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Oceanic Society's Year 2020 In Review

By Brian Hutchinson

As this year comes to a close, we want to thank you for supporting Oceanic Society and our mission to improve ocean health. In spite of the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our work, with your help we have continued to deepen the connections between people and nature to build a more oceanic society through scientific research, sustainable travel programs, species conservation, and innovative communications efforts like our Blue Habits program.

Here's a look at some of our accomplishments in 2020!

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Conservation Travel Program in 2020

A humpback whale breaches in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. © Rhys Watkin

We lead global expeditions and California whale watching tours that support ocean conservation through our unique non-profit model.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively shut down our international travel programs as of March 2020, Oceanic Society led 2,632 travelers on international expeditions and San Francisco Bay Area whale watching tours spanning 14 countries in our last fiscal year. Those travelers contributed 1,982 volunteer hours to ocean research and conservation programs, and our expeditions and whale watching tours generated $311,402 for ocean conservation work by Oceanic Society and our partners worldwide.

Each of our travel offerings aims to positively impact the natural areas and human communities we visit while also delivering transformative nature experiences for our travelers that deepen their connections to nature and promote the adoption of ocean-friendly “Blue Habits.” Any profits we earn are invested directly into our ocean research and conservation programs worldwide.

Sea Turtle Conservation Program in 2020

We published the first ever map of global loggerhead turtle satellite telemetry data in 2020.

We support and strengthen local sea turtle conservation programs worldwide, because sea turtles are powerful flagships for ocean conservation.

Our State of the World's Sea Turtles Program is a global effort to study and protect sea turtles and their habitats, and to leverage the amazing charisma of sea turtles to drive ocean conservation action. In 2020 we published the 15th volume of the award-winning State of the World’s Sea Turtles (SWOT) Report, which is distributed free-of-charge to research and conservation programs worldwide. For the report, we produced: 1) a special feature on the sea turtles of the Caribbean including comprehensive maps of sea turtle nesting and of sea turtle satellite telemetry for the six sea turtle species found throughout the Wider Caribbean Region; and 2) The first global map of loggerhead turtle satellite telemetry data, compiling more than 650,000 data points from 1,273 satellite tracked loggerhead turtles that were contributed by more than 80 different projects.

We also gave 11 small grants to high-priority sea turtle research and conservation projects in Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, the United States.

Blue Habits Film Series in 2020

Our award-winning Blue Habits film series combines science and art to inspire personal action for ocean conservation among viewers worldwide.

In 2020 we launched the fourth episode (Blue Habits, Episode 4: Raja Ampat) in our Blue Habits short film series that was part of our Five for 50 campaign to celebrate our 50th anniversary and engage the global public in ocean conservation. Each episode explores a critical ocean conservation issue through the personal lens of a stakeholder as we visit one of Earth's most important ocean habitats. Through this video series, which was sponsored by SC Johnson, our goal is to motivate personal behavior changes that support healthy oceans. Episode 4 focused on the connection between coral reefs, climate change, and our personal behaviors, told through the lens of artist and ocean advocate, Courtney Mattison. The four films continued to garner recognition in 2020 with six film awards received (International Ocean Film Festival, Durham Regional IFF, Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, DC Environmental Film Festival, and the Oceanic Global Short Film Fest). In total, they have been viewed by more than 750,000 people worldwide. In addition to the films, our educational Five for 50 campaign content reached more than 3 million people on social media across 2019-2020.

Blue Habits Program in 2020

Through our Blue Habits program, we are developing tools and techniques that use cutting edge behavioral science to go beyond simply 'raising awareness' to motivate and sustain ocean-friendly behaviors.

In 2020 we analyzed the results of our pilot study and began formal implementation of our research-backed Blue Habits programming aboard whale watching tours and expeditions, reaching 442 travelers. This innovative methodology, which was developed, tested, and refined in partnership with researchers from Stanford University, aims to engage travelers in ocean conservation behavior through specific programming before, during, and after a nature-based tourism experience. As part of the rollout of the Blue Habits programming, we also held two sessions to train naturalists in the specific methods and strategies that comprise the program.

We also continued to develop our virtual Blue Habits community platform that supports public engagement in everyday behaviors that improve ocean health. Digital resources and guides created by the Blue Habits program reached more than 230,000 people in 2020, and our Blue Habits community grew to more than 750 people.

We are deeply grateful to all of our donors, travelers, and community members for their support to our work in 2020. If you like what we are doing and want to help, please consider making an end of year donation to Oceanic Society. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and e depend on people like you to support our efforts.

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Brian Hutchinson is Oceanic Society's vice president of outreach, co-founder of the State of the World's Sea Turtles Program, and program officer of the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Brian holds a B.A. in zoology from Connecticut College, and has been working to advance global marine conservation for more than a decade.


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