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Cousteau envisions "Global Ocean Network"

Ocean Exploration Enters "Age of Management" to Put Preservation Ahead of Exploitation, Jean-Michel Cousteau Tells National Conference.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Podium Recent, independent research confirms that ocean exploration must enter a new "Age of Management" of the world’s marine wildlife and undersea habitats and put preservation ahead of exploitation, according to famed ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau.

"We are on the threshold of the management of the marine environment, and there is a plan," Cousteau said in a keynote address to a forum at Capitol Hill Oceans Week 2003. Referring to several new reports that document the continuing decline of ocean life and ecosystems, Cousteau said the record "provides guidelines toward stopping the silent collapse of the sea’s web of life."

Cousteau, founder and president of Ocean Futures Society, strongly supported a new, single federal Ocean Agency in the United States, a consistent and purposeful National Oceans Act to protect marine life, and resistance to any erosion in current laws safeguarding the ocean.

"The ocean is national security," Cousteau insisted. "With more than half the world’s population living in a coastal zone, with global warming delivering its force, and with 75 percent of all commercial fish populations fished to capacity or already collapsed, we cannot make exceptions to hard fought laws to protect the ocean environment. None."

Cousteau said the latest age of exploration of the world’s ocean should view its mission as investigating "one system, one body." Looking at whole systems, "we have realized that we have to cross political boundaries because they are irrelevant to managing our life support systems, like the ocean."

"We must look at any method to extract goods or information from the ocean through the necessity of ‘First—do no harm,’" he said. "For any enterprise, the burden of proof must lie with the user to prove beforehand that the endeavor will not adversely impact the environment."

Cousteau agreed that private industry should be encouraged to seek marine resources for "environmentally sustainable use" provided significant precautions are taken. Exploration provides "opportunities for business, but it cannot be business as usual."

"Our technology quickly became so efficient that it left us with one-tenth the abundance of large fish my father found," Cousteau said regarding his family’s late patriarch, Jacques Cousteau. "We are forced to understand that animals are connected to each other in a web of life, dependent on a particular environment, temperature range, and input from the rivers. Everything is connected."

Cousteau said his Ocean Futures Society will embark in July on an exploration and voyage in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with a goal of supporting long-standing efforts to continue to protect this 1,200-mile-long chain of islands that contains 70 percent of the United States’ coral reefs.

The Cousteau team will "explore with new eyes," using the latest innovations that are the first step toward his long-term vision of a "Global Ocean Network." The GON concept is currently under design by Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.

"The Global Ocean Network’s mission is to take the pulse of the ocean using satellites, ships, buoys, submersibles, ROVs, sensors and crew, simultaneously throughout the world, to collaborate with the scientific community to measure, monitor, record, and provide indicators to report the health of the ocean," he said. "GON, or any system, must be part of the communications revolution, beaming real-time ocean information throughout the world, using the latest technology to explore our least known environment."

Recalling the story of Noah, Cousteau said today’s marine explorers are embarking on an "ocean voyage where all life would be protected for an unknown future."

"In all our explorations now, we must also proceed assuming that we are charged with the same awesome, inspiring and lifesaving mission," 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 offices in Paris and Washington, D.C.

For more information about the endeavors of Ocean Futures Society and Jean-Michel Cousteau, visit their website at

Cliff Etzel
Cliff Etzel
Cliff is the former Freediving editor of He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.


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