Jean-Michel Cousteau

Jean-Michel Cousteau: California’s magical marine preserves

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garibaldi fish

“Here, in the bright sunlight, the garibaldi were like festive candles…”

To celebrate the rich resources found in our national marine sanctuaries, I am happy to announce publication of Explore the West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau. The book explores the five National Marine Sanctuaries off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts.

This is the second of four books to be published on the 13 National Marine Sanctuaries. My father Jacque Cousteau use to always say, “People protect what they love.” To his words, I would add, “How can we protect what we do not fully understand.

The new marine parks plan will be good for people and sea life. To those who worry about lost fishing grounds, I say, there can be no fishing without fish. Marine protected areas protect the future of the fishing business.

California dove enthusiastically into ocean conservation in recent years with the adoption of a network of coastal reserves, from the Oregon to the Mexican borders. The reserves have given me hope that future generations will be able to experience diving among the giant kelp forests off our California coast as I did on my first dive after my father’s passing in 1997.

I remembered that dive at Anacapa Island, a part of the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, as if it was just yesterday. The sun’s rays were shining through an unusual opening in the kelp, lighting up a small patch of sand, like a spotlight on an empty stage. All around me there were garibaldi, the brightly colored damsel fish, native to the area. In normal light, garibaldi are a fantastic, shimmering orange. But here, in this bright sunlight, they were like festive candles announcing some underwater fiesta.

What could I do but follow these playful, carrot-colored fish to the sandy bottom? What could I do but give myself over to their sweet allure? I dropped to my knees and was  overcome with emotion. It was almost mystical. I had been thinking of my father, of course, and now it felt as if he was here with me, on this sun-splashed ocean floor.

For more information about my series on marine preserves visit oceanfutures.org.

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