Oceanic Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oceanic Society helped put ocean conservation on the public radar. Some of our many accomplishments include: