Jacques Cousteau’s grandson wants to Plant A Fish to save the oceans

“The recent Gulf oil disaster would be a great example of how we treat our oceans as both an infinite resource and a garbage can,” Fabien Cousteau    

photo by dipka bhambhani


Tuesday was World Oceans Day. While the commemoration started last year, the Canadians came up with the concept almost 20 years ago during an Earth summit in Brazil. The crude still contaminating the waters in the US Gulf makes this day a little more sacrosanct.    

Arguably the country’s worst environmental disaster has certainly made me a little more reflective this time around on World Oceans Day. Usually I would have just thought about growing up in Myrtle Beach and how much I look forward to going home. Usually I wouldn’t think about what I could do to save the ocean, until now.    

Now I want to Plant a Fish, literally.    

On Monday evening I talked with Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the world-renowned Jacques Yves Cousteau, about his Plant A Fish initiative. He launched it Monday in New York, but it’s being celebrated around Washington this week during Capitol Hill Oceans Week.    

Cousteau wants us all to “pierce the blue veneer” which he’s called home ever since he turned four and pierced it himself. “Without an ocean, without water, we would not exist,” he said.     

That passion led to Plant A Fish.     

Cousteau said about a year and a half ago he was up at 3 a.m. reading “another story” in a magazine about planting trees to save the environment. What about the ocean, he thought. What about the fish? Their home? Our survival?    

Cousteau’s insomnia has materialized into a full-fledged nonprofit with nearly two dozen partners including the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School and Cousteau’s father’s nonprofit, Ocean Futures Society among others. Cousteau says Plant A Fish is about improving the ocean for communities around the world.    

Cousteau launched the Plant A Fish initiative Monday on Governors Island in the New York Harbor where he wants to plant oysters. Cousteau plans to attach more than 100,000 spat to the fertile grounds of the island which he hopes will yield oysters. He wants to attach hundreds of thousands of spat on coastlines around the world to produce about 1 billion oysters.    

Oysters, like mussels and clams, clean the ocean by improving water flow, which in turn increases the oxygen level in the water. The oysters also restore wetlands and remove pollution. Cousteau said he does not eat seafood from areas of the world where the sea life is not being sustained.    

He said Governors Island had nine billion oysters during the 16th and 17th centuries. But years of fishing and development have nearly killed the species.    

“That used to be the largest oyster rookery in the world,” he said. “One of the wonderful things about nature is if you give it a break and help it out, it has a tendency to recover.”    

Three other initiatives in the works include planting coral off the coast of the Maldives, planting see turtles along the El Salvadorian coastline and replanting mangroves, trees and shrubs, in South Florida.    

Cousteau said he selected the initiatives based on level of interest of the communities, volunteers available and areas with “keystone species in stressed bodies of water.”    

He plans to visit soon with US lawmakers including the chairman of the House Energy and Independence Committee, Ed Markey, D-Mass. to raise awareness of the issues. One of Markey’s own staffers attended the fundraiser as did staff of Mike Honda, D-Calif.    

Cousteau made his message clear–any help from the US government would essentially help the world because “fish don’t have passports,” he said.    

The staffers indicated a junket was in the works to dive with Cousteau to learn about the nonprofit and its mission.    

On Friday Cousteau will head to Marseilles, on the hundredth birthday of his late grandfather, to the site of his grandfather’s first expedition, where Cousteau will dive with his family and the seven original crew members from the Silent World, a 1950s French documentary of that dive.


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