Jean-Michel Cousteau – Keynote Speaker

Jean-Michel Cousteau, the first son of Jacques Cousteau is a French explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer.

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Jean-Michel Cousteau Profile Picture

Specialist Subjects

  • Environment
  • Motivation
  • Marine ecology


  • French


French explorer, environmentalist, educator and film producer for more than four decades, Jean-Michel Cousteau has used his vast experiences to share his love and concern for our planet.

The son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel has investigated the world’s oceans aboard Calypso and Alcyone for much of his life. He first dived with an aqua-lung in 1945 when he was 7 years old. Although he went to school to study architecture, he became part of his father’s Cousteau Society, serving for twenty years as executive vice president before striking out on his own in 1993 to produce environmental films.

Honoring his heritage, Jean-Michel founded Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit marine conservation and education organisation in 1999 to carry on this pioneering work.

As Ocean Future’s spokesman, Jean-Michel serves as an impassioned diplomat for the environment, meeting with leaders and policy makers and reaching out to the public through a variety of media. He has produced over 80 films, received an Emmy, the Peabody Award, the 7 d’Or, and the Cable Ace Award. He continues to produce environmentally oriented adventure programs and television specials, public service announcements, multi-media programs for schools, web-based marine content, books, articles for magazines, newspaper columns, and public lectures.

In 2006, Jean-Michel’s initiative to protect the Northwest Hawaiian Islands took him to The White House where he screened his PBS-KQED documentary, Voyage to Kure, for President George W. Bush. The President was inspired and in June 2006, he declared the 1,200-mile chain of islands a Marine National Monument—at the time; the largest marine protected areas in the world.

In February 2002, Jean-Michel became the first person to represent the ‘Environment’ in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. He was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Athens Environmental Foundation for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, mandated to design and support projects that will improve the environment in Greece and beyond.

In the first attempt ever to return a captive orca to the wild, Jean-Michel and his team at Ocean Futures Society pioneered both husbandry techniques and scientific research on wild orcas. In 2002, Keiko, the captive killer whale of “Free Willy”, was returned to the wild and entrusted to the Humane Society for continued long-term care and monitoring.

In another “first,” on Earth Day 1997, Jean-Michel led the first undersea live, interactive, video chat on Microsoft Internet, from the coral reefs of Fiji, celebrating the International Year of the Reef and answering questions from “armchair divers” throughout the world. In 1998, Jean-Michel participated in a live downlink from the Space Shuttle Columbia to CNN to highlight the International Year of the Ocean, discussing NASA’s contribution to ocean awareness with astronaut and marine biologist, Rick Linnehan.

Jean-Michel also has a long history of innovative design in the field of architecture and the ocean. He achieved a degree in architecture from the Paris School of Architecture and remains a member of the Ordre National des Architectes. His projects include artificial floating islands, schools, and an advanced marine studies center in Marseilles, France. In 1969 he led the transformation of a 100,000 square foot section of former ocean liner Queen Mary, into the Living Sea Museum in Long Beach, California. He also directed the design and development of the Parc Oceanique Cousteau in Paris, an innovative public attraction to teach visitors about the ocