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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

People need healthy oceans to survive and to thrive. Oceanic Society works to improve ocean health by addressing the root cause of its decline—human behavior. Simply put, the oceans are in trouble because people are putting too much into and taking too much out of them.

Through our conservation travel programs, marine research, and investments in conservation, we are inspiring and empowering people at all levels of society to become better stewards of ocean ecosystems.

Our mission is to conserve marine wildlife and habitats by deepening the connections between people and nature.

We Harness the Power of Nature Travel

Since 1969, we have guided tens of thousands of travelers on life-changing journeys to explore the natural world. Again and again we have seen how conscientious nature tourism can transform the human relationship with the natural world by:

A snorkeler photographs a green turtle. © Wayne Sentman

  • Making it pay to protect ecosystems—Growing the economic value of healthy oceans through nature tourism helps assure that conserving ocean resources is valued by the communities and politicians who manage them.
  • Building an informed community of ocean advocates—Meaningful first-hand experiences with ocean wildlife and conservation issues turn our travelers into lifelong ocean advocates, armed with a deep understanding of the issues at hand and the tools they need to take action.
  • Supporting ocean research and conservation—By partnering with field-based research and conservation projects in the locations we visit, our travel programs provide financial support and manpower needed to study and protect ocean ecosystems both locally and regionally.
We Support Science for Conservation

Collecting coral reef data in Micronesia. © Nicole CraneAll effective conservation is based in good science. We study ocean wildlife and ecosystems to generate information that guides marine conservation. We also go beyond the biological sciences to study the science of human behavior change. Our research priorities include:

  • Threatened species research—We study sea turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins, manatees, seabirds, and other threatened species to assure that their key habitats are identified and protected, that conservation efforts are prioritized, and that threats to their survival are understood and reduced.
  • Coral reef monitoring—Coral reefs are some of Earth's most biodiverse and valuable ecosystems, and yet they are also highly threatened. We conduct and support long-term reef monitoring efforts that evaluate reef ecosystem health over time and support sound reef conservation policies.
  • Small-scale fisheries research—Globally, 87 percent of fisheries are fully exploited, over exploited, or in a state of collapse. Small-scale fisheries account for perhaps 99 percent of the world's 50 million fishers, and yet they are largely unmonitored and unmanaged. We work with small-scale fishers to provide scientific data needed to manage their fisheries sustainably.
  • The science of behavior change—Behavior change science is a growing field of research at the intersection of education, psychology, economics, neuroscience, and marketing. We are applying behavior change science to our programs in an effort to target the root cause of the ocean crisis—human behavior—and to create the lasting changes that are needed to improve ocean health.
We Invest in Conservation Action

We provide financial and technical support to field-based marine conservation projects worldwide. Our investments are directed to projects that focus on flagship species, like sea turtles, marine mammals, and sharks, because these projects leverage the unique charismatic power of those species to engage people in addressing broader issues of ocean health.


Early History

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 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.

New Chapter

By the late 1980s the conservation landscape had changed dramatically. There were dozens of effective organizations working for ocean conservation. In 1990, Oceanic Society decided to merge with Environmental Policy Institute and Friends of the Earth (becoming Friends of the Earth), while Oceanic Society Expeditions broke off as its own nonprofit to focus specifically on pursuing ocean conservation through travel.


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

  • Creating the Oceanic Society Patrol—The patrol was an innovative program 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 1969, 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 thousands worldwide.
  • 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.
  • Raising awareness and collecting key data on Bay Area marine mammals—We have been guiding educational cruises and supporting marine mammal research in the Bay Area since our founding, leading to official commendation by the California State Senate.
  • 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. We have also placed 12 acres of sensitive atoll habitat at Blackbird Caye under permanent protection.
  • Advancing community conservation in Ulithi Atoll—We have been working alongside the community on Falalop in Ulithi Atoll (Micronesia) in their efforts to study and conserve sea turtles (since 2007) and to establish a locally managed marine area (since 2011). We are now working at the community's request to develop a marine resource management plan.


Roderic MastPresident and CEOWashington, DC
Brian HutchinsonDirector of OutreachWashington, DC
Wayne SentmanDirector of International Eco-Travel ProgramsBoston, MA
Nicole BouharbOperations and Finance DirectorWashington, DC
Nan SinceroManager of International Travel LogisticsRoss, CA
Nancy HeatonLocal Programs CoordinatorRoss, CA
Kathi KoontzBelize Program ManagerTurneffe Atoll, Belize
Eric RamosField ResearcherNew York, NY
Alton JeffordsIsland ManagerTurneffe Atoll, Belize

Board of Directors

Zachary Rabinor

Charles Betlach

Sylvia Earle

Neel Inamdar

  • Conservation Finance
  • Impact Investor

Finn Torgrimsen Longinotto

Yasmin Namini

Marilyn Pearson, Esq.


Download File

2013 IRS Form 990

Download File

2012 IRS Form 990

Download File

2011 IRS Form 990