Monthly Archives

February 2014

Ocean Alliance Forms Partnership with 7 Seas Whale Watch

By | Education, Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

7 Seas Whale WatchOne of our goals in our new home of Gloucester, MA is to find the passions we share with other groups and organizations in town so that we can work together towards common goals. For us, this means celebrating a vibrant community with a history of survival, and working towards preserving our wild world. A great many of our neighbors share these goals including 7 Seas Whale Watch.


Ocean Alliance is pleased to announce that we have formed a partnership with 7 Seas to work together in educating the public about the whales who live off our coast here in Gloucester and about the pollution that affects all of us who depend on the sea.

7 Seas is a family-owned operation with over 31 years of experience with the whales of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. They know the humpback whales of this area as well as they know their friends and neighbors and will share this knowledge with you on their 108 ft. boat the Privateer IV.

7 Seas Whale Watch with humpback“We are very excited to be working with 7 Seas – their enthusiasm and love for the whales is palpable.  We see enormous potential to facilitate our whale conservation mission though this partnership in both the fields of education and science.  I am sure that they will teach us as much as we teach them.” –Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance

Roger Payne and Ocean Alliance have been working for whales for over forty years, but in Gloucester we’re still the new kids on the block. We’re thankful to 7 Seas for making us feel welcome in our new home and for helping us to do what we do best – be a voice of reason for the wild world.


Concentrations of Chromium and Nickel in Gulf of Mexico Sperm Whales Significantly Higher than Those Found in Whales Collected Around the World Prior to Spill

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

Odyssey with sperm whale in the GulfIn 2010 the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico riveted the world with images of gushing oil in amounts hardly imaginable. Once the oil well was capped the press all but disappeared from the Gulf but the disaster remained. Iain Kerr, Roger Payne and our research partner Dr. John Wise from the University of Southern Maine, decided that this was where Ocean Alliance’s research vessel Odyssey needed to be to find out if and what damage the oil and dispersants were causing to the whales of the Gulf. That summer the Odyssey, staffed by a scientific team from USM including Dr. Wise, traveled from Gloucester to the site of the spill to collect what opportunistic data we could, including biopsy skin and blubber samples from sperm whales and we’ve returned every summer since.

Environmental Science and TechnologyThis week the Wise Laboratory announced the publication of a new paper in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology. The paper focuses not on the oil or dispersants, but on the genotoxic metals found in the Gulf oil – specifically chromium and nickel.  The Wise Laboratory has been our principle partner analyzing samples taken from sperm whales for over 10 years now.  They have conducted much of the toxicological analysis from  our global Voyage of the Odyssey that ran between 2000-2005.  Previous analysis by the Wise Laboratory has found that metals cause DNA damage and bioaccumulate in the tissues of whales. Using our sperm whale global data set the Wise team have been able to determine that samples taken in the Gulf were “significantly higher” in these metals than samples taken in other parts of the world.

Over the last 15 years Ocean Alliance has been collecting data on ocean pollution;  this gives us the capacity to take what we learn from locations such a as the Gulf of Mexico and put that data into a global context.  Many people dedicated time and money not only to the Gulf expeditions but also to the Voyage of the Odyssey and we are very grateful to everyone who has made this work and this publication possible.

Odyssey Gulf of Mexico Sunset




Be a Part of the Paint Factory Restoration this Spring

By | feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Now that Ocean Alliance has moved our offices into the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester, MA the next step is to turn the rest of the site into an oceanographic research and education center. To do this we need to finish the second set of larger brick buildings and install docks. We are now focusing on raising the funds to replace the roofs on the larger brick buildings. Read More

A Comprehensive New Look at the Threats Facing Southern Right Whales

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

Roger Payne in Patagonia - Photo by Flip NicklinSince Roger Payne began studying the southern right whales of Península Valdés, Argentina with Vicky Rowntree in the early seventies, threats to the whales have changed with the times, and a recent uptick in calf mortalities is raising new questions. Originally targeted by whalers as the “right whale to kill” because of its slow speed and tendency to float, this most endangered of the great whales faces challenges from diseases to the latest — kelp gull attacks.

With these new challenges have come new cooperation between organizations studying the southern right whale. Jasjeet Dhanota has put together a comprehensive look at the threats facing the southern right whales of Península Valdés in the latest issue of Evotis, the quarterly publication of UC Davis One Health Institute. She has interviewed many of the researchers on the ground about their work, including Vicky Rowntree, and Mariano Sironi of Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas.

Gull attacks - Photo by Mariano Sironi -The article also includes a video about the kelp gull attacks by former Voyage of the Odyssey team members Chris and Genevieve Johnson, who now run Whale Trackers — a series of online documentary programs about cetaceans.

Read the full article here.

The Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program is run by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Whale Conservation Institute/Ocean Alliance, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas and Fundación Patagonia Natural; and by universities including the University of California, Davis and the University of Utah. The US National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Marine Mammal Commission helped establish the program, and it is supported today by donations from foundations, private donors, and NGOs

Protesting the Taiji Dolphin Drives in Boston

By | Commercial whaling, feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Sea Shepherd | No Comments

Taiji protest in Boston

Yesterday members of Ocean Alliance joined Sea Shepherd Boston for the World Love for Dolphins Day protest in front of the Japanese Consulate in Boston. The weather cleared long enough to shine some sun on the group with signs in the heart of Boston’s financial district. The protest coincided with demonstrations in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. organized by Sea Shepherd USA, along with a Valentines drive with children sending Valentines from around the country to the Japanese Embassy in D.C. Three Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians — Olga Pristin, Graziella Garri and Alex Shopov were in attendance to answer questions about their experiences on the ground in Taiji, Japan.

Ocean Alliance protesting dolphin slaughters in BostonThe reception of the demonstration in Boston was enthusiastic with lots of horns honking and thumbs up. A group of middle school and high school students cheered as they passed. Lots of Bostonians stopped to ask questions about the situation in Taiji, most had never heard of the dolphin drives and slaughter.

The season in Taiji lasts through the month of March and the Cove Guardians will be there until the end to witness and livestream on their website.


Vicky Rowntree Speaks to BBC News About Counting Whales from Space

By | feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

Southern Right Whale ID - Photo by John AtkinsonThe news broke this week that scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, led by Peter Fretwell, have created new satellite technologies that will allow researchers to conduct whale surveys from space instead of the traditional aerial and land-based surveys.

The BBC News spoke to our Right Whale Program Director Vicky Rowntree about our work with southern right whales in Argentina and what this new technology will mean for the future of whale research. Listen to the interview here.

Ocean Alliance Joining World Love for Dolphins Day Protest February 14

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

Dolphin ValentineOn Friday, February 14th Ocean Alliance will be joining Sea Shepherd Boston for World Love for Dolphins Day – a peaceful protest against the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. There will be protests held at the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. and in front of Japanese consulates around the country.  The protests will begin at 12 noon and conclude at 1:30 pm. To join us in Boston please meet with signs at:

Japanese Consulate General’s office:

Federal Reserve Plaza, 600 Atlantic Avenue, Boston

Read More

Iain Kerr Speaks at Launch of Vortex Project with Paul Watson and Pharrell Williams

By | feb14, Ocean Alliance News | No Comments
Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for G-Star

Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for G-Star

Ocean pollution met fashion this weekend at the launch of the Vortex Project – a collaboration between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Bionic Yarn and Cookies for All to turn ocean debris into recyclable fashion. The New York Fashion Week event was held at the American Museum of Natural History under the blue whale with press, fashion industry professionals and celebrities gathered to learn about the first project of the collaboration — Raw for the Oceans, a line of blue jeans with partners G-Star.

Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr was invited to join the lineup of speakers to talk about our work in the collection of data concerning the invisible pollutants that collect in the bodies of marine mammals and ultimately humans. He described the oceans as the blue heart and blood of this planet – the life support system, “And as any NASA astronaut knows, when life support goes down, all is lost.”

Captain Paul WatsonPhotographer David LaChapelle introduced Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson, who talked about the current state of the oceans and the efforts of the many Sea Shepherd teams around the world battling whaling, poaching and now pollution. Other speakers included Bionic Yarn’s co-founding partners Tim Coombs and Tyson Toussant, G-star CMO Thecla Schaefer and Sea Shepherd consulting scientist,  R&D Developer of The Vortex Project, John Davis, and Daniella Russo of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

The celebrity draw of the evening was Grammy-winning artist Pharrell Williams, an investor and ambassador for Bionic Yarns, who wore a shirt made with the product. He talked of the backlash he receives as a successful recording artist, perceived as wealthy and wasteful, when in reality he is passionate about environmental activism and the use of green technologies to solve problems of pollution. A self-proclaimed Trekkie and lover of the work of Carl Sagan, Pharrell impressed the audience with his humility and curiosity in science as a solution. He shared this video he narrated about G-Star’s Raw for the Oceans line, set to his Oscar-nominated hit “Happy”:

At the end of the evening Iain Kerr passed along a gift he had brought for Pharrell – “Songs of the Humpback Whale” by Ocean Alliance President and founder Roger Payne. He was told that Pharrell had been given many a cd’s of songs in his career, but this was definitely the first from whales.

(Pictured top left: Iain Kerr, Tyson Toussant, Thecla Schaefer and Pharrell Williams. Above right: Captain Paul Watson)


How We Biopsy Sperm Whales

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

Here is a look at the science we do on board the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico. This film was made in 2010 with the team from the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine just after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Alas the weather is not always this nice nor are the whales this abundant but you get to see how we approach sperm whales and collect a small biopsy of skin and blubber for toxicological analysis and the development of cell lines. This is work is conducted under National Marine Fisheries permit number 13545. Read More

An Update On Our Robotics Program with Olin College

By | feb14, Ocean Alliance News, Technology | No Comments

Iain Kerr and Drew BennettOcean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and team members Dan Albani and John Graham made another visit to Dr. Drew Bennett at  Olin College of Engineering on Monday. We are pushing hard to make our headquarters, the Paint Factory in Gloucester, MA, into a fully functioning oceanographic research center this year and to do that we need a laboratory and docks. The laboratory will be multi-use, but the lead initiative is a robotics lab. This will be a space that is not only used by Ocean Alliance and Olin College for our marine projects, but a space that we hope will be used by school groups and others who are interested in applied engineering solutions. [Pictured – Iain Kerr and Drew Bennett. The yellow copter is a dedicated film platform that we plan to use to document animal interactions with other drones]

Olin College Robotics LabFor the OA team, going to Olin is a bit like going to a giant toy factory. The equipment they have is remarkable — not only the finished products such as multicopters and airplanes but also the technology that they use such as 3D printers and fine-scale milling machines. We walk through their spaces and they advise us on what worked well for them and what did not. We had a long planning session on the next stages for our SnotBot Program (a small drone that will be used to collect physical samples of whale blows). It should be an exciting year for this partnership.




[Below] Iain Kerr and Olin students Mike and Silas  in front of a small milling machine. A drone can be seen on the computer screen and parts can be made on the milling machine. The two black and silver machines in the background are 3-D printers

Iain Kerr with Olin College robotics students

Dr. Bennett and his students showing Iain a hexacopter (a five engine drone)

Dr. Drew Bennett with Iain Kerr and students