CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – It’s almost unimaginable anyone would give a preschooler a weight belt, mask and air tank and invite them to dive into the open ocean, unless of course, his or her last name is Cousteau.
At age seven, Fabian began accompanying his grandfather and equally famous father, Jean-Michel, on expeditions around the world. The deck of the Cousteau family’s famed research vessel, Calypso, became a kind of classroom, where his mind was opened by the sea creatures he observed and the cultural exchanges he experienced.
Cousteau will share some of his memories of ocean exploration while helping raise awareness and support for the aquarium’s freshwater conservation projects 6-9 p.m. July 19 at the Tennessee Aquarium.
Cousteau is highly concerned about the plastic soup building up in the world’s ocean basins. Circular ocean currents called gyres have trapped floating plastic debris, creating semi-permanent islands comprised of single-use plastic objects, plastic bags, and discarded fishing nets. Some are 90 feet thick and as large as the state of Texas. Larger objects in these “islands” can entangle sea creatures and are often mistakenly eaten.
Compounding the problem, much of this debris erodes into microplastic fragments, which can affect the entire aquatic food chain, from microscopic life to the humans who consume contaminated seafood.
Researchers estimate that 80 percent of the microplastics enter the oceans by flowing through inland waterways along with silt and other contaminants.
In spite of the enormous challenges of aquatic conservation, Cousteau remains hopeful they can be surmounted. Colleges and universities are requiring students to undertake environmental courses for a variety of degrees, including business and healthcare, and a new wave of innovative thinkers are seeking novel, tech-forward solutions to environmental problems through robotics and the creation of alternative energies and materials.
A limited number of tickets are available for Cousteau’s presentation at the Tennessee Aquarium. Tickets for Tennessee Aquarium members are $40 and non-members are $50.
For tickets, visit www.tnaqua.org/events-programs. Admission includes two drink tickets and hor d’oeuvres by Lee Towery Catering.
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