Cousteau: Conservation was in crisis in 1978. Back in the Day

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A Special Report by Jacques-Yves Cousteau

From Skin Diver magazine October 1978

“It has been almost four years since SKIN DIVER magazine published an interview with me at the inception of the Cousteau Society. I expressed in that article my alarm at the cancerous growth of destruction in the sea and my worries that an uninformed public would not act in time to protect fragile marine systems. I wanted to communicate immediately with the dive community about our formation of a non-profit organisation devoted to protection of the water planet, because over the years, we divers have been a close family. Together we have discovered a new world, experiencing scenes and observing wildlife unknown to our fellow humans. We are a fraternity of explorers…. A great deal has transpired in four years and it is time for an update… and the environmental situation as we perceive it to be.

It is our feeling that divers are the first witnesses to the deterioration of the marine habitat. We are like sensors on the fingertips of humanity. Our crew recently completed a five month study of the Mediterranean Sea, making hundreds of dives. During this study we were providing data for a United Nations study of permanent pollution in this closed sea, which is an approximate microcosm of the world ocean. But of equal importance – and greater excitement to our crewwe were asked to investigate 16 sites being considered as possible marine parks.

This was an enviable assignment, as you may imagine. Our divers looked forward to a kind of working vacation exploring rich habitats along sunny Mediterranean coasts. These are the waters which attracted all of us to diving, where Calypso and her crews first explored, where I taught my two sons to dive, where the groupers and octopuses and schools of mullet thrilled us., and fostered in us a deep love for the undersea world.

Consider then as fellow divers, our sorrow and our outrage at what we encountered in dive after dive.

Of the 16 underwater areas proposed for marine parks because of their rare diversity and beauty (and of course importance!) all but five were so badly ravaged by human abuse that they were beyond protection. …. Healthy systems have collapsed under an enormous assault from commercial overfishing, careless shoreline development, industrial waste, municipal sewage and agricultural chemicals. … as far as pollution is concerned, 65% of the toxic products in the Mediterranean comes from land based sources…”

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