Ocean Alliance

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Ocean Alliance, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to the conservation of whales and their marine environment through research and education. The organization is based in Gloucester, Massachusetts in the United States.

It was founded in 1971 by biologist Roger Payne. Led by Payne and Chief Executive Officer Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance collects a broad spectrum of data on whales and ocean life relating particularly to toxicology, behavior, bioacoustics, and genetics. From that data, the alliance works with its scientific partners to advise educators and policy makers on wise stewardship of the oceans to: reduce pollution, prevent the collapse of marine mammal populations, maintain human access to fish and other sea life, and benefit ocean and human health.


Ocean Alliance was founded in 1970 by whale biologist Dr. Roger Payne, with the purpose of saving the great whales from the very real extinction risk which commercial whaling posed at the time. Payne, along with colleague Scott McVay, became famous for the discovery that humpback whales sing songs, a discovery which allowed him to become an influential figure in the worldwide campaign to end commercial whaling.

Since its founding under Payne, and later under current CEO Dr. Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance has been an important group in the worldwide effort to research and protect great whales. They are well-respected for developing benign research techniques, and in the process proving that far more can be learnt from a live whale than from a dead one. Many of their exploits have brought them closely into the public eye, leading Payne to describe the group as "the group you don’t know you know". During the 1990s, Payne established that the way to save whales would be to show them to the world, and Ocean Alliance became involved in over forty documentaries including In the Company of Whales and the IMAX film WHALES.

In 1979 Roger Payne proclaimed that pollution would replace the harpoon as the greatest threat to whales, and in more recent years much of Ocean Alliance’s work has been directed towards combating this growing threat. From 2000-2005, under the leadership of Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance launched the Voyage of the Odyssey, providing the first ever global data set on pollution in the oceans. This project lasted five years and spanned the entire planet.

Major accomplishments[edit]

In 1967, Ocean Alliance founder and president Dr. Roger Payne discovered, along with Scott McVay, that humpback whales sing songs. This was an important hallmark of the Save the Whale movement.

In the 1970s, Payne and Ocean Alliance demonstrated mathematically that the song of blue and fin whales are audible across entire ocean basins. The recent corroboration of this theory may explain, for the first time, why these species have no known breeding grounds.

1970s-Payne and Ocean Alliance are instrumental in establishing an 860 square mile whale park (Golfo San Jose), off Peninsula Valdes in southern Argentina-an important breeding ground for endangered southern right whales. This leads to a permanent research program being set up, which is now the longest continuously running study on baleen whales (the program entered its 44th year in 2013). Since 1996 the program has been run in conjunction with the Institute de Conservacion Ballenas.

1970s-Ocean Alliance scientists pioneer many of the benign research techniques now commonly used worldwide to study free-ranging whales.

In 1979, National Geographic magazine published an article by Roger Payne which includes a sound sheet of his ‘Songs of the Humpback Whale’. This is one of the most produced records in history, and in the article Payne is referred to as "the dean of modern whale research".

1984-1989-Payne is selected for MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship.

1990’s-An education drive is implemented by CEO Iain Kerr to support Ocean Alliance’s programs. This included partnerships with schools in Massachusetts developing an elementary whale study curriculum ‘Looking at Whales’, the Cetacean Education Through Awareness (CETA) program in Gloucester, MA; the ‘Education Today’ program developed in partnership with the Discovery Channel, the Pacific Life WHALE Education program with various schools across the United States and the Ocean Encounters multimedia education program.

1990’s-Ocean Alliance involved in the production of over 40 documentaries studying whales, including ‘In the Company of Whales’ and the IMAX film ‘WHALES’.

1970’s-2000’s-Ocean Alliance is involved in setting up and protecting marine parks in Hawaii, Alaska, Sri Lanka, the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico. In 2003, Ocean Alliance’s work leads directly to a 1.2 million square mile marine mammal sanctuary being created in the waters of Papua New Guinea.

1994-Massachusetts governor William D. Weld signed a proclamation establishing April 21 as Roger Payne and Ocean Alliance day in celebration of Earth Day.

2000-2005-Under CEO Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance launched the ‘Voyage of the Odyssey’-the first ever global oceanic pollution survey on-board the research vessel Odyssey, to gather the first ever data set on pollutants throughout the world’s oceans. This was a massive undertaking, receiving media attention worldwide.

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