‘How can you protect what you don’t understand’: oceanographer Cousteau

Fabien Cousteau headlines the Aquaculture Associations of Nova Scotia’s lecture Our Global Challenge at Dalhousie University

Fabien Cousteau signs a student's copy of his grandfather's book. (Photo: Violet MacLeod)
Fabien Cousteau signs a student’s copy of his grandfather’s book. Photo: Violet MacLeod

Fabien Cousteau, the acclaimed filmmaker and oceanographer, told audience members at Dalhousie about the importance of sustaining ocean resources for the survival of an increasing world population.

“Without being too facetious (the message) is really: protect the oceans, protect yourself,” Cousteau says. “My grandfather used to say people protect what they love, but how can you protect something you don’t understand?”

Fellow speaker Dr. Rohana Subasinghe, senior fishery resources officer of FAO, says the nearly 700 people who filled the Rebecca Cohn auditorium were so receptive and attentive, “you could’ve heard a pin drop.”

Cousteau is a third generation ocean explorer and the grandson of the celebrated oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. He grew up in both France and the United States. Cousteau’s first scuba dive was on his fourth birthday, buddy-breathing with a friend in a swimming pool.

Brian Blanchard, treasurer of the Aquaculture Associations of Nova Scotia, reached out to Cousteau last summer through Twitter. Blanchard typed a 140 character tweet that led to a symposium headed by Cousteau.

Blanchard’s original tweet suggested Cousteau visit the hatchery, Scotian Halibut Ltd., in Clark’s Harbour. To which, Cousteau responded, if he was ever in Nova Scotia he would.

Before the Our Global Challenges talk Wendy Watson-Smith stands on the steps of the Rebecca Cohn protesting open pen fish farming (Photo Violet MacLeod)
Before the Our Global Challenges talk, Wendy Watson-Smith stands on the steps of the Rebecca Cohn protesting open pen fish farming. Photo: Violet MacLeod

“So we gave him a reason to be in the area,” says Blanchard.

Blanchard and Bruce Hancock, the association’s executive director, organized the Our Global Challenge talk as part of the 2013 Sea Farmers Conference and invited Cousteau to speak.

Cousteau says the main message for students to take away from the talk is: “You are the solution, don’t rely on anybody else.”

The majority of the audience was students — with 500 tickets distributed to universities and 100 to high school students.

Blanchard and Hancock both agreed that the event was geared towards students, to educate and excite them.

“You have a big group of people, they have a positive message, and it was one about the little things you can do for the big picture of what’s going on,” says Hancock. “This was not to hit people over the head about aquaculture but it was a message it can be part of the solution.”

Co-sponsoring the lecture were six Atlantic Canadian Universities.

According to Debbie MacLellan, interim dean of science at the University of Prince Edward Island, the university donated 50 tickets which were given to students and arranged transportation for the three and a half hour drive to the event.

Cost of tickets were $25 with $5 of each ticket being donated to the local charity, Fish for Hope.