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Corporate Responsibility in Action

The Human-Ocean Connection

What My 31 days Spent Underwater Means to Me and to You
Created: 19 Aug 2014 • Updated: 19 Aug 2014
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For those who don’t know me, my name is Fabien Cousteau, and I am an oceanic explorer, conservationist, and leader of Mission 31. My grandfather father Jacques-Yves Cousteau was one of the world’s most well-known underwater researchers.

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Fabien and his grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau. 

Last month I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at Symantec’s inaugural Green Talks lecture series. Green Talks are lectures that provide an opportunity for employees to learn about the importance of environmental sustainability through inspiring and informative talks by environmental experts within and outside the company. It was great to see, first hand, how one of the world’s top technology companies is working hard to engage employees on this important topic, one I am most passionate about. 

At the lecture series I spoke about my newest project Mission 31 and the human-ocean connection. Created in 2013, the Mission 31 expedition breaks new ground in ocean exploration and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the monumental legacy left by my grandfather, who is also credited with creating the first underwater habitats for humans and leading a team of ocean explorers on the first attempt to live and work underwater.

As part of Mission 31, this summer I spent 31 days living and working on the ocean floor to better understand the impacts on our coral reefs. As many of you probably know, our coral reefs are in danger, and healthy reefs are getting much harder to find. They are a window into the overall health of our oceans and one of the crucial components to a functioning oceanic ecosystem.

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Ocean dives for Mission 31 took place three times a day allowing the team to closely study from the world’s only undersea marine laboratory.

I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to study from the world’s only undersea marine laboratory at length and so closely, as it really is an invaluable tool which offers unique advantages in science, data collection and exploration just not afforded any other way.

So why 31 days? 31 days took me just 24 hours past my grandfather’s record for living underwater. I couldn’t have been happier to continue and celebrate the legacy of his work and I hope the impact of my expedition will go well beyond 31 days, raising awareness of the importance of ocean conservation and environmental sustainability.

A day in the life of

As we were immersed in research and wanted to make the most of our time down under, my day started first thing, at 4:30 am, with the first dive between 5:30-9 am, another between 11:30-2pm and the final an evening dive from 6-9pm. In between these our time was spent reaching out to media, eating, resting and recouping for the next day’s adventure. After 31 days, myself and my team resurfaced to land and were completely exhausted.

You can see some if first hand on the Mission 31 website here.

What my 31 days spent underwater means to me and to you

There are many reasons I am passionate about ocean conservation and have therefore dedicated my current life to carrying on my grandfather’s legacy. One of the key issues I see is that people wrongly believe that the ocean is less susceptible to impact than land. The ocean is often seen as an infinite resource and too often people feel that what we put into it just somehow disappears. Our ocean has become by many to be used as a universal sewer.

While there are large-scale, systematic changes that need to happen, there are a few easy steps that each of us can take – right now - to help preserve our oceans and sealife:

  • Watch your sealife intake. Use a seafood guide (e.g. the Seafood Watch app) at the store or restaurant to make sustainable choices. 
  • Garbage in = garbage out. All things we throw away eventually go to the ocean. Single use plastics are a huge contributor to ocean pollution. While there are great efforts out there to clean up our oceans and beaches, I must emphasize this is not the cure to the problem. We must stop the issues at their source if we hope to have a cleaner ocean in the future.

For example, a question arose at the event where someone asked if I had seen a connection between the decrease in starfish and the degradation of our oceans. I most certainly have, and this doesn’t only apply to starfish. Starfish like many slow moving bottom dwellers are quite susceptible to man-made pollution because much of it settles to the sea floor. Again, the best way to reverse this is to stop the runoff of chemicals and pollution into the ocean at the source.

  • Sign up for a fun aquatic (fresh or salt water) restoration project in your area (or on vacation) with friends/family. 

No problem is too big, no person too small

I would like to wrap up this article with a question that was asked at the event.

There is an old saying, something to the effect of:  If you think you are too small to make a big difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.  What would you say to these people so they will get on board and do their part to protect our oceans?

To this I say, no problem is too big, no person too small to make a tangible positive impact! And it tends to be contagious. When we see how easy it can be for other people to make a small change, to make a difference, we want to do the same. It is easy to make excuses, but it is much more rewarding to see the success of your actions.

Fabien Cousteau is a Filmmaker and Oceanographic Explorer