Mission & Vision
To protect the ocean through science and advocacy and inspire environmental stewardship.
Our vision is to be the people’s environmental organization for the protection of the world’s whales, dolphins and other marine animals living wild in their natural habitat. We believe that it is essential to involve the public in our mission. We encourage you to become a part of our global community of people who care about the future of our oceans and marine wildlife.
Founder Greg Kaufman was the Executive Director of Pacific Whale Foundation until his death in 2018. Author of numerous books and scientific publications on cetaceans, Greg was a pioneer in non-invasive humpback whale research off the shores of Maui, Hawai‘i in the mid-1970s. He founded Pacific Whale Foundation in 1980 and directed this new organization to employ scientific data and research to educate the public about whales and their ocean habitat. A driven and committed conservationist, he oversaw the longest-running humpback whale research program in both Australia (est. 1984) and Ecuador.
An innovator in sustainable marine ecotourism, Greg was a highly sought-after advisor to governments, agencies and other stakeholders on best practices for responsible dolphin and whalewatching programs. He was also one of the world’s leading advocates for whales and whale protection issues. As an Invited Participant to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, Greg was a vital contributor to the Sub-Committees on Whale-watching, Southern Hemisphere Whales, and Bycatch.
In addition, Greg served on the Hawaiian Island Humpback National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Committee and was a contributing member to the Southern Oceans Research Partnership. He co-led the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Regional Workshop on Marine Mammal Watching in the Wider Caribbean Region and served as the U.S. delegate in an international workshop held in Patagonia to develop a Five Year Global Plan for Whalewatching.
Greg leaves behind his wife, Selket Kaufman, and his four children, U’ilani, West, Pūlama and Kūlia Kaufman. His Pacific Whale Foundation ‘ohana carries on his legacy and mission to protect the ocean through science and advocacy while inspiring environmental stewardship.
Social Enterprise Model
As a visionary nonprofit, we realize that it’s it’s becoming less and less reliable to rely solely on donations and grants to fund our work. As such, PWF implemented the social enterprise, PacWhale Eco-Adventures, which offers ocean ecotours led by certified marine naturalists. Fully owned by PWF, these ecotours help support Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs.
As an early pioneer in adapting the social enterprise model, PWF discovered early on that we could fulfill part of our mission — to educate the public about whales and the ocean — by providing intimate ocean experiences that introduce our organization to potential supporters while helping fund the governing nonprofit.
PWF is the sole shareholder and owner of PacWhale Eco-Adventures and owns all of its assets (boats, computers, equipment, etc.). All of the profits generated by PacWhale Eco-Adventures are retained by PWF and used to further its mission.
PWF was one of the first nonprofit conservation organizations to employ non-invasive scientific techniques in gathering humpback whale data. Our research efforts began in the mid-1970s in Hawaii, using shore-based, vessel-based and aerial observations to study humpback (baleen) whales.
In 1996, PWF researchers began studying odontocetes (toothed) whales and dolphins that reside year-round in Hawaiian waters. Working with the University of Hawaii, we also conducted the first comprehensive assessment of marine and avian wildlife at Molokini Marine Preserve. Other early studies included a seven-year assessment of Maui’s threatened coral reefs using line transect surveys (data collection along systematically mapped routes) to evaluate the health and diversity of nearshore coral organisms.
PWF was also an early adopter of photo-identification (photo-ID) to identify and track individual humpback whales over time. This process involves photographing flukes (the underside of the tail) to identify shapes, markings and pigmentation patterns that are unique to each whale. In the beginning stages of this research, we used photographic slides to manually compare and match new sightings to previously identified whales. Today we capture data with digital cameras and use database software to catalog matches.
Some of these initial projects are ongoing, and we invite you to learn more about our current science-based initiatives. Much of our work is conducted aboard our dedicated research vessel, Ocean Protector. Our studies are also supported by PacWhale Eco-Adventures, including whalewatching and snorkel ecotours that act as “platforms of opportunity” for the collection of scientific data.