slow realization that all species are interdependent. This means that the future of each species depends on the future of a great many other species. From this simple natural law we see that it is not possible to save just a single species, unless we also protect the lives of the hundreds of species on which that species’ life depends.

From this it follows that the welfare of some non-human species is as important to the survival of humans as it is to the survival of the non-human species. If we fail to recognize that fact we will have no future—at least none that you or I would care to experience.

My January wish, therefore, is to create a Declaration of Interdependence for nations to ratify. There have been several such declarations previously but none that focused strongly enough on the health of the ocean and on non-human species. I will post a draft of such a declaration on my birthday so you can suggest changes before we send it out in its final form. Ever since 1776 we in America have valued independence; what we must now learn to value even more is our interdependence with the rest of life. It is our only way to reach the future.

– Dr. Roger Payne, President and Founder of Ocean Alliance

Songs of the Humpback Whale

Roger Payne Makes a Splash on NPR

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Our phone lines lit up over the holiday break as listeners of NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported to us that “Roger Payne was on the radio right now!” The piece was called “How Pop Music Helped Save the Whales” and it was originally produced by Michael May and Studio 360, but it was rebroadcast on “All Things Considered” just in time for the evening commute. In the piece Roger talks about how his discovery with Scott McVay that humpback whales sing songs became a part of the Save the Whale movement when the world was looking for meaning and inspiration, and Judy Collins talks about the first time she met Roger, when he handed her a tape containing his new discovery.

To our surprise the piece was picked up and shared by conservation groups and whale lovers all over social media and once again people were talking about whale songs. We hope they keep talking.

Roger Payne black and white

Roger Payne Asks You to Buy Less Stuff

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Dear Friends,

My organization, Ocean Alliance, has for years, distanced itself from the use of mass mailings, or as we call it…junk mail. As effective as it seems to be, it is no good for the environment to be mailing tons of paperwork, most of which gets thrown away. However, through this much more environmentally friendly message, I hope to reach you with an important message.

As we look to the future this holiday season, we might as well revisit that well-worn phrase:  Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I think comedian George Carlin was correct, with his ironic statement – “Life is all about trying to find a place to keep all of our stuff – while we go out and get more stuff!” Unfortunately, the holiday season, once about family gatherings, having fun with friends and cherishing your loved ones, has begun to revolve around material “Stuff.”

According to a report by Harris Interactive, of the US adults who receive holiday gifts, 83% (more than 4 in 5) do not want the gifts. After they are opened, these presents and the packaging they come in simply become more “Stuff,” most of which is thrown away. So I encourage you this holiday season to think about all of the “Stuff” you are purchasing, including the packaging it comes in.

Basic Whale AdoptionInstead of buying “Stuff,” why not instead Go Green & Buy Blue? A whale adoption from Ocean Alliance fits that bill perfectly. By purchasing a whale adoption for a loved one, you can inspire and educate, while supporting Ocean Alliance’s ongoing whale and ocean pollution research devoted to protecting whales and their ocean world (…and you keep all of the packaging materials out of the oceans.)

One of the strongest tools for conserving the environment is the collective purchasing power of concerned consumers like you – if we stop buying single-use or overly packaged products, companies will stop wasting those resources.

So, please, flex your buying muscles this holiday season. Go Green & Buy Blue!

You can adopt a humpback whale here.

