A few weeks ago, we were invited to hear a lecture by oceanographer and environmentalist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late Jacques Cousteau. Frank and I grew up enthralled by The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and are proud owners of several of Jean-Michel's video series on PBS. We wanted Alex to hear what he had to say, since care of the ocean will largely be left to the next generation.
Cousteau was speaking at the Northern California regional convention of Rotary International. We were invited to the dinner as guests of District Governor Loren Harper. The Rotary Club has a longstanding tradition of community service and involvement in important issues, and it was an honor to be among this distinguished group of community leaders.
Jean Michel Cousteau's passion for the deep blue see was evident in his remarks, probably a result of his taking his first dive below the surface at age 4. He showed video clips of amazing animals and underwater habitats, along with startling scenes of plastic debris washed up on the shores of one of the uninhabited islands of the Pacific.
Cousteau runs the Ocean Futures Society, which runs educational programs on conservation of the world's oceans and how people can get involved. The Ocean Futures Society runs an annual family camp on Catalina Island, where families spend a week in August learning about the ocean.
During his remarks, Cousteau urged everyone to consider the environmental impact of throwing trash into the ocean and into landfills. Millions of tons of plastic garbage are floating in the Northern Pacific Gyre, in a mass the size of the state of Texas. Cousteau's group and others are working toward cleaning up the mess, but in the meantime, wildlife ingest bits of plastic debris and die from it.
He spoke about the practice of shark finning and showed a video of Chinese fishing boats capturing sharks, cutting off the fins and throwing the shark back into the sea to die. The fins are used in Shark Fin Soup and other delicacies in China and other parts of the world, without regard for the impact on the shark populations. Cousteau noted that sharks have a particularly bad rap, mainly due to Hollywood's portrayal of Great Whites and human-hungry predators. He showed footage of himself diving and catching a ride on the dorsal fin of a Great White.