Famed ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau called the newly-released report by the Pew Oceans Commission Wednesday an important study that is "critical to the national and natural security interests" of the United States and the world’s ocean.
"I applaud, and view as incredibly important, the Pew Oceans Commission’s report because it is an independent, non-governmental and authoritative set of research and recommendations that is imperative to the future of all living things in our ocean," Cousteau said. "It reinforces and supports the vision of my Ocean Futures Society, ‘Protect the Ocean and You Protect Yourself.’"
Cousteau, founder and president of Ocean Futures Society, urged the U.S. Oceans Commission to study the Pew report and integrate it into their findings later this fall.
"The Pew report is clear that the nation has failed to properly manage our ocean resources, and the existing federal institutions and policies are lacking," Cousteau said. "We need to manage for conservation first, and focus on the successful protection of marine wildlife and habitats from coral reefs and kelp forests to estuaries, open oceans and marine mammals."
Pointing to another recent report in Nature Magazine that estimated 90 percent of the ocean’s large fish have been depleted, Cousteau said the time to act effectively is now.
Cousteau, who began his quest to protect the ocean with his late father, Jacques Cousteau, agreed with the Pew report that various federal agencies that currently formulate policies and regulation about the ocean and watersheds should be consolidated into one new, independent federal agency to achieve "proper stewardship of resources."
"We need common policies that don’t conflict, don’t send mixed messages to the marine community and, instead, unify our national resolve," he said. "It will also be more cost-effective and efficient for taxpayers."
Cousteau endorsed the Pew report’s recommendation of "no take zones" for fishing and other harvesting of marine resources, calling for them to be larger, scientifically-based and developed as part of a community process.
"We need to establish and expand the system of integrated and true sanctuaries where no commercial activity extracts marine wildlife that are in peril," he said. "Much as President Theodore Roosevelt had the leadership to create a system of national parks on land a century ago, now we must take that conviction to our ocean while we still can."
Cousteau noted that "no take zones" do more than preserve marine species. By holding these habitats in reserve, they may "hold the keys to medical breakthroughs and other benefits to humans as well, which we will only discover in the future," he said.
The Pew report’s concern for non-point source pollution is another critical issue, Cousteau said.
"While the ocean is along our shores, we also need a new national commitment to improving the Mississippi River watershed system that has become a poisonous artery, creating a ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico from the pollution the river carries to the sea," he said. "This shows the very real interconnectedness of people, our fresh water and ocean environment."
Cousteau said runoff of pollutants from everyday life is destroying the Mississippi and its tributaries, washing into the ocean and killing off many forms of life.
"It makes economic sense to address these issues of destruction now, because fixing the problems later will be vastly more expensive and likely too late," he said.
The mission of Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society is to explore our global ocean, inspire and educate people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean’s vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet. Ocean Futures Society is based in Santa Barbara, CA., USA with office in Paris and Washington, D.C. For more information about the endeavors of Ocean Futures Society and Jean-Michel Cousteau, visit their website at www.oceanfutures.org.