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Aquatic Family Traditions

It has never been more important to protect the world’s oceans. Luckily some important, bold-faced names, like Alexandra Cousteau, are behind some powerful initiatives.

Courtesy of Carlos Suárez

Although legendary aquatic explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau shared his concern about protecting the world’s oceans decades ago, his words hold true—even more so—today. Cousteau passed away in 1997 after a long and fruitful career, but his cause has been taken up by the next generations of his family. Since Alexandra Cousteau was first taught to dive by her grandfather off the coast of Nice, she has remained in the ocean’s depths—figuratively and literally. A senior advisor to Oceana, a worldwide organization dedicated to conservation, Cousteau is intimately connected to the world’s mysterious oceans and remains committed to their protection. The passionate traveler, activist and mother spoke with Indagare about her current projects, imparting the importance of conservation to children and carrying on her grandfather’s legacy.

The world’s oceans are under constant threat. What do you foresee being the biggest future obstacles to their conservation?

In the next century, one of the biggest threats to our oceans will be the world’s growing population. By 2050 there will be an estimated 9 billion people on the planet, and each of those hungry people will need to eat. Wild fish will be an even more important source of protein, especially in the developing world. However, the global fishing fleet doesn’t always fish sustainably, and catch numbers will continue to drop—as it has since the 1980s—unless we address the problem of overfishing. The good news is that we know how to solve the problem, and Oceana is working to save the oceans so that we can feed the world.

What are some of your most memorable travel experiences?

I recently went to Malaysia and to Sipadan, off Borneo, which was maybe the most amazing dive experience I’ve ever had. On every dive I saw at least a dozen sea turtles swimming or resting under coral. There were what looked like meadows of staghorn coral, which is almost extinct in the Caribbean. I saw enormous schools of barracuda and Napoleon wrasse and other kinds of parrot fish. The barracuda were swimming in a tornadolike formation around me, from a depth of forty feet up to the surface. It was a magical place and reminded me how important the work we’re doing at Oceana is. This is how the whole ocean used to be, and it was really good to see what a healthy and vibrant and abundant baseline looks like, because it reminded me what we’re fighting for. An experience like the one I had ought not to be so rare.

You’ve spoken about the impact your grandfather had on you. If the great Jacques Cousteau were alive today, what do you think he’d be working on?

I think he would continue to advocate for protection of the oceans, and I think he would be working on it at a legislative level, at a public opinion level and at a storytelling level. He would probably be doing a lot of what Oceana does, which is why I so enjoy working with the organization. And I think he would also be evolving with the times in terms of storytelling and experimenting. He loved gadgets and technology, so he’d probably be tweeting!

You are constantly traveling. Which spots do you love to return to, and what are you most looking forward to?

I love Belize, and I’m looking forward to returning there with Oceana to fight against offshore oil drilling exploration around Belize’s amazing reefs. I wouldn’t mind going back to Sipadan if it weren’t 10 million miles away. And I love going back to my native France over and over again, as well as to Bonaire, a beautiful spot for diving in the Caribbean.

Which Oceana initiatives are you currently passionate about?

I have just spent a week working and diving with Oceana’s European team in the Balearic Islands (off the coast of Spain) to support the enlargement of Cabrera Marine National Park. My grandfather visited the islands three decades ago and expressed his concern that it was past protection, but we now know that the sea can recover. We must act in time to fulfill our duty to preserve previously unknown areas. The work carried out by Oceana in this area has shown the existence of a dozen ecosystems and almost 300 species—including black coral, red coral and kelp forests—that all need protection.

How can people support Oceana’s causes?

We welcome people to become Wavemakers and online supporters and to sign the petitions against seismic testing. which deafens dolphins and whales, and in favor of safe seafood. You can also make a difference in your own life, by committing to one of Oceana’s tips to save the ocean or choosing to eat seafood sustainably. For example, instead of eating bluefin tuna, try pole-caught albacore.

As a mother, can you recommend ways for parents to teach their kids about the world’s oceans and the issues they face?

Watching natural history films like Jacques Perrin’s Oceans with your children offers kids a chance to see what we should be fighting for. I also recommend taking your family to the beach and participating in a cleanup. Improving the oceans is something children should grow up with.

Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.

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