Fabien Cousteau, the underwater explorer
The oceanographic explorer and environmental advocate Mr Fabien Cousteau is one of the members of the group of ocean and policy experts who supports the development of Ecoship with their ideas and experience. In 2019, the founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center joined other well-known names such as Sylvia Earle and Christiana Figueres, Mission2020 Convenor and Vice-Chair of the Global Compact of Mayors for Climate and Energy, on this list. On World Oceans Day 2019 in New York City, Mr Cousteau visited Peace Boat’s vessel.
Q: In 2014, you embarked on a mission to break the world record for the number of days spent living underwater. What drives you to do things like this?
A: Curiosity is my main drive. My eyes were opened by my ancestors, by my grandparents, my parents, and I must thank them for that because it’s what the curiosity, they exposed me to this underwater world, which is fascinating. It is the last frontier on this planet with so much more to discover and learn from this aquatic world, and so curiosity drives me to do things like living under water for 31 days and many other crazy ideas.
Q: What was your first contact with the ocean?
A: I was very young when I first went into the ocean. I don’t remember this because I was only a few months old, but I was told by my mother. I do remember however that on my 4th birthday I saw my family in Los Angeles for a celebration and I saw a man at the bottom of the pool. He was reading a newspaper on scuba, he wasn’t moving, he was just sitting there at the bottom. Being a 4-year old, I was curious. I jumped in and I went down to look at him and he offered me his regulator. I took a regulator and put it in my mouth and so we started doing buddy breathing. Basic aspect of scuba diving. Training. I found it fascinating that you can stand in water for so long!
Q: Compared to back then and now, how are our oceans different?
A: My grandfather said to my father, there are places I want to take you but I cannot take you because it has changed so much since I was young, my father has said the same thing to us. Unfortunately, I must also say the same thing to my children. This to me is very sad because over three generations we have seen an enormous change for the worse in our ocean even though we explore so little of it. The places we have gone, they have changed so dramatically. And for me, it’s about the fact that we’ve been waging war on the ocean, on our aquatic planet, that we have not been respecting it in a way that we should as if our future’s lives depend on it. And it does. The earth and the ocean is a closed-loop system. What we put into it, like garbage, what we take out of it like resources affects us and our future fundamentally. So far we have been treating it as an endless resource in a garbage can. when we should be worshipping it as if it were our life support system which it is. However, I think there is hope. Because even though we’ve lost so much time, today young people and adults are starting to learn more about oceans and starting to understand and care more about our oceans.
Q: Could you tell us what is your focus at the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center?
A: Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center is a place where we can generate solutions by bringing different communities of young people of fishermen, of people from different parts of the world to share ideas and successes and challenges and to try and share solutions amongst each other so that those communities can be better by sharing knowledge. It’s a place where we come together and go and do restoration projects whether they will be mangroves or sea turtles or coral reefs, all sorts of things, so that we can learn more about our connections with the ocean, how we make our contribution to this natural resource bank account so that we can start learning to live off the interests that bear, rather than eating away what’s leftover capital. By this, hopefully, we can walk away as students of learning to be able to be a better steward of our planet. And at the end of the day, the mission of Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center is something my grandfather used to tell me all the time as a child, which is people protect what they love. They love what they understand. And they understand what they are taught. To me, it’s a privilege and honour to be here on Peace Boat because the message is very much the same. And hopefully, on a journey that the passengers take, they will be able to take some of the knowledge with them, so that they can be the stewards of our planet as well.