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The Captain Roger Thomas Scholarship Fund

Providing life-changing first-hand experiences with ocean wildlife for underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Overview

The Captain Roger Thomas Scholarship Fund (CRTSF) aims to give life-changing first-hand experiences seeing (and hearing) Pacific humpback whales to groups and individuals in the San Francisco Bay area that otherwise might not have the opportunity to do so. Through such experiences, the CRTSF contributes to Oceanic Society's larger efforts to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature to address the root cause of its decline—human behavior.

Since 1972, Oceanic Society has led hundreds of thousands of whale watchers on educational cruises, mostly aboard the Salty Lady owned by iconic Bay Area fisherman and wildlife conservationist, Captain Roger Thomas. In December 2017, Roger passed away after his long battle with cancer. The CRTSF was established in his honor, and aims to deepen the connections between people and nature by creating new opportunities for underserved communities to experience the magic of being in the presence of whales. The Scholarship will invite proposals from audiences who otherwise would not have had the means to participate in a whale watch cruise, and will facilitate as many naturalist-led educational expeditions as resources will allow.

Threats

Humpback whales in the San Francisco Bay Area belong to two distinct eastern Pacific populations that reproduce in the waters of Central America and Mexico and feed in the waters of California north to Alaska. The populations are listed as endangered and threatened by NOAA Fisheries, and humpbacks are protected in California by both the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Humpbacks and other marine mammals face a variety of threats in California and beyond, such as fisheries interactions, ship collisions, and pollution. Our goal through the CRTSF is to provide experiences that broaden the community of people that are personally engaged in addressing threats to marine mammals and other ocean wildlife in the waters of California and beyond.

How We Are Helping

We are targeting under-privileged youth, mobility-limited groups and others that might not be able to afford or otherwise have access to a whale watching experience. Years ago, Roger Thomas was deeply moved to see the excitement of visually-impaired passengers hearing the sounds of whale blows for the first time. On September 29, 2017, we launched the first CRTSF cruise with visually-impaired passengers and guide dogs from the non-profit Guide Dogs for the Blind. Based on the success of that experience, we are looking to enlist other groups and secure funding to run 4 or more such cruises annually.

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