Ocean Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization founded in 1971 by Roger Payne. Dr. Payne has conducted research on whales in all the oceans of the world, and has been an eloquent spokesman for their welfare for over three decades. In the early 1970s, he was among the first to sound the alarm about the threat of worldwide pollution of the oceans. In the January 1979 issue of National Geographic, Dr. Payne said, “Pollution has replaced the harpoon as a mortal threat to whales, and in its way can be far more deadly.”
Believing that rigorous science and widespread public education are basic requirements for long-term conservation, Dr. Payne founded Ocean Alliance for the purpose of carrying out both these global missions. Ocean Alliance has research partnerships in South America and a research vessel, Odyssey (a 93-foot, steel, ocean-going ketch), that operates in all the world’s oceans from her home base in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Ocean Alliance collects a broad spectrum of data on whales and ocean life relating particularly to toxicology, bioacoustics, behavior, and genetics. For over 40 years, we have studied a population of right whales that use the bays of the Natural Protected Area of Península Valdés (Chubut, Argentina) as a nursery ground–working closely for the past fourteen years with our sister organization, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas (ICB), in Argentina. This is the longest continuous study of any great whale based on known individuals. We conduct whale toxicology studies in partnership with the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology, at the University of Southern Maine. Ocean Alliance’s diverse research data provides policy makers, NGOs, educators, and students with information about ocean pollution and the health of marine mammals and ecosystems. This data has been the basis for many conservation success stories.
In recent years, Ocean Alliance has widened its interests to include the study of marine pollution using whales as a model subject. The amounts of harmful chemicals making their way into the sea by land and by air is of great concern. Understanding the health of the oceans is more important now than ever before. Recognizing the urgency for information to better deal with this problem, in 2000, Ocean Alliance set out to do what no government agency or organization had ever attempted to do before: spend 5½ years aboard their research vessel, Odyssey, collecting samples from sperm whales from around the world, and analyzing their levels of heavy metals and synthetic contaminants; thus, achieving a baseline study of the levels of pollution in the oceans. An Executive Summary Report of the Voyage of the Odyssey was recently made public at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Morocco.
On July 17, 2010, in the wake of the BP oil spill disaster, Odyssey set sail from Portland, Maine, en route to the Gulf of Mexico, to conduct toxicology studies to assess the impact of the oil crisis in the Gulf on whales and ocean life. Odyssey’s research team will conduct studies in both the Atlantic Ocean (both before and after the oil arrives) and in the Gulf of Mexico in both oiled and non-oiled areas.
For almost 40 years, Ocean Alliance has made a positive difference in this world. Our dedicated staff works hard to carry out its on-going mission and to do so with scientific integrity foremost. We pledge our continued commitment to help protect and preserve the marine environment on which the lives of all of us, people as well as whales, are utterly dependent.