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Star of the Sea: Jean-Michel Cousteau

by Walter Bonora
National Marine Sanctuaries

Jean Michele Cousteau
Jean-Michel Cousteau © Tom Ordway, Ocean Futures Society
Jean-Michel Cousteau has traveled the world raising ocean awareness. Carrying on the legacy established by his father, Jacques, Jean-Michel has touched millions through his films, lectures, guest columns in numerous ocean-related publications, and through his innovative, non-profit group Ocean Futures.

His latest plunge into our ocean world is a new series for PBS highlighting national marine sanctuaries. Airing in two, one-hour episodes starting Wednesday, Sept. 20 and concluding on Sept. 27, America’s Underwater Treasures is the final segment of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Adventures, a six-part series that aired over the spring and summer. The series illuminates the great need for better understanding and sustainable management of the oceans’ rich natural treasures.


The national marine sanctuaries are their own proof that they must be guarded for future generations.

“Yosemite. Yellowstone. The Everglades. The Grand Canyon. Everyone knows these gems of America’s national parks,” notes Cousteau. “But how many are familiar with the Flower Garden Banks, Fagatelle Bay, Gray’s Reef, Thunder Bay or the Gulf of the Farallones? We have them, but few know where they are, or that they are national marine sanctuaries.”

So, in a partnership with KQED, Northern California’s public broadcasting station, Cousteau set out to film the 13 national marine sanctuaries. Coming on the heels of his documentary Voyage to Kure, the film that in part inspired President Bush to proclaim the Northwester Hawaiian Islands a marine national monument, the series explores the many reef formations, historic wrecks and unique marine ecosystems in the sanctuaries.

“In part at risk and in part still pristine, the national marine sanctuaries are their own proof that they must be guarded for future generations,” Cousteau says. NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program Director Daniel J. Basta notes that Cousteau’s “tireless efforts to raise ocean awareness stand as a crowning example of the best in public service. He is the world’s most significant ambassador for our water environment who continually pushes all of us to take an active role in ocean conservation.”

At last year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week, a forum to raise ocean awareness organized by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Cousteau, who serves on the foundation’s board, expressed concern about the state of the ocean’s health. But he feels they can become healthy and thriving again “if we all take responsibility.”

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