Jean-Michel Cousteau Surveys B.V.I. National Parks

As an explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer, Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, has used his vast and varied experiences for more than four decades to communicate to people of all nations and generations his love and concern for the water planet. Through his work, he is known as a "Voice for the Ocean."

That influential voice was recently heard in the British Virgin Islands when Cousteau met with the British Virgin Islands (B.V.I.) National Parks Trust, the caretakers of the B.V.I.’s natural treasures, and visited with B.V.I. dignitaries and academicians during a weeklong stay.

Cousteau is one of twelve Trustees of the BVI National Parks, USA, a philanthropic trust. His visit to the B.V.I. was arranged by the Trustees with the assistance of the B.V.I. National Parks and the B.V.I. Tourist Board in an effort to highlight the unique marine life in the British Virgin Islands and to help bring greater understanding of the environmental issues facing these irreplaceable natural resources. American Airlines generously sponsored Cousteau’s air transportation as its contribution to the project.

The official itinerary arranged by the Trustees for Cousteau included diving the Wreck of the Rhone, and sites on the North Sound, and a comprehensive marine tour of the Territory. Cousteau spoke at the British Virgin Islands Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting where he addressed community leaders on the need to safeguard B.V.I.’s unique and fragile ecosystems for their environmental importance and their ability to attract environmentally conscientious and sea-loving travelers from around the world. Commenting on the B.V.I., Cousteau said, "The land and ocean are inextricably linked together. Parks are the symbol of this relationship. The economic success of small ocean nations such as the British Virgin Islands is dependent upon the sustainable management of its parks."

He also toured Guana Island with Dr. Jarecki, a governor of the Trustees of the BVI National Parks, USA, and longtime friend of the BVI. Dr. Jarecki is internationally recognized as a deeply committed conservationist who actively sponsors science programs and academic research on the environment. Dr. Jarecki and his wife, Gloria, were recently nominated for the Travel Industry of America’s Hall of Leaders for their environmental work in ecotourism on Guana Island. On Virgin Gorda, Little Dix Bay Resort hosted an environmental seminar and dinner where Cousteau spoke to the resort’s guests and the Virgin Gorda staff of the B.V.I. National Parks Trust and B.V.I. Tourist Board.

One of the highlights of Jean-Michel Cousteau’s visit was a speaking engagement at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College where Cousteau was hosted by the Administration and toured the new Marine Science Campus. Cousteau also took time to visit with local elementary school students to encourage them to be friends of the sea. He impressed upon them the uniqueness of their homeland.

"The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board is very grateful for Mr. Cousteau’s visit and his efforts to promote preserving the great treasures of the BVI. We look forward to receiving his recommendations on marine conservation and education programs that reflect a substantive understanding of the issues affecting the B.V.I.’s national marine parks. These parks are very important to the BVI. They comprise eleven percent of the land and marine area of the B.V.I. and must be properly cared for, now and in the future," said Stanley Gordon, Chairman of the BVI Tourist Board.

Cousteau’s visit is part of a larger awareness project sponsored by three organizations, the British Virgin Islands National Parks Trust, British Virgin Islands Tourist Board and the Trustees of the British Virgin Islands National Parks, USA.

The Trustees of the British Virgin Islands National Parks, USA has recently spearheaded several projects utilizing its globally influential trustees to raise awareness about the uniqueness of the B.V.I.’s national parks. This is the second educational trip it has organized involving its Trustees in the last two months. Trustees of the BVI National Parks, USA, include such media and literary luminaries as ABC news anchor Peter Jennings; former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite; editor George Plimpton; David Fanning, founder and executive producer of PBS’s Frontline; Remar Sutton, columnist for The Washington Post; Anne Randolph Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and contributing editor to Town and Country; and Emmy-award-winning explorer Dan Buettner, a veteran of expeditions in over 100 countries.

They are joined by other prominent Americans including Jean-Michel Cousteau; Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller of Arkansas; actor Cliff Robertson; Lester Hyman, Washington, D.C.-based presidential advisor; and Dr. Henry Jarecki, president of The Falconwood Corporation and owner of Guana Island, an 850-acre private nature preserve off the North Shore of Tortola.

"One goal of our group," says J.C. Pierce, president of the Trustees of the BVI National Parks, USA, "is to develop materials highlighting the unique nature of the BVI parks. We are planning to develop several documents on the parks using the tremendous talent of our Trustees, and are working with the B.V.I. Tourist Board and the B.V.I. National Parks Trust to showcase the great natural beauty of the BVI’s national parks."

The B.V.I. National Parks Trust, based in Road Town, Tortola, has a preservation program consisting of five key project areas in biodiversity assessment and management, management of terrestrial parks, a marine conservation program, historical preservation and public awareness, and environmental education. The B.V.I. National Parks Trust, found on the Internet at www.bvinationalparkstrust.org, can be reached at 284-494-3904 or via e-mail at bvinpt@bvinationalparkstrust.org.

The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board maintains seven offices in five countries in Europe and North America. Travel information on the B.V.I. is available from the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board by calling 284-494-3134 or by visiting www.bvitouristboard.com.

For further information on the Trustees of the BVI National Parks, USA, contact Remar Sutton at offshorewaves@aol.com