GalapagosQuest is an interactive expedition developed by Classroom Connect that will take a team of scientists and explorers on a journey of discovery through the extraordinary Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Follow along here for daily reports on their quest.
GalapagosQuest: Our Connection to the Ocean
March 24, 1999
Web posted at: 2:14 p.m. EST (1914 GMT)
By Jean-Michel Cousteau
and Richard Murphy
(Classroom Connect) -- People's exploration of the ocean has been heavily influenced by something Jacques Cousteau and an engineer friend invented in 1943. It was the special valve, called the demand valve, which enables air from a SCUBA tank to flow at just the right pressure to give a diver a breath. This new device enabled people to breathe without a hose connected to the surface so they could swim like a fish underwater - making them kind-of people-fish. People-fish have learned a lot about the sea since 1943... and in some cases from a fishes' point of view.
We now know the oceans are very important to people, all people, from all around the world. We know that the oceans provide a great variety of fish and shellfish for people to eat. In fact the catching and selling of fish is one of the world's most important economic activities. We now know that many of these species depend on coastal ecosystems like salt marshes and mangroves, as a place to hide from predators or reproduce. Oceans affect our climate too as warm currents make winters in Scandinavia and the British Isles less severe and some cold currents reduce rainfall and create deserts like those off of Peru and western Africa.
But the oceans are threatened by too many people catching too many fish. We used to be able to hunt animals on land for food but too many people killed too many wild animals and now we have to farm things like chickens, cows and all sorts of crops. In the sea we are still hunters but if we catch too many fish our only choice will be to grow marine animals in sea farms, which is very expensive. So if we can avoid over harvesting, we can still get fish and shellfish from the wild, which means that nature does all the work and all we have to do is just go catch them. Since nature produces things for free, it is better to work with nature than try to replace it.
Here in the Galapagos Islands, we have been diving the rock walls. We have seen incredible marine creatures such as the strange hammerhead sharks, trumpetfish changing color and the bizarre seahorse. We have concluded the waters of the Galapagos are not polluted and the ecosystems are healthy. But had we visited these waters before people started fishing we would have seen some significant differences. There would have been lobsters everywhere, lots of large groupers, many more sea cucumbers and more sharks including Galapagos and hammerheads. So although these waters are protected they still show evidence of past over-harvest and, of course, there is still illegal fishing which means laws are not being respected and people are sneaking into Galapagos waters and then leaving when no one is watching. The solution is for us all to educate others about the importance of protecting nature so it can still produce food for us for free and to encourage governments and managers to enforce the laws and prevent cheating.
In fact, we see the Galapagos as being symbolic of the entire water planet - its wonderful diversity, its delicate fragility and its importance to us. Protect the oceans and you protect yourself because everything is connected!
Jean-Michel Cousteau and Richard Murphy
P.S. We have just created a new environmental organization, Ocean Futures. It is dedicated to educating people about the ocean as well as keeping it clean and productive for generations to come. . We invite you to visit our Web site and become a member at no cost. Check us out at www.oceanfutures.com. We look forward to having you as part of our team.
Galapagos volcano eruption forces evacuation of giant tortoises
October 7, 1998
Ecuador OKs protections for Galapagos Islands
March 12, 1998
Tortoise, goat compete for survival on Galapagos Islands
July 17, 1997
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.