Advocate: CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau is here to talk about the Blue Halo project. *Photo courtesy of Pew Charitable Trust
Advocate: CNN special correspondent Philippe Cousteau is here to talk about the Blue Halo project. *Photo courtesy of Pew Charitable Trust

Explorer, CNN correspondent and environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau hopes to encourage Bermuda to “lead the way” in creating the largest marine reserve in the Atlantic, if not the world.

The grandson of the legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau, Philippe will be meeting with government during his visit to the island this week to voice his support for its proposed Blue Halo project. The initiative could see the creation of  a marine reserve around the island with the aim of preserving our ocean for future generations. 

Mr Cousteau yesterday met with the Marine Resource Board and plans to speak with government ministers over the coming days.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun yesterday, the special correspondent for CNN and host for its Going Green series, said: “When I was told about Blue Halo, the potential not only for Bermuda but its global impact was immediately apparent. It is exciting to think a relatively small island and small population can truly be a global leader and set this legacy forward for the next generation and for the world.

“The Sargasso Sea is just so critical from an environmental perspective and to have the potential to have the largest marine reserve in the world there is remarkable.”

Mr Cousteau has reported on marine reserves, or marine protected areas, across the world. His overriding message to Bermuda is “they work.”

“We were just filming in Mexico a year ago at one of the world’s most successful marine reserves — Cabo Pulmo. A 70 square km area was protected and within eight to 10 years they saw a 500 to 1,000 per cent increase in bio mass. People can argue about it all they want but marine reserves work.”

The Bermuda government-led initiative, with the help of the Pew Charitable Trust, could see much of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone within the Sargasso Sea turned into a “no-take” area protecting the waters against illegal international fishing. The move is not designed to effect any legal local fishing practices. 

Mr Cousteau stressed that the benefits of marine reserves are not limited to the environment. He says that in a society where the young generation are more environmentally “savvy”, it also makes sense from a tourism perspective.

Global destination

 “I do believe, absolutely, that this project has an opportunity to be a core element of Bermuda’s branding going forward and its relevancy in the market as a global destination for tourism. I don’t think anybody will argue that it is critical to protect the environment but sustainability has many different forms including social sustainability, and tourism is key for this island. Cabo Pulmo is a small community that has no grid electricity — it is all solar powered — it has dirt roads, no capacity for promotion, no tourism department and they are overshadowed by Cabo San Lucas in the Baja peninsular. Yet, in spite of the fact there is no infrastructure, it is becoming a global phenomena — a global destination. People are finding it because increasingly in a world where a healthy environment is a rare commodity, those places that step up and take the leadership role are the ones that will reap the rewards.

“CNN just did a documentary about this little community because it is so remarkable and other news outlets have as well. These stories grab headlines they, grab people’s attention and help to drive market share. 

“Look at what the Great Barrier Reef has done for Australia. As a top-level talking point it remains as one of the core messages and attractions for tourists. Bermuda has the potential to do that.”

Bermuda has a long history in conservation and passed some of the earliest conservation laws in the world dating back as far as the 1600s. Mr Cousteau believes that we should use that to our advantage and continue the legacy. “Authenticity is a rare commodity in the world today. That history of authenticity in conservation in Bermuda is a great legacy story and continuing that leadership is something that Bermuda should work harder at highlighting that for the international community. Don’t just take my word for it, this is a big issue for global multi-billion dollar businesses from a hospitality perspective (including the CEO of Marriott hotels). People who don’t pay attention will be left behind. That is the bottom line.”

Fore more information about the Blue Halo Project visit www.bermudabluehalo.org