History

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 for the past three decades an eloquent spokesman for whales and their welfare. In the early 1970s, he was among the first to foresee and to sound the alarm about the worldwide ocean pollution problems we are now all learning about. In the January, 1979 issue of National Geographic, Dr. Payne said, "Pollution will soon replace the harpoon as the next mortal threat to whales and, ultimately, humanity."


Believing that rigorous science and widespread public education are basic requirements for long-term conservation, he founded OA for the purpose of carrying out both those missions. OA is headquartered in Lincoln, Massachusetts, but our areas of activity are global. Our research vessel Odyssey, a 93-foot, ocean-going steel ketch, operates in all the oceans of the world from her home base in San Diego.


Dr. Payne's work with whales first came to the public's attention in 1967 when, along with colleague Scott McVay, he discovered that the eerie sounds made by the humpback whale were actually complex, recognizable songs. He determined that these songs often include rhyme and meter, and he developed a system for transcribing them. Included in the National Geographic of January, 1979 was a playable recording called "Songs of the Humpback Whale," which presented most of us with our first opportunity to hear and appreciate these songs for ourselves. Hinting at, as they do, the "mind" of this remarkable whale, these songs have over the years had a powerful impact on the public consciousness.


Another of his contributions to the welfare of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) came in the early years of his career, when he revolutionized cetacean research by introducing and refining benign research techniques, thereby avoiding the need to harm whales in order to study them.


For his work, Dr. Payne has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the 1994 Lyndhurst Prize, a knighthood from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and has been named to the United Nations Environmental Program's Global 500 Roll of Honor. The National Geographic Society has referred to him as "the Dean of modern whale research," and his work has appeared four times on the pages of the National Geographic as well as in many other publications. He is the author of two books about whales, his most recent being Among Whales (1995), in which he examines whales and their environment from a personal perspective, drawing on his vast experience during thirty years of studying them and relating to them.


He is a well-known and respected figure at whale–related meetings, conferences, and symposiums in all parts of the world, such as the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission, where his reasoned presentations and comments always receive an attentive hearing. His work has been the subject of more than thirty television documentaries, including 1991's popular, emmy-nominated "In the Company of Whales." In 1995 Dr. Payne co-wrote, and co-directed the IMAX production, "Whales," which was well-received by critics and the public alike. An estimated audience of 40,000 people from all over the world currently see this film each week. It has always been his hope that films and publications like these will help educate the public about whales and their uncertain future on this planet. He is currently at work on his next film, a documentary about interactions between whales and humans.


OA's staff, though limited by its small size and by recurring financial constraints, is a loyal one, dedicated to carrying out the programs established for OA over the years. WCI was founded 29 years ago to meet the important need to protect whales and their ocean environment. Its leadership has worked to carry out its mission with intelligence, with scientific integrity, and with heart and soul ever since. In spite of this work, however, and the work of many others, the need has not yet been met.


Why? The world's whales have by no means been saved. Whaling is on the increase in several parts of the world, for example, and some commercial fishing techniques still pose a threat to hundreds of thousands of the world's cetaceans every year. The North Atlantic right whale, so named because it was the "right" whale for whalers to kill, may actually become extinct during our lifetime. The Chinese river dolphin is almost certainly doomed to extinction, and other species that live in rivers near humans may very likely meet the same fate. Our oceans are cluttered with old, discarded, non–biodegradable fishing nets called ghost nets that continue to fish and to kill sea life long after their original purpose has been served. These are only a few of the problems faced in the 1990s by creatures that live in the sea.



Oceans Matter
Did You Know

The skeleton of blue whale can weigh more than 50 pounds!


Blue Whale