Q&A with Jean-Michel Cousteau

Q&A with Jean-Michel Cousteau


“Ocean Future’s Society Answers Sunshine’s Questions”

1. Tell me one simple way I can help save the oceans from home, which is my retirement community?

Experiment with your own lifestyle. Take a day, week or month to share with friends and family when you decide to use limited or no energy. Use bikes, candles, eat raw food, use only battery power. See what it’s like. And know for that day, you have helped the environment and the oceans by consuming less.

2. What is one of the most bizarre marine animals you have come in contact with during your adventures?

One of the most bizarre marine animals I have ever seen is the Basketstar, seen in our new film: Secret Ocean. We filmed the Basketstars during the day when they are all curled up and then at night when they are on the prowl to catch drifting plankton.  Related to sea stars, they have no brain or blood, but they have many, many arms that can reach up to three feet and catch plankton at night.  See our Secret Ocean film to learn more. http://oceanfutures.org/exploration/films/secret-ocean-3d

3. How many total hours have you spent underwater?

I have no idea…..thousands and thousands of hours. I have never kept track, I am afraid to say. Every dive is a new adventure and when asked what my favorite dive is, I always say, “the next one!”

4. Given that each species play a vital role in the ecosystems of our oceans, what would be the approach to conserving the overfished species?

I am an optimist. Scientists and those who study our oceans know what species have been overfished. So do the fisherman whose living depend on them. There are certain specials that simply must be left alone to restore themselves. Sharks are the perfect example. The reproduction cycles of the over 400 species of sharks vary, but many take 10 or more years to mature. For many years, we have killed approximately 100 million sharks a year for shark fin soup. These practices can’t be sustained. Read More.

Resource managers and lawmakers have had to step in strongly to ban the importation or sale of shark fin soup. Taking away the incentive at the consumer lever may be the toughest policies of all, but necessary under extraordinary damaging practices like shark finning. We must always improve upon our information and our policies to insure a viable future for the oceans. We are increasing the population of our own human species by over 100 million a year. How are we going to feed them? Can the oceans help feed them? Yes, if we look to practices for the future and change the ways of the past.

5. Where is the most critical environment that has been impacted by tourists?

We live on the Water Planet. Over 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink? Fortunately for most of us, there has been enough potable water to drink. But that is not true in many parts of the world, and everywhere we travel on the globe, we impact water resources. We use water for drinking, recreation, golf courses, and expanding agriculture in areas that used to be rain forests. With an ever-expanding population of humans on this Water Planet, has come an ever-expanding need for more water.
Read More.

As Ecotourists, we must be mindful of conservation and preservation while supporting technological improvements and sustainable practices. When you stay at a hotel or resort, be mindful of water resources. If the hotel practices sustainable conservation methods, tell them you appreciate their efforts. If they are not using sustainable practices, ask them why, and encourage them to do so. Be mindful of your surroundings and your own personal practices. While water is a global challenge, it is a local resource. Use it wisely wherever you are on this Water Planet.

What are the core sustainability practices that you promote to sustain ecologically friendly tourism?
At the core, sustainability means doing the things that make sense from a financial perspective and then result in environmental benefits. We have the privilege of working with two eco-resorts: one in Fiji and one in the Caribbean, as well as advising many other operations around the globe. We have fostered the implementation of truly sustainable practices. When we became involved in the Caribbean, they were using “throw away” plastic bottles and straws. We pointed out that metal bottles could be reused by the guests. The resort calculated the cost of purchasing the plastic bottles and then compared to the cost of the reusable metal bottles. The immediate savings were huge, more than $70,000. As a result, this savvy business decision eliminated the environmentally detrimental effects of collecting plastic, trying to recycle or filling up landfills that will infiltrate the land and ultimately run off into the water of streams, rivers and oceans, leaving harmful residue. At our family camp on the island of Catalina, we practice sustainable actions that make economic sense and then help to keep campgrounds clean and healthy. We compost our left-overs, grow our own vegetables, and conserve water by limiting our showers. Does anyone need to take a 10-minute shower? No! By modeling our sustainable living, our guests, tourists and others who come to us can leave with new ways to help our planet.

What has been the most influential experience since your first dive with an aqualung in 1945?
One of the most influential experiences was when I had the opportunity to swim with orcas in Papau, New Guinea. We spent 9 hours with three orcas who were hunting for reef sharks. Another very influential experience was swimming with the most feared animal in the ocean: the great white sharks off of South Africa.

What are the three top actions humans can do to support marine conservation?
Always check the labels on the food you eat, especially the fish. Keep a copy of our sustainable seafood selections in your wallet and be mindful of everything you eat.

Limit your water consumption for day-to-day activities.

Become an Ambassador of the Environment: Join me in our goal of educating and engaging people of all ages about their natural and cultural environment. We extract and distill lessons from nature and culture, using them to explore alternatives for a sustainable future and empowering participants to live more gently on our planet. With programs all over the world, our Ambassador program seeks to reach as wide an audience as possible. Check out this link on our Ocean Futures website: http://oceanfutures.org/learning/ambassadors-environment

What ocean has the most bio diversity?
Coral reefs are believed to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet – even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty five percent of marine life. This is a solar powered city where coral reach up to collect the sun’s energy. With an appreciation for the value of coral and all reef species, one can understand how the entire ecosystem maintains itself through the acquisition of energy, recycling of raw materials, the diversity of jobs performed by the resident species and the vital interconnections that link all species together. It is a city where there is no pollution and what we might consider waste is actually an important resource for another animal. So the answer to your question is: all the oceans with healthy coral reef systems have the most bio diversity.

How can we assist with lessening the impact of commercial fishing while still maintaining a sustainable fishing industry?
The answer is simply stated although harder to accomplish: education, information, and implementation (management). When we gather the information, everyone wins. I am often asked if I eat fish. The answer is yes I do. And frankly, I love fisherman. They want a sustainable business, jobs and recreation, and want to be sure they can catch fish this season and next. For a long time, we all made mistakes. We treated the ocean like an open sewer and overfished. Nothing on this planet is limitless. But now, with knowledge and information and all of us working together with the fisherman, we have identified certain fishery resources that have been overfished, resulting in declining catches and revenue. We have a sustainable solution. Set aside certain areas in the ocean to prohibit or limit fishing for some time. Let the resources build back up. When our information shows certain species cannot be fished without imperiling the resources, get that information out to everyone, including the consumers. We live in a new era communications. Through the Internet and social media, the information we have at our disposal can be communicated worldwide. I am an optimist. We can insure sustainable fisheries for the future by using the information available to us and managing our resources.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

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