An interview with Jean-Michel Cousteau, champion of ocean conservation. He’s teamed up with Aqua Expeditions as a special guest on board their Amazon and Mekong River Cruises where he’ll be sharing films and leading discussions on what he’s learned through his work around the world.
Part two of our interview with Jean-Michel Cousteau picks up today. If you missed part one, be sure to read it here.
How did your voyages about the Calypso with your father influence your work today?
He took us – my late brother and myself and of course his team – wherever the next destination was, on the Calypso. I spent three or four months every year on Calypso. My mother was there, and she was on the ship more than my father, my brother, and myself together. The ship was her home.
Do you too feel more at home on these ships?
Yes. Of course, that’s my father’s fault.
Is there a site that you never got to dive with your father that you wish you could?
Yes, many. When people ask me, “What’s your best dive?” I always tell them, and I tell you, and I will continue to say it, “My best dive is the next one.” I always see new things I’ve never seen before. Always. And I’ve been in many parts of the planet. Do I know a lot? No! I know very, very little. So I’m excited… too often people think education is boring. Well, it’s not boring! And particularly, if you have people who can communicate with you and also, sometimes, information that experts can provide you. That’s why I always go with biologists or people who can educate me. I want to be educated all the time.
Out of the dozens of documentaries and movies – what’s the favorite one that you’ve been involved with?
Probably the next one. But besides that, any time I’ve been able to dive with different species of sharks, including the Great White Shark, it has given me the privilege to share with the public information about the reality of nature. If you’re in clear water, if there is no blood in the water, sharks don’t like us. They are not going to bite us. Unfortunately, the accidents that take place are mistakes they make because the water is not clear, there’s blood in the water, somebody’s fishing, and they’re primary sense is smell. They are attracted, they bite, then they let go because they made a mistake. They don’t eat people. They don’t like us! So that’s one thing I love to do and share with people.
And then, I have to say, the latest excitement for me is to be able to see things I’ve never seen before. That’s why this new technology that is put together by colleagues of mine, is allowing me to see things after 71 years of diving that I could never see before. But I have to get out of the water and see it on a screen.
If you have nothing else to do, I recommend that you go to downtown Los Angeles to the California Science Center where you can see Secret Ocean in 3D with glasses, and you will see things that I’ve never seen before.
What’s the next great national monument/sanctuary/park that the current administration should establish?
Well, number one, we’ve only explored about 5% of the ocean. We need to better explore it, and the technology today more and more is going to allow us to do that. Because how can you protect what you don’t understand? We all depend on that.
And as a part of our educational program, diversity is synonymous with stability. So we cannot lose species, whether they are sharks or microscopic creatures. We need to preserve them all. Not just for the pleasure that we have to explore – which I’ve done all my life for 71 years now, scuba diving and being able to see things I have never been able to see before. So we bring it and put it on the big screen in 3D and show people things they’ve never seen.
So we need to protect more and more of the ocean. And, the open ocean – the majority which is 70% of the planet’s surface – the quantity of water that the ocean represents is really small compared to the size of the planet. And the fresh water of the planet, which we all depend upon, is very, very, very small.
Now, having an opportunity to speak to decision makers who will perhaps be able to protect more of the ocean than we have done. Today, the ocean is not under any regulations. The majority of the ocean – I would say 60% to 70% of the ocean – is “you can do anything you want out there”, whether it’s fishing or dumping your junk. And thousands of ships of do that, today, every day, and all the time. We need to have better regulation at the international level to protect the entire planet’s ocean.
What book are you reading right now?
That’s funny! It’s a book that was written by a lady who knew my mother. It is called The Life of Simone Cousteau. That book was written many years ago in French, not in English. I’m reading it now because I never read it before. She was the real captain of Calypso, with 25 people living on the boat, who would go and confide in her about their questions, their family, and their problems.
I’m writing a book myself right now with a colleague of mine, which is called The Sea in Us. And of course, I want to talk about my mother. So that’s the book I’m reading right now.
Thanks so much to Jean-Michel for taking the time to sit down with us. For more information about an Amazon Cruise or the collaboration between Jean-Michel and Aqua Expeditions, please contact your Luxury Travel Consultant.
*This interview has been edited for clarity.