With very best wishes for the season,

Roger Payne

Lucy Garber at Ocean Alliance Applied Robotics Club

Robotics For Kids and Whales

By | FEB15, Ocean Alliance News, Technology | No Comments

One of the initiatives that Ocean Alliance has been pushing hard on over the last year is the development of a robotics program. When our organization was founded in the 1970s most people believed you had to kill whales to learn about them. Our founder, Dr. Roger Payne, was a pioneer in developing benign research tools–techniques that can be used to collect data without killing the animals. Read More

Roger Payne and Iain Kerr

Annenberg Foundation Names Roger Payne & Iain Kerr As Visionary Leaders

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To celebrate their 25th year of philanthropy, the Annenberg Foundation has named twenty-five of their grantees as “Visionary Leaders” in their fields. The individuals recognized range from conservationists of the wild world, such as Jane Goodall, to activists from the inner city, like Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, and rural China such as Wu Qing, Founder of the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women. Included in the list are Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne and CEO Iain Kerr. Read More

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Watch the Trailer for “Jane and Payne”

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Last fall Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne traveled to the whale camp in Argentina that he founded in 1970 for the 43rd season of our Southern Right Whale Program with our partners Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas. He had made the journey this time to welcome a very special guest. Argentine filmmakers Boy Olmi and Dylan Williams had arranged a meeting at Whale Camp between two environmental icons, Jane Goodall and Roger Payne, in order to capture their conversations about their work to conserve whales and chimps, and to protect the environment as a whole from modern threats. The two shared meals, walks, and time with the whales, before returning to Buenos Aires to conduct a live webcast in which they discussed their hopes and fears about the task ahead. Read More

Roger Payne on RV Odyssey

An Open Letter to Japan from Dr. Roger Payne

By | nov14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

A Sympathetic Voice: An Open Letter to Japan

When Christchurch, New Zealand was largely destroyed by a series of major earthquakes, the epicenters of those quakes lay along a fault line that runs very close to my house. Although we were exposed to the same violence that Christchurch was, and felt over 500 strong quakes, our house survived. That experience gave me the greatest empathy and concern for your country when on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake triggered the tsunami that overwhelmed the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Read More

Climate March NYC

Roger Payne Attends People’s Climate March

By | Ocean Alliance News, oct14, Roger Payne | No Comments

Woodstock was a watershed moment; it identified who made the music that changed the world. Those at the People’s Climate March will play the tunes that change the world.

Lisa and I came to New York for three events: the projection of images on the United Nations buildings; the 310,000 person People’s Climate March; and a Multifaith Service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Projecting Change at United NationsAll three were inspirational—the images on the UN buildings were breathtaking, though the police shut down projection of images that moved by OPS  (Ocean Protection Society) founder Louie Psihoyos because cars on FDR drive were slowing down to look at them causing a traffic tie-up.

The March itself was moving beyond description—moving in a way I have not ever felt more deeply, and the Multifaith service was the grandest surprise. We sat in the Nave of the Cathedral beneath two massive sculptures of the Phoenix created out of discarded wastes, wrapped in tiny lights and looking like the Milky Way. The ceremony was opened by Chief Arvol Looking Horse (19th generation keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle) and one of the leaders of the march. Among his remarks was this comment summing up the days’ event:

Interfaith Ceremony at Climate MarchToday.

Many Generations.

One Prayer.

We heard from Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Al Gore, writer Terry Tempest Williams, Vandana Shiva (Nobel Prize winning founder of seed banks in India), plus 15 other speakers, all of whom, as they placed a stone on an altar in the center of the transcept, made a vow as to what they will do from now on for the earth (as did the entire congregation as the vast nave resonated with music by Paul Winter and others).

The most inspiring speaker for me was a Greenlander: Eskimo-Kalaallit Elder, Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, Founder of IceWisdom. He said that he was born and had lived his whole 77 years by the Big Ice, and that when he was a child it was 5 kilometers thick and is dwindling FAST. He ended with an invocation to his ancestors which was riveting—his voice has clearly been shaped by a life spent in the embrace of Nature, wrapped in it, worshipping it, loving it, dreading it, revering it, thanking it. His message was: It is too late. We have failed in our response—and unless we melt the ice in the heart of Man things will not change.

As I write this, the action called Flood Wall Street is beginning—a dramatic acting-out of the harsh reality that when you put all power into the hands of the hyper-rich you close the doors to the courtroom, and open the doors to the street.

Roger Payne on the RV Odyssey

Aboriginal Subsistence Hunting

By | Ocean Alliance News, oct14, Roger Payne | No Comments

A Voice From the Sea

Roger Payne

Sept 11, 2014

An aboriginal subsistence quota for whaling is only supportable as a category if it is reserved for people who truly do subsist by hunting whales. The trouble is that it is largely used by corrupt claimants in notoriously crooked ways. Most outrageous is the aboriginal subsistence quota that the Russians have gotten in Kamchatka for their “aboriginal subsistence hunt” of gray whales (and that Paul Watson so memorably exposed when he invaded the Soviet Union and filmed frozen whale meat being used to feed mink and sable that were living in captive breeding cages on a soviet fur farm). The catcher boat used by the Soviets to kill those gray whales was a modern vessel and no true aboriginals feasted on the spoils of that hunt. Read More

Roger Payne & Iain Kerr with Pharrell and Sylvia Earle

A Meeting of the Ocean Minds in NYC

By | Ocean Alliance News, oct14 | No Comments

Ocean conservation leaders met up in New York City this week to collaborate on solutions for the problems facing our oceans. Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne and CEO Iain Kerr were invited by Parley for the Oceans to join scientists, activists and artists, including music producer Pharrell Williams, legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, and Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, to talk about our work studying the effects of pollutants on whales. Read More

Odyssey drone shot

Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 Campaign Update

By | aug14, Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

It’s been an extremely productive summer in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society joining us on the RV Odyssey to study the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr describes what we’ve seen and learned in the Gulf this summer through multiple research techniques and tools, with new footage of the Operation Toxic Gulf crew at work:

Andy Rogan and Roger Payne on the RV Odyssey

New Video: The Science of Operation Toxic Gulf

By | aug14, Gulf of Mexico, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

In this new video from Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, Scientific Manager Andy Rogan explains the research goals of the campaign on the RV Odyssey in our fifth year following up on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, our second partnered with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Roger Payne joins the crew to help with the biopsy process:

A listing of scientific papers by the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology from our Gulf expeditions so far can be seen here.

Whale tail with oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico

Are you Listening, Rex Tillerson?

By | Gulf of Mexico, july14, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Roger Payne | No Comments

A Message from Roger Payne on the RV Odyssey at the Deepwater Horizon Site:

July 14, 2014

Marc Rosenberg on the RV OdysseyThis evening we had a celebration over the fact that we got our 50th biopsy today. The goal from the start has been to get a minimum of 50 biopsies and with two more trips to go we anticipate that we’ll be well over that mark. We celebrated with a key lime pie made by Marc Rosenberg, our cook. It was all delicious: the pie, the sunset, the sense of accomplishment, the breeze, the billowy evening clouds. The celebration took place as we headed for our annual visit to the site of the Deepwater Horizon—the drilling platform where 11 people died during the 2010 BP oil blowout. Read More

Roger Payne on the bow of RV Odyssey

Offshore Chaos in the Gulf (Part 2)

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Roger Payne | No Comments

Part two of Roger Payne’s blog from Operation Toxic Gulf 2014:

July 12, 2014

We are here to find out how those whales are reacting to the oil that got released during the oil blowout from Deepwater Horizon, and the dispersants that were sprayed on the oil to sink it out of sight (and out of mind) but that seem to be worse poisons than the oil itself. This is the fifth year of our research, and what we are already finding out is disturbing. Read More

Ship traffic in Gulf of Mexico

Offshore Chaos in the Gulf by Roger Payne

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf, Roger Payne | No Comments

Ocean Alliance President Dr. Roger Payne is currently on the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico for Operation Toxic Gulf, our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd USA, to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the whales of the Gulf. Here he gives an account of the man-made world in which the Gulf wildlife must coexist:

Friday July 11, 2014

Roger Payne writing on the RV OdysseyI am writing this from 80 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico where you might safely imagine that so far from land there ought to be just us and the sperm whales in the perfectly mirror calm seas that have surrounded our boat Odyssey (Ocean Alliance’s research vessel) all day. However, what surrounds us way out here, so far from land, feels more like another major waterfront with traffic coming and going as it services a line of oil rigs that stretches like beads on a chain to the horizon.

There is only one rig in sight with a drilling tower on it so most of them must already be attached to successful wells that are producing oil and gas. Some of the rigs are flaring off clouds of burning gas… just throwing it away. If you or I bought enough gas to create a display like that in our back yards we’d be broke in a few hours. But what the hell, it’s the oil world here, where people are big, and oil is plentiful, and money and crude are flowing, so who gives a damn about that, or the future, or the planet, or whether we’re acidifying the seas, or little niceties like quality of life, or whether the rest of earth’s creatures can survive our ever-so-natural rapacity?

The rigs are massive, multi-story platforms mounted on top of up to four giant, vertical cylinders, tens of feet in diameter that provide the flotation to keep the multi-storied decks high above the biggest storm waves. At least that’s the idea; but who knows whether they will prove to be high enough to survive the waves of future global warming storms?

Oil rig in Gulf of MexicoThese stadium-sized structures are covered with lights of several colors, most are white but many are red and green. From a distance they look like rockets on launch pads awaiting a countdown, or like giant Christmas trees. You might assume that these ship-sized floating structures must be anchored to the bottom, and although many are, I suspect that in areas where the bottom is more than a mile down that some aren’t. In such deep water a technique called dynamic anchoring is sometimes used—I suppose that GPS signals are used now but years ago dynamic anchoring involved placing pingers around a rig that gave off loud, precisely timed pings. By measuring the elapsed time between the arrival at a microphone on the rig of the pings from several pingers a computer calculated how far the rig had drifted from directly above the well head and turned on motors to drive propellers that could swim the rig back to where it belonged. Dynamically anchored rigs dance around on a tiny imaginary dance floor that’s located a mile or more above the sea floor.

And far beneath us in this silver sea, the sperm whales move quietly, as they fossick about between the oil platforms that are the destinations for the myriad boats that attend them, as well as the sports fishing boats that would never come out this far unless the oil rig flotilla was present—but which do come out now because even though its a long trip, once you’ve covered the miles I guess it seems a lot like home, even though it’s way way out of sight of land. But the fishing’s better because there are fish that congregate beneath the rigs.

Sperm whale blow with oil rigTomorrow I will have more to say about why we’re here.

Sea Shepherd Summit

Roger Payne and Iain Kerr Speak at Sea Shepherd Summit

By | july14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Guest Post by Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr:

What a remarkable weekend in Vermont at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society International Summit. Sea Shepherd staff, volunteers, consultants and friends from around the world gathered to review past, current and future projects.

Roger Payne Speaking at Sea Shepherd SummitDr. Roger Payne and I were invited to attend the conference to speak about the work we’re doing with Sea Shepherd on Operation Toxic Gulf. We had the privilege to meet and speak with a huge variety of people, from Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson to the newest volunteers. We were really impressed by the dedication and energy we encountered across the board. It was exciting to see how interested everyone was in the science that we are doing and the potential for future collaborations.

Highlights for me were a compilation video that documented much of Paul’s life, and meeting program managers such as Gary Stokes from Hong Kong who has helped to expose the shark finning trade, Jeff Hansen of Sea Shepherd Australia, and Captain Peter Hammarstedt of the Bob Barker (as seen in “Whale Wars”).  It was nice to see Susan Hartland of Sea Shepherd USA and Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global. Our good friend Cyrill Gutsch of Parley for the Oceans and Tim Coombs from Bionic Yarn also gave a powerful presentation about the “cradle to cradle” philosophy.

I like it when we can identify a problem, look for solutions, and help educate the public to bring about change and I found this philosophy very prevalent at the conference.

