June 24, 2009

Marine Observatory Named For Cousteau Planned In Mexico

Mexico and France have announced Mexico's first marine observatory at one of the world's "most diverse underwater ecosystems," the Sea of Cortez.

The Jacques Cousteau Observatory will join environmental attempts to alter climate change, and hopes to advance public policy to defend them, French and Mexican officials stated.

The Center of Scientific Research of the Northwest (CIBNOR) in La Paz will house the first Observatory, in Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

A second is scheduled to open later this year in Merida, around the southeast Yucatan.

Cousteau once labeled Baja California as the "world's aquarium" because of the abounding marine life off its long coastline.

The area is home to harbor porpoises, whales, dolphins, sea lions and sharks, and its coasts house hundreds of varieties of resident and migratory birds.

The French explorer conducted quite a few expeditions in Mexico.

"We're going to make available to the observatory all the scientific information we gathered during our expeditions," his widow, Francine Cousteau, said to the AFP.

The observatory started as a result of a Mexican plan to name an island after Cousteau.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon agreed to the island's name, while the observatory project has quickly grown, with French research institutes involved, in addition to Mexican universities and scientists.

"The peninsula has an enormous development potential so we have to straight away start putting a surveillance system in place," said Renaud Fichez, from the French IRD scientific research institute. "For now, we're increasing the pressure so politicians will take over."

Patricia Munoz, head of Mexico's National Polytechnic Institute, stated that long-term environmental protection plans were still inadequate.

"There's no continuity between programs, and that's something that can seriously harm the fishing situation and coastal development," Munoz said.

Politicians, scientists, researchers and non-governmental organizations joined for a three-day seminar in La Paz to open the observatory.

"The biggest homage we can give to the commander (Cousteau) is certainly to honor his extraordinary past, but it's also to show that we're continuing," said Francine Cousteau.


On the Net: