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Associated Press Newswires
Cousteau's Son Says Many Of Puerto Rico's Reefs Appear Dead
By FRANK GRIFFITHS
June 21, 2003
FAJARDO, Puerto Rico (AP) - The son of late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau toured Puerto Rico's northeastern coastline by helicopter Saturday, saying much of the area's coral reefs appeared dead.
Jean-Michel Cousteau, 65, also visited Culebra Island, where he said the reefs were better off because they were further from the pollution and waste generated by the U.S. Caribbean territory's 3.8 million people.
"We continue using the ocean as a trash can," Cousteau told environmentalists and reporters after the tour. He was basing his assessment of Puerto Rico's reefs on appearance and existing data.
Cousteau said ignorance about coral reefs and the hundreds of species they support was contributing to a worldwide trend in coral depletion.
Pollution, chemicals, erosion, diseases and physical contact are factors that can lead to coral depletion, he said.
In Culebra, some 35 to 40 percent of the coral has died since 1997, scientists say. Along the north coast of Puerto Rico, closer to its population centers, sewage and sediment have killed most reefs.
Almost 30 percent of the world's coral reefs are dead, Cousteau said, citing a survey released at the Ninth International Coral Reef Symposium in Bali in 2000. If nothing changes, 60 percent of the world's reefs could be lost in 25-30 years, he said.
Corals come in about 1,500 known species - from swaying fans to stony varieties with hard skeletons that form reef bases. They are made up of polyps, tiny animals that live in colonies and feed at night on microscopic plants and creatures.
"Dead reefs are born out of our mismanagement on land," said Cousteau, who has visited Puerto Rico several times since his first trip in 1968.
Cousteau has followed in the footsteps of his late father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who until his death in 1997 lead ocean expeditions throughout the world and popularized marine issues through films.
His son's Ocean Futures Society also produces underwater film documentaries, for which he has received several Emmy awards. His society, based in Santa Barbara, California, also builds marine learning centers.
In August, Cousteau travels to the British Virgin Islands, where he is helping to open a marine center in November. He is also a board member of the British territory's national park system.
He was invited to Culebra by The Foundation for the Marine Conservation of Culebra.