15 Years of Success

November 18, 2014

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2014 is a special year for Ocean Futures Society - this year we are celebrating our 15th anniversary: fifteen years of ocean advocacy through creating award-winning filmmaking and educational programs that teach and inspire us all to protect our ocean planet. These past fifteen years have been full of exciting adventures and hard fought battles where we continue building more than just hope – but also a better future.

In the first ever attempt to return a captive orca to the wild, I merged three non-profit organizations together in 1999 to form Ocean Futures Society to continue research and care for Keiko, the captive killer whale of “Free Willy” film fame. In working with Keiko, my team pioneered both husbandry techniques and scientific research on wild orcas. Keiko was returned to his native waters in Iceland where he was released to live free in the ocean. Our team continued husbandry and medical support of Keiko until his death in December of 2003.

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I also wanted to honor my late father’s, Jacques Cousteau, pioneering work in ocean exploration and education through the continuation of film productions. Since 1999 Ocean Futures Society has produced "Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures," 7 specials of 11 hours of television for PBS which has taken us from the Arctic to the Amazon, from Norway to New Zealand and many wonderful places in between.

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In the 2004 Voyage to Kure expedition we traveled to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a remote island chain, to explore some of the last pristine coral reefs in the Pacific. The beauty and horror of this exploration and film inspired then-President George W. Bush to create the then-largest marine sanctuary in the world, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, to protect these remarkable coral reefs, large shark populations, endangered monk seals and millions of seabirds from environmental degradation like the growing Pacific garbage patch. Truly, it was a film that made a difference.

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In 2010, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of my father's birth and explored the legacy and inspiration he left us all with a new film "My Father, the Captain: Jacques Cousteau". I also wrote a book with the same title, honoring of my father’s philosophy ‘people protect what they love.’ From space we see a world swirling and alive with oceans and atmosphere. At 30 feet below the surface of the sea, we also see a world swirling with life we had never imagined. The more I look back on my father and his legacy, the more I realize how much he is still a part of our times and how, had we listened more carefully and taken the actions he suggested, things might be different.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Jean-Michel Cousteau

Then, due to the catastrophic events that unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, my team and I traveled to the region to document the massive oil plumes spewing from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. We quickly realized that our experience there would be a life-altering event not only for the Ocean Futures Society’s film and dive team, but also for the world. While we have all seen images of climate change in the arctic and deforestation in the Amazon, somehow the overwhelming devastation of this -- the largest accidental oil spill in history-- affected all of us in ways we never imagined. The sheer scale of the disaster in the Gulf brought our hearts to a stop. Our images of the underwater oil plumes were shown on national TV and witnessed by millions around the world, bringing awareness to the urgent need for humans to re-evaluate our thoughts and actions that led us to this catastrophe.

Pass A Loutre, LA © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

In 2015 we look forward to the premier of Secret Ocean 3D in IMAX theaters and giant screen cinemas worldwide. Directed by myself and co-produced by Ocean Futures Society and 3D Entertainment Films, the 40-minute documentary brings audiences closer to the magnificent wonders of the ocean to discover its beautiful secrets as never before.

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During these past 15 years our educational program Ambassadors of the Environment has made a difference in over eight locations in five countries with new program opening up in the coming year. Our Ambassadors program is an educational experience dedicated to engaging people of all ages to learn, care for, and connect with their natural and cultural environment. We extract and distill lessons from nature and culture, using them to explore alternatives for a sustainable future and empowering participants to live more gently on our planet as ambassadors of the environment. With programs all over the world, we offer opportunities for school groups as well as for vacationers, and our Ambassadors program seeks to reach as wide an audience as possible, strengthening our message and giving hope and lessons for change to the generations of the future.

AOTE aboard the M/S Paul Gauguin. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Beyond films and educational programs we have tackled important political issues such as shark finning, toxic flame retardants, captive marine mammals, sustainable seafood, marine protected areas and offshore oil drilling. By joining forces with decision-makers in government and industry, we can and will continue to address the public's demand for the protection of all species, their habitats, and the ecosystems that sustain us.

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We live on a water planet and protecting the ocean starts with our activities on land. There are valuable lessons from nature that can guide us towards sustainability; we just need to remember some very important ecological principles: the importance of energy, the fact there is no waste in nature, the value of biodiversity and that everything is connected.

Using these lessons from nature, we provide guidance on sustainability for resorts, including Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort and Petit St Vincent. We encourage owners, managers to take advantage of nature’s wisdom as a guide to promote economically sustainable and environmentally responsible design.

With the alarming news from a recent report from WWF that the world has lost 52% of biodiversity since 1970, there is an urgent need for humanity to turn the tide, make a difference globally, expand our efforts in ocean conservation, and protect and improve the quality of life on our blue planet, Ocean.

During the filming of “Call of the Killer Whale,” Jean-Michel Cousteau and the OFS team assisted in the successful rescue of a stranded orca, which we named Rakey, in New Zealand. It has been shown that orca who strand and are quickly treated and released can survive in the wild and even thrive. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

I’ve always believed real change comes from the heart. My strategy is to appeal to the heart through my films and education programs with Ocean Futures Society. Our goal is to inspire curiosity and a sense of responsibility to create a sea change for us all, now and for future generations.

Warm regards,

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Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society

First Photo: Jean-Michel with Keiko in Keiko’s sea pen in Iceland where Keiko was reintroduced to his native waters after over 20 years in captivity. @ Tom Ordway, Ocean Futures Society

Second Photo:Jean-Michel Cousteau along with his two children, Celine and Fabien, are filmed swimming with endangered Goliath Groupers for OFS PBS special, Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures; America’s Underwater Treasures. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Third Photo:Jean-Michel Cousteau was invited to a press event on June 15, 2006 when President Bush made the historic declaration to create the then-largest marine sanctuary in the world, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, to protect the remarkable coral reefs, large shark populations, endangered monk seals and millions of seabirds found around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Photo courtesy of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Fourth Photo: Jean-Michel Cousteau with his father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Image courtesy of Craig and Bonnie Truscott

Fifth Photo: The Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20th, 2010 and, over the period of 86 days, spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. 1.8 million gallons of toxic dispersants were also added, making this the largest toxic experiment ever conducted on a body of water. Jean-Michel and the OFS film team were there to document the massive oil plumes spewing from the Deepwater Horizon and to share their experiences with millions around the world. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Sixth Photo: Jean-Michel Cousteau filming with an underwater film team in the shark protected waters of Bahamas for the upcoming IMAX documentary. ©Richard Murphy PhD, Ocean Futures Society

Seventh Photo: Kids learn about underwater life during an Ambassadors of the Environment program. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Eighth Photo: With most of the world’s fisheries now stressed to capacity, as consumers we need to stay informed on which fisheries are sustainable and which are not. We need to know which fish to buy and what progress is being made globally. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Nineth Photo: During the filming of “Call of the Killer Whale,” Jean-Michel Cousteau and the OFS team assisted in the successful rescue of a stranded orca, which we named Rakey, in New Zealand. It has been shown that orca who strand and are quickly treated and released can survive in the wild and even thrive. ©Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society