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Ocean Legend Jean-Michel Cousteau Inspires Kids at The Center!

Famed ocean explorer and educator, Jean-Michel Cousteau, inspires Bay Area school children at the Center.

September 20, 2012

The Center's co-founder Paul Maxwell chats with Jean-Michel Cousteau and Howard Levitt of the National Park Service.

Special thanks to the sponsors that made Jean-Michel Cousteau's visit and events at the Center possible!

This week, the Center played host to French filmmaker, environmentalist and ocean educator, Jean-Michel Cousteau, in a series of events that served to introduce this celebrated member of the legendary Cousteau family to our work, while inspiring many school kids, teachers, volunteers, staff and board members, alike. A terrific presentation and dinner at the Center on September 19 was followed the next day by a patient release witnessed by kids from San Francisco’s Marshall Elementary School and Sausalito’s Willow Creek Academy. 

Schoolchildren from these two Bay Area elementary schools learned about the physical differences between a variety of marine mammal species and about the effects marine debris and plastics have on the ocean from the expert himself as part of the America’s Cup Healthy Oceans Project (ACHOP) - a collaboration with environmental conservation organizations including The Marine Mammal Center and the Aquarium of the Bay. The 74-year old son of famed ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, inspired children during a half-day of activities, including a beach talk and presentation at Rodeo Beach, watching three rehabilitated sea lions patients, Athena, Fulano and Shareef, return to the ocean, and participating in fun activities and presentations with the Center’s educators and Mr. Cousteau.

Jean-Michel Cousteau watches as Shareef the sea lion heads for the water.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Jean-Michel Cousteau is currently the president of the Ocean Futures Society. A quote on his website speaks volumes to the synergy between his conservation view and our own. It’s simple and resonant: “Protect the ocean and you protect yourself.”

During Thursday's event, Mr. Cousteau explained to the crowd of nearly 100 grade schoolers that "When you drink a glass of water, you drink the ocean!" Kids and adults lined Rodeo Beach to eagerly watch the sea lions go back home and to catch a glimpse of Mr. Cousteau. When everyone was ready, volunteers and staff from the Center, along with Mr. Cousteau, opened the door to the first rescue carrier containing Athena, a California sea lion shark bite victim. He wasted no time making a beeline for the ocean and soon after, his other sea lion buddies joined him much to the delight of the onlookers.

Mr. Cousteau greeted the crowd and posed for photos. After all, it's not every day that you get to see an ocean legend on your beach! After a short lunch break for the kids (with lunches provided by Whole Foods in San Rafael), everyone trekked up to the Center to hear presentations by Mr. Cousteau, which included a brief anatomy lesson about the physical differences between seals and sea lions, complimented by a hauntingly beautiful video of seals, sea lions and whales swimming in the waters, which Mr. Cousteau affectionately refers to as "Planet Ocean." 

Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center, addresses kids from Marshall Elementary and Willow Creek Academy at Rodeo Beach.
© Christina Kho - The Marine Mammal Center

“We are honored and thrilled that Mr. Cousteau visited us and we enjoyed hearing his insights and stories about ocean health – something that we are all very passionate about,” said Dr. Jeff Boehm, executive director at The Marine Mammal Center. Even more satisfying is knowing that the kids who visited us today got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask him questions directly about the ocean, marine debris pollution, and marine life and that's got to be pretty special for them."

This was one of a number of ACHOP events planned throughout the Bay Area over the course of the next year, all with the goal of inspiring millions to care about the ocean and its inhabitants and to leave a positive ocean legacy to benefit marine life and future generations. Through ACHOP, The Marine Mammal Center, in partnership with other Bay Area environmental conservation organizations, including; Aquarium of the Bay, The Bay Institute, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, Mission Blue, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Save the Bay, will provide education and advocacy on three core issues including; marine protected areas, sustainable seafood, and marine debris and plastics pollution.

 A special thank you to the generous sponsors who made Jean-Michel Cousteau's visit and events at the Center possible!





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