Sea Shepherd Summit from drone(Pictured at top: Alex Cornelissen, Peter Hammarstedt, Roger Payne, Susan Hartland, Paul Watson, Iain Kerr, Jeff Hansen; Photo by Eliza Muirhead. Group photo from drone by Iain Kerr)

The Whale Guitar

The Whale Guitar: Six-String Activism

By | Education, Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

Whales are a species of sound. They live in a world of sound, communicate through sound, and captured the world’s attention when Roger Payne and Scott McVay discovered that they sing songs. Roger, in addition to being a biologist, is also a musician, and it became his life’s work to share their songs and inspire a passion to protect them.

Whale Guitar scrimshawIt’s no surprise then that artists and musicians, poets and composers are drawn to whales. This is how the Whale Guitar came to be. Read More

Odyssey with sperm whale in the Gulf

Biopsies! Why?

By | Education, Gulf of Mexico, Operation Toxic Gulf, Roger Payne | No Comments

A Special Guest Post by Ocean Alliance President and Founder Dr. Roger Payne:

Between 2000 and 2005 Ocean Alliance ran The Voyage of the Odyssey, a research expedition that circumnavigaged the globe measuring background levels in sperm whales of a series of contaminants. We came back with over 900 samples from sperm whales which we had analyzed for a suite of contaminants. The worst offending molecules turned out to be toxic metals—not just mercury and lead but Chromium, Aluminum, Silver and several other highly toxic metals. Read More

OTG 2014 crew

Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 Launches Today

By | Gulf of Mexico, jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

A special announcement from Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr:

The Research Vessel Odyssey heads back into the Gulf of Mexico for a fifth season today.

I’ve spent the last two weeks with a remarkable international crew aboard the Odyssey prepping for our fifth summer of data and sample collection in the Gulf of Mexico—our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation SocietyOperation Toxic Gulf .  The crew represent six countries: Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Spain and the USA. Read More

Roger Payne at 2014 FiRe Conference

Roger Payne is Guest Moderator at FiRe Technology Conference

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Technology | No Comments

This past week Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne was in Laguna Beach, California as a guest moderator at the 13th Annual Future in Review (FiRe) Conference. Called “The Best Technology Conference in the World” by The Economist, FiRe brings together leaders from technology, energy, the environment, education and the economy to forge new partnerships and new ideas for a better future. Speakers included executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Oracle, journalists, scientists and environmentalists. Read More

Southern right whale mother and calf at Peninsula Valdes

A Happy Discovery from our Southern Right Whale Program

By | jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

If you’ve ever been on a whale watch, you’ve no doubt seen a naturalist busy snapping photos of the whales encountered. Far from taking pretty pictures, in most cases the naturalist is taking shots to identify and record the sighting of individual whales. With whales who are recurring visitors, they can track their life histories–their health, births, and wounds, and by comparing photographs with those of other organizations they can track migration patterns. Read More

Odyssey with oil rig

First-Ever Paper on the Toxicity of Chemical Dispersants in Whales Comes from Our Gulf Expeditions

By | Gulf of Mexico, jun14, Ocean Alliance News, Pollution, Whales | No Comments

In 2010 the RV Odyssey headed to the Gulf of Mexico with a team from Ocean Alliance and our partners at the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine. The Deepwater Horizon well had been capped, but the Gulf wildlife and people were now challenged with coping with the oil and dispersants that remained. Our specific concern was the potential effects of this disaster on the population of sperm whales living in the Gulf in the deep water where the disaster occurred, and having sampled hundreds of sperm whales around the world during the Voyage of the Odyssey 2000-2005 we were well-equipped and trained to track and sample sperm whales in the Gulf. Our global data set gave us a unique opportunity to put what we found in the Gulf into a global context. We’ve been back every year since the disaster and this week those expeditions have produced a new study. Read More

Roger Payne black and white

Roger Payne to Speak in Park City this Friday

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

 

Roger Payne, Ph.D.If you live in the Park City, Utah area you have the opportunity this Friday to speak with Ocean Alliance founder and president Dr. Roger Payne in person and ask him anything you like about his over forty years of working with whales.

On April 18th at 7:30 Roger will be speaking at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts’ Black Box Theatre about his work with whales and ocean pollution–sharing stories, discoveries and his hope for the future. The talk, “Oceans, Whales and People” will be followed by a question and answer period with the audience. You can purchase tickets to this special event here.

Historic Whale Film Will Be Seen Again

By | apr14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsRecently we told you about about the discovery in England of Roger Payne’s first film about whales, featuring Sylvia Earle and released in 1978, “World of Survival: Humpbacks—The Gentle Giants.” Tomorrow Iain Kerr is meeting with Judi and Terry Vose, longtime friends and supporters of Ocean Alliance. Iain will be handing over the film and they will be driving it to Play it Again Film and Video Transfer in Newton, MA where it will be transferred to dvd at a discount, with the remaining costs covered by the Voses. Read More

1978 Whale Film Featuring Roger Payne and Sylvia Earle Found in England

By | mar14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Recently Iain Kerr was contacted by a senior radio producer at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol England named Sarah Blunt. She had been contacted by a gentleman named Harry Espley who lives an hour or so south of Liverpool in a town called Tattenhall.

Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsHarry had come by an original copy of a 16mm film made by Anglia TV in 1978.  The film, “World of Survival: Humpbacks–the Gentle Giants” was one of the first whale films ever made. It featured Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne, Katie Payne and Sylvia Earle, and was shot by Al Giddings and Chuck Nicklin.  When Al (who later shot the IMAX film “Whales” with Roger) got into the water with Sylvia and Chuck to shoot the underwater segments of the film they had no idea if they would become a whale snack.

Roger remembers, “This was my first time working with the unequaled cameraman Al Giddings and Her Deepness Sylvia Earle.  It was a great expedition into the unknown for all. This was an early example of photographers working with scientists.  Al Giddings saw details of humpback whale behavior that no one had seen before.”

Harry explained he used to play the film at local events to inspire and engage people with the world of whales. When he had reached the point where the film had been sitting for a few years he contacted Sarah, who in turn contacted Iain with news of the find.  Iain asked John Atkinson, our problem solver, to work with Harry to ship the film to the Gloucester.

World of Survival: Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsWe are very excited to have this film and deeply grateful to Harry for saving this small piece of whale history (and to Sarah for introducing Harry to us). The goal now is to get the film digitized so that it can be played again and seen by a larger audience of whale lovers.

We are looking for someone who can help us transfer the 16 mm film to a digital form either through a grant or contribution. If you or someone you know works for a company with these capabilities please contact Iain Kerr at kerr@whale.org. We look forward to sharing this film with you!

 

Thank You Pete Seeger

By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

Pete Seeger At 89 AlbumToday we say good-bye to musical and environmental icon Pete Seeger. Roger Payne spent time with Seeger sailing on his boat the Clearwater on the Hudson River. The sloop was symbolic of the fight and the right for clean water in the Hudson and around the world. In 1970, after hearing Roger’s recording Songs of the Humpback Whale, Seeger wrote “Song of the World’s Last Whale,” but the song wasn’t recorded until 2007 when he released the album At 89 which went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album. The lyrics are shockingly current:

I heard the song
Of the world’s last whale
As I rocked in the moonlight
And reefed the sail

It’ll happen to you
Also without fail
If it happens to me
Sang the world’s last whale

It was down off Bermuda
Early last spring
Near an underwater mountain
Where the humpbacks sing

I lowered the microphone
About a quarter mile down
Switched on the recorder
Let the tape spin around

I didn’t just hear grunting
I didn’t just hear squeaks
I didn’t just hear bellows
I didn’t just hear shrieks

It was the musical singing
And the passionate wail
That came from the heart
Of the world’s last whale

Down in the Antarctic
There, the harpoons wait
But it’s up on the land
You decide my fate

In London town
They’ll be telling the tale
If it’s life or death
For the world’s last whale

So here’s a little test
To see how you feel
Here’s a little test
For this age of the automobile

If we can save
Our singers up in the sea
Perhaps there’s a chance
To save you and me

I heard the song
Of the world’s last whale
As I rocked in the moonlight
And reefed the sail

It’ll happen to you
Also without fail
If it happens to me
Sang the world’s last whale

“My job,” Seeger said, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.” Peter Seeger’s songs were not for him, they were for the world to sing, especially the children.

Ocean Alliance and the Wise Laboratory at Gulf Oil Spill Conference in Mobile

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 10.14.53 AM
Today Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr is traveling to the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference in Mobile, Alabama with Dr. John Wise and team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine. They will be presenting findings from our work in the Gulf beginning in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, specifically on the effects of chemical dispersants on the sperm whales of the Gulf. Read More

MEET OUR SCIENCE LIAISON IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN – EVA HIDALGO

By | Commercial whaling, Ocean Alliance News, Pollution, Sea Shepherd Australia | No Comments

Eva HidalgoEva Hidalgo, Bosun’s Mate on the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin, has dedicated her life to the conservation of whales and their environment. For this season’s  campaign in the Southern Ocean, Operation Relentless, not only is the Sea Shepherd fleet trying to thwart Japanese whalers, but they’re collecting invaluable data from an environment that is not easy to work in or even access. Read More

FORMER ODYSSEY CREW CONFRONT JAPANESE WHALERS

By | Commercial whaling, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd Australia | No Comments

As I write this, commercial whaling (under the false premise of scientific whaling) is going on in Antarctic waters.  Roger Payne calls this, “as egregious a misuse of science—the field I love—as I have ever seen.” This year three RV Odyssey Operation Toxic Gulf crewmembers (our 2013 Gulf of Mexico campaign) are there to try and stop it. Hillary Watson, Eliza Muirhead and Erwin Vermeulen are on board the Sea Shepherd fleet as it confronts Japanese whalers. When these three came to the Odyssey to work last summer they were already veterans of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns around the world. Now they’ve left the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico for the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean.

Front from left - Eliza Muirhead, Lauren Paap, Second row from left - Andy Rogan, Bob Wallace, Iain Kerr, Erwin Vermeulen, Hillary Watson, Camron Adibi

Front from left – Eliza Muirhead, Lauren Paap, Second row from left – Andy Rogan, Bob Wallace, Iain Kerr, Erwin Vermeulen, Hillary Watson, Camron Adibi

The news broke this week that the Sea Shepherd fleet – the Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Sam Simon had found the Japanese whaling fleet, but not before they had harvested four minke whales, three of which were on the deck of the factory ship, and one that had evidently already been processed. As we are collaborating with the Sea Shepherd fleet collecting sightings and other data in Antarctica, Roger Payne has been in touch with Eliza Muirhead and identified the sex of the whales lying on the deck of the Japanese ship. From left to right in the photo they are male, female and the far right whale we think but cannot confirm is also female.  Males have two genital slits while females have one, in the case of Minke whales the females can grow to be a lot larger than the males, which is what suggest to us that the far right animal is female.Dead Minkes on Nisshun Maru - Photo by Sea Shepherd Australia

We will be thinking of the safety and well-being of our friends and everyone working in that hostile environment during this campaign.

“WHALE WARS” CREW TO COLLECT DATA FOR OA IN ANTARCTIC WATERS

By | jan14, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd Australia | No Comments

Sea Shepherd fleet - photo by Iain KerrAt this moment a fleet of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia vessels are heading to the Southern Ocean to prevent Japanese whalers from killing and processing whales. For 10 years Sea Shepherd vessels have run annual campaigns in Antarctic waters; in the last few years these campaigns have been documented in the Animal Planet series “Whale Wars,” but this year they have a new objective to add to their campaign. Read More

Roger Payne Attends Marine Mammal Conference in NZ

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Whales | No Comments

2013 Marine Mammal Conference PosterFor the last forty years, every two years, marine mammal scientists and educators and other interested parties from around the world get together the Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. There are specialized training workshops, discussion groups, a video night along with the regular oral presentations and poster presentations on everything from pollution to captivity. Read More

A MESSAGE FROM IAIN KERR

By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

2013 has been a very productive and diverse year. Our primary goal, to protect whales and their ocean environment has never been more important or imperative so we cannot thank you enough for supporting our programs.

To counter the diverse challenges facing whales and our oceans we have made significant leaps forward with both old and new programs in 2013.  Following are a few highlights: Read More

SHARING DAYS WITH JANE GOODALL AND ROGER PAYNE IN PATAGONIA

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

Roger Payne and Jane Goodall on beachTo wake up in the morning and find a lovely woman in the kitchen preparing a cup of hot coffee for breakfast.

To walk out the door and see a tall man on the porch, reading a book or writing some notes in his computer.

To cook and look out the window and see this woman and this man walking along the beach in front of the house and having a lively conversation.

These and other moments wouldn’t have been so special (in fact, so amazingly special!) for us if this woman and this man weren’t Jane Goodall and Roger Payne. But they are. And they are special (amazingly special!) people. Read More

BP OIL SPILL DISASTER RESPONSE – OPERATION TOXIC GULF FIELD REPORT 2013

By | Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Alliance News, Odyssey, Operation Toxic Gulf, Sea Shepherd, Sperm Whales, Whales | No Comments

Ocean Alliance in the GulfThe following is a summary of goals and accomplishments for the 2013 collaborative research expedition Operation Toxic Gulf carried out by Sea Shepherd Global and Ocean Alliance in the Gulf of Mexico (USA) aboard the Research Vessel Odyssey. While we continue to work closely with our scientific partner the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine, this year our campaign partner was Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Global. Read More

ROGER PAYNE BRINGS JANE GOODALL TO WHALE CAMP

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

 

Jane Goodall and Chimp - Photo by Michael NeugebauerRoger

Forty-three years ago Roger Payne built a shelter on the beach at Peninsula Valdes in Argentina to study the southern right whale. At the same time, Jane Goodall was living in the jungles of Tanzania studying her chosen species –  the chimpanzee. Each feared for the survival of their study subject and both have worked continuously since then to educate the world about conservation.  Read More

OCEAN ALLIANCE’S PARTNER ORGANIZATION IN ARGENTINA, INSTITUTO DE CONSERVACION DE BALLENAS (ICB), WINS PRESTIGIOUS ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

By | Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

On September 27, 2013 Diego Alejandro Taboada, President of ICB, received a phone call.  According to the caller, ICB had received the BBVA Foundation’s Award for Biodiversity Conservation in Latin America for “its extraordinary contribution over more than forty years to the understanding and conservation of the southern right whale.” Read More

JUST ANOTHER DAY AT WHALE CAMP – RAINBOW AND MOTHER/CALF PARADE!

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 7 September 6, 2013

An amazing day today!

Rainbow Over Whale Camp - Photo by Vicky Rowntree Just after the airflight team left to survey the whales, the rising sun created a beautiful rainbow that arched over the cliff-top observation site and appeared to land in the water directly in front of whale camp. After a dousing rain, I hiked to the cliffs and found a spot protected from the strong wind behind a broad bush to leave my backpack full of gear. Just as I dropped my pack I heard a loud blow beneath me and quickly unpacked the camera to take identification photographs of the white markings on the head of the whale that was passing by.  What followed was amazing!! Read More