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

You Can Help Save the Paint Factory

By | Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments
Clean up at our headquarters, the former Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory has been a protracted and ongoing process. The birthplace of marine bottom paint, the site was contaminated with large amounts of copper, lead, chromium, arsenic and asbestos. We have invested almost 1 million dollars into clean-up and remediation so far. Currently, a clean utility corridor for the site is in the works–the $200K needed for this project came from the EPA in the form of a brownfields grant.  We expect to have to invest at least another half a million dollars into the site before we can claim that it is fully cleaned up.

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Put Plastic in Its Place – Vote Yes on 2 in MA

By | Ocean Alliance News, Pollution | No Comments

Next Tuesday Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to put litter in its place. Living and working in a coastal community, we are all too aware of the plastics ending up in our waterways. We’ve conducted many shoreline clean-ups at our headquarters on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA, and on area beaches, and one of the most common items we come across is plastic water bottles. What if Massachusetts residents had an incentive to collect those bottles and return them? Read More

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

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

Cleaning Up Our Shoreline

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

Our friends from Sea Shepherd Boston were kind enough to join us this week for a shoreline clean-up of Horton Street in Gloucester, MA–home of Ocean Alliance. The rocks along our shoreline create a trap for fishing gear, water bottles, stryrofoam cups and other debris that needs to be collected every few months to prevent it from washing out to sea. It’s another example how organizations can accomplish more when they work together:

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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

Cooking on the High Seas During Operation Toxic Gulf

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

The Operation Toxic Gulf crew have been fed well since Marc Rosenberg arrived in Key West. A chef in England, Marc is volunteering his time to be a part of our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Gulf of Mexico and we’re lucky to have him (his food is amazing). In this video Marc talks about what has surprised him the most about working in the Gulf:

New 1000-Pound Tar Mat Washes Up in Pensacola

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

Guest Post by RV Odyssey First Mate Dan Haefner:

On the 20th of June, Pensacola was the recipient of yet another present from the Gulf of Mexico–a 1000-plus pound tar mat washed up in Fort Pickens National Park. Tar balls wash up pretty much everyday along the coast between Pensacola Beach and Ft. Pickens, but sometimes a large mat is uncovered by waves. Read More

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

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

What We Found on Our Shoreline

By | apr14, Education, Ocean Alliance News, Paint Factory Headquarters | No Comments

Volunteers for Harbor CleanupIt was a beautiful clear sunny day on Saturday when members of the Gloucester community gathered to clean our harbor. Teams were dispersed all around the city thanks to the coordination efforts of the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, Maritime Gloucester, our two Cultural Districts downtown and on Rocky Neck, and our own Rebecca Siswick Graham. After a presentation about ocean trash by the Rozalia Project Friday night, volunteers gathered at their assigned locations Saturday morning for this one-hour effort to collect and record as much trash and recycling as possible. Read More

Questions Raised at Gulf Oil Spill Conference

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

Iain Kerr at Gulf Oil Spill ConferenceOcean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr and Dr. John Wise from the Wise Laboratory are currently in Mobile, Alabama at the Gulf Oil Spill and Ecosystem Conference, presenting their findings on the effects of dispersants on sperm whales in the Gulf.

In addition to presentations there are also daily discussion groups for members. Sunday’s discussion was as follows:

Setting the Record Straight: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions about Oil in the Gulf and Promoting Ocean Literacy

  • How does the 2010 Gulf oil spill, and its subsequent impacts, compare to other spills?
  • How and where did the oil move?
  • What happened to the oil?
  • How does the amount of oil leaked from Deepwater Horizon compare to natural and other releases of oil in the Gulf?
  • What is the impact of oil spills on organisms that live in the water, including those that we eat?
  • How do they clean an oil spill and can it ever be totally cleaned up?
  • What’s going to happen next time there is an oil spill?

The conference continues until Thursday and Iain will bring back as much information as he can to share.


By | jan14, News from the Gulf, Ocean Alliance News, Operation Toxic Gulf | No Comments


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. Read More


By | jan14, Ocean Alliance News, Voyage of the Odyssey | No Comments

Ocean Alliance believes that the greatest threat facing whales (& ultimately humanity) is ocean pollution.  Based on that premise, OA has been focusing its efforts for the last 15 years looking at the concentrations and effects of pollutants in the world’s oceans. Ocean Alliance’s five-year global study, the Voyage of the Odyssey, collected the first ever baseline data on ocean pollution using sperm whales as an indicator species. This study continues to bear fruit, with the publication of a new paper in the Marine Pollution Bulletin by our science partners at the Wise Laboratory. Read More


By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

Dear Friends,

From space the Earth is blue. That’s because the seas cover 71% of it.

Ours should be called planet “Ocean,” not planet “Earth.”

Patrick &  CrewOf the thousands of organizations working to save nature, only a small fraction focuses on the sea. A group tackling one of the most unglamorous but dire issues for ocean life – pollution – is Ocean Alliance, which is why I have supported their work for the past 22 years. It is Ocean Alliance that made the first global survey of how polluted the oceans have become. Their work shows that human activities now threaten not just life on land but ocean life as well. Ship strikes, captivity, entanglements, commercial whaling – all of these are threats to healthy whale populations and deserve our attention, but it is pollution that could lead to extinction.

Knowledge is the basis of all intelligent action, so Ocean Alliance takes the time to learn enough about the creatures it protects to make sure that its actions, whatever they may be, will be what is most needed and most effective. Ocean Alliance doesn’t strike at the branches of global problems; it strikes at the roots.

I hope you will join me in supporting this little-known group, for times are tough, and it is now up to individuals like you and me to help organizations like Ocean Alliance continue their critically important work.

My very best wishes for the holiday season.

And thank you.

Patrick Stewart