Oceanographer Cousteau takes Ozarks campus on an undersea voyage

Release Date: 3/16/2006

This story was reported and written by Ozarks student Tiffany Rose for her News Reporting class. Students in News Reporting report and write a variety of stories in a newsroom environment.

CLARKSVILLE, ARK. (March 10, 2006) -- As part of the University of the Ozarks' Walton Arts and Ideas Series, Jean-Michel Cousteau spoke to the campus about the dangers facing underwater life.

Titled "The Great Ocean Adventure" the presentation was held March 7 in the Walton Fine Arts Center, which was filled with approximately 400 students, faculty and members of the community who came to see the world-renowned oceanographer, educator and film producer.

Cousteau is the co-founder and producer of the Deep Ocean Odyssey, an action-adventure and digital media company that explores the world's oceans in manned submersibles to depths of 3,300 feet, according to a U of O news release.

Cousteau spoke about humankind's connection to the ocean, and how people can take it for granted by throwing things away that could easily be recycled. He also showed a video that explained how actions such as pool fishing techniques are harmful because people are harvesting the ocean's resources beyond its ability to replace them. According to Cousteau, 93 percent of the common fish in the United States are no longer available.

"We are all downstream from someone else and receive the actions of what happens upstream," said Cousteau.

He also showed a video of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands' coastline, which contained litter that had found its way to one island from 52 different countries.

Cousteau explained how 40 percent of the litter on the island came from trash thrown overboard from boats and 60 percent from the mainland.

According to Cousteau, he found manufactured objects such as mascara, cigarette lighters and even rubber in the stomachs of dead seals and birds. In the ocean around these islands, Cousteau's dive team found 82 tons of fishing nets on coral reefs, which contain thousands of tiny animals, in a two-week period.

For students such as Tabitha Reed, a junior accounting major from Emmet, Ark., the presentation was an eye-opening experience.

"I did not realize how much recycling and those sorts of efforts that we do here have such an effect on the ocean elsewhere," said Reed. "It really hit me when he showed us the beach with trash everywhere and told us how much we can do to help prevent the ocean environment from going extinct."

Another action that has destroyed many of the tropical reefs is deforestation. Cousteau explained how cutting down trees allows rain to wash the rich topsoil into the ocean, and this mud is responsible for killing 30 percent of tropical reefs, which can take decades to recover.
Cousteau compared taking care of nature to managing a business.

"You have to compare the investment to an increase in interests, and we overcome the pressures put on the planet," said Cousteau. "We need to protect, stabilize, restore and manage nature to the best of our abilities."

Cousteau has made considerable efforts to help solve this waste problem and get others involved. Several years ago, he went to one of the largest plastics manufacturers in America and worked with the leaders on ways to minimize wastes, as well as encouraging them to develop new plastics that will break down to their original state.

After the death of his father, Jacques Cousteau, Cousteau created the Ocean Futures Society, a nonprofit organization that develops marine education programs, conducts research and fosters a conservation ethic, according to a U of O news release. Cousteau said anyone can become a member, for free, and receive an occasional newsletter about his ongoing expeditions at www.oceanfutures.org.