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About Us

Since 1969, Oceanic Society has been inspiring and empowering people worldwide to take part in building a healthy future for the world’s oceans.

Join us as we work to create a more oceanic society.

How We Work

Oceanic Society works to improve ocean health by deepening the connections between people and nature to address the root cause of its decline: human behavior.

We seek to bridge the gap between awareness and measurable behavior change in three ways:

  1. Connecting people to oceans through travel, and motivating personal actions to improve ocean health—Our expeditions engage thousands of people in international ocean conservation every year. We deliver unique, top-quality, life-changing travel experiences to a growing number of people through research and volunteer programs, nature expeditions, and whale watching cruises.
  2. Defining and implementing strategies, tools, and methods to activate, sustain, and measure human behavior change—We work with leading behavioral scientists to define and implement techniques to motivate and measure consumer behavior changes relating to climate change, plastic pollution, and sustainable seafood, and we use storytelling and flagship species conservation to engage people and stimulate action.
  3. Leveraging and amplifying our impacts to new audiences—We are developing, testing and packaging best practices and tools for motivating pro-ocean behaviors in order to leverage their use among the nature tourism industry that impacts tens of millions of people per year, as well as among consumer audiences more broadly through strategic partnerships.

Together, these strategies aim to "move the needle" in ways that measurably improve ocean health and reduce the hazards that humans pose to oceans over time.

An Oceanic Society traveler snorkels near a whale shark in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. © Pete Oxford

Our Challenge

People need healthy oceans. Oceans absorb heat, generate more than half of our atmosphere's oxygen, regulate the world's weather patterns, and more than a billion people depend on fish for their primary source of protein. An estimated 350 million jobs are linked to the oceans, and international trade in ocean products involves 85 nations and is worth $102 billion per year. Oceans also provide immeasurable financial, inspirational, and aesthetic benefits to people.

Yet the oceans are in trouble. 90 percent of fisheries are fully fished or overfished, and stocks of large fish like tuna and swordfish have declined by 90 percent since 1950. Climate change is bleaching coral reefs worldwide, and millions of tons of plastic are choking sea life and causing systemic problems. The oceans have reached a tipping point.

All ocean problems share a common cause: human behavior. In short, people put too much in and take too much out of the seas. Our solution is simple: change the human behaviors that damage ocean health, and the oceans will continue to thrive.

A Laysan Albatross chick amid marine debris on remote Spit Island. © Wayne Sentman

Focus Areas

Oceanic Society aims to increase the number of people taking action for ocean conservation in the following focus areas. Our current target audience is the nature-based tourism industry and the tens of millions of travelers that it serves each year, and we are simultaneously working to expand our programs and partnerships to reach a broader range of consumer audiences.

Pollution (Plastics and Toxins)
Ocean pollution in many forms—from chemical runoff, to solid waste, and even sound—harms ocean wildlife and threatens the functions of healthy seas. In particular, ocean plastic pollution has become a growing global concern, with between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean each year. That volume is enough to cover every foot of coastline on the planet, and it is expected to more than double in the next ten years. Oceanic Society focuses on reducing marine pollution from plastics, in particular and from harmful chemicals found in sunscreen and other known pollutants.

Climate Change (Carbon Footprint)
Warming oceans, sea level rise, and acidification can lead to shifting ranges of species, coral bleaching, and other significant impacts. Oceanic Society focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions with an emphasis on household behaviors related to transportation (which account for roughly 20% of global carbon emissions), meat consumption (livestock account for roughly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions), and more.

Sustainable Fisheries & Aquaculture (Seafood Choices)
Most wild fisheries are fully fished or overfished. Stocks of large fish, such as tuna and swordfish, have declined by 90% since 1950, and many aquaculture operations negatively impact coasts and oceans. Oceanic Society focuses on positively impacting seafood choices made by nature travelers and tourism providers to drive a shift away from unsustainable fisheries and aquaculture products in favor of well-managed, sustainable options.

History

Early History (1969–1995)

Oceanic Society was founded in 1969 by a group of San Francisco Bay Area sailors and scientists who were concerned about the state of the oceans and decided to take action. Inspired by the events of their day—like the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and growing public concern for the environment—they came together to form Oceanic Society, the first non-profit organization in America dedicated to marine conservation. Their aim was to bring greater public awareness and political action to issues of ocean health and to grow the global community of people working toward improved ocean stewardship. They succeeded, creating thousands of ocean advocates who shaped the ocean conservation movement that exists today. By 1982, Oceanic Society had more than 70,000 members in five chapters under the leadership of Chris duPont Roosevelt.

In 1972, Oceanic Society launched its innovative Expeditions program, combining tourism with science, exploration, and conservation on ship-based expeditions to important ocean regions worldwide. Early Expeditions included New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the Caribbean, South and Central America, and the California coast. As Oceanic Society's membership grew, so did the demand for Expeditions, and the program was expanded to include many more destinations and departures.

By the late 1980s the conservation landscape had changed dramatically. There were dozens of effective organizations working for ocean conservation. In 1989, Oceanic Society and Oceanic Society Expeditions decided to merge with Environmental Policy Institute, which then merged with Friends of the Earth in 1991. Oceanic Society became a project of Friends of the Earth until 1995.

New Chapter (1995–Present)

In 1995, current and former staff of Oceanic Society negotiated with Friends of the Earth to revive and reincorporate Oceanic Society Expeditions as its own non-profit to focus specifically on pursuing ocean conservation through travel. Since 1995, Oceanic Society has carried on the original spirit of our founders and their dream to create a more oceanic society. Our mission is to improve ocean health by deepening the connections between people and nature to address the root cause of its decline—human behavior.

Accomplishments

Oceanic Society helped put ocean conservation on the public radar. Some of our many accomplishments include:

  • Creating the Oceanic Society Patrol and Farallon Patrol—The patrols were innovative programs that turned yacht owners into citizen scientists who monitored the seas and collected valuable ocean data.
  • Pioneering ecotourism and volunteer vacations—Our founders knew that building a “more oceanic society" would require first-hand participation by the public. They began the Oceanic Society Expeditions program in 1972, an effort we proudly continue today.
  • Inspiring a generation of ocean lovers through Oceans magazine—From 1974 through 1988, we published the popular Oceans magazine that was distributed to tens of thousands of people worldwide.
  • Leading the way in whale watching—Whale watching played an important role in helping society transition away from whaling. Among the first organizations to promote and lead whale watching trips, Oceanic Society ran our first whale watching trip in the early 1970s out of San Francisco, and soon began to offer regular whale watching trips out of Sausalito, Pillar Point, and Bodega Bay, California, and eventually to Baja California out of San Diego.
  • Responding to the Exxon Valdez oil spill—Our staff were instrumental in coordinating the response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) and advancing legislation that requires double hulls on oil tankers.
  • Co-founding the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT—Under the leadership of Chris duPont Roosevelt, Oceanic Society helped establish this top-notch educational facility, which opened in 1988 (as the Maritime Center at Norwalk).
  • Pushing for protection of Turneffe Atoll, Belize—We established a field station at Blackbird Caye in Turneffe Atoll, Belize in 2001 to bring a permanent environmental presence to the area, to do marine research for conservation, and to build an eco-tourism program that would demonstrate Turneffe's value as a protected area. In 2012, Turneffe Atoll was declared a marine reserve, and our work played a major role in its definition.
  • Advancing community conservation in Ulithi Atoll—We worked alongside the community on Falalop in Ulithi Atoll (Micronesia) in their efforts to study and conserve sea turtles (starting in 2007) and to establish a locally managed marine area (starting in 2011).
  • Strengthening local sea turtle conservation, globally—Through our State of the World’s Sea Turtles Program, we have been supporting local sea turtle conservation efforts worldwide by partnering with hundreds of individuals and institutions to improve sea turtle science, set priorities for research and conservation, and provide needed resources to conservation projects since 2012.
  • Innovating a focus on behavior change—In 2014 we launched our Blue Habits program, an innovative effort that aims to go beyond merely raising awareness to deliver measurable behavior change that positively impacts ocean health. In partnership with Stanford University, we are now working to transform the nature-based tourism industry into a powerful force for motivating pro-ocean behavior change.

Staff

Roderic MastPresident and CEOWashington, DC
Brian HutchinsonVP of OutreachWashington, DC
Wayne SentmanDirector of Conservation Travel ProgramsBoston, MA
Nicole BouharbOperations and Finance DirectorWashington, DC
Justin WilligConservation Travel Programs CoordinatorWashington, DC
Chris BiertuempfelCalifornia Programs CoordinatorRoss, CA
Linda Sue BrownBookkeeperRoss, CA

Board of Directors

Zachary Rabinor

Chuck Betlach

Hari Balasubramanian

Sylvia Earle

Finn Torgrimsen Longinotto

Yasmin Namini

Marilyn Pearson, Esq.

Mark Stanley

  • President & Chief Business Officer, Playful
  • Founder & Head of the Trust, GameTrust Games
  • Founder, Agilos
  • Father, Adventurer, Surfer

Financials

Download File

2013-2014 IRS Form 990

Download File

2012-2013 IRS Form 990

Download File

2011-2012 IRS Form 990