As the granddaughter of legendary diver Jacques Cousteau, who introduced the world to the wonders of the deep seas during the 1970s, and the first female scuba diver, Simone Melchior Cousteau, Céline Cousteau was born with diving in her blood.
“I was nine-years-old when my grandfather took me on my first expedition in the Amazon,” recalls Cousteau. “I think he gave me my first diving lesson in five to 10 minutes. He was like ‘Are you good? Is your mask on? Can you breathe? Okay, let’s go.’ But I don’t remember feeling afraid at all, because it was done in such a natural way.”
The daughter of famed ocean documentary-maker Jean-Michel and expedition photographer Anne-Marie, Cousteau’s parents were also active in the field, prompting her to carry on her family’s legacy.
“My father was working on a grey-whale migration up near Alaska, and I just called to ask if he needed any help. It was on that journey that I realised that this is what I wanted to do. Everything just came together – my family background, my passion, and my experience in the field.”
A fierce environmental advocate, Cousteau’s chosen medium for spreading her agenda is film, having worked on documentaries for PBS, Discovery Channel and National Geographic. Today she is the founder and executive director of the non-profit organisation CauseCentric Productions, where she collaborates with other non-profits to raise their profile through creating short films about their work.
Passionate about protecting our planet’s reef systems, Cousteau also regularly partners up with the World Resources Institute on a public outreach campaign called Reefs at Risk. “Around the world, reefs are one of our most valuable natural assets, but a lot of people think that they are just giant rocks. They don’t understand that reefs provide food and medicine, protect the shoreline and attract tourists. Or they’re under threat because of overfishing, pollution, and climate change.”
Most recently, she has teamed up with Contiki to promote environmentally sustainable travel. “As an active traveller, it’s one
of my biggest challenges … I think when you’re going to travel halfway across the world to do an ‘eco-trip’, you need to ask yourself how you will balance that.”
But Cousteau says there are a lot of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint – from the hotel we choose to stay at, to what we eat. “People shouldn’t feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, but they shouldn’t underestimate the power of their actions either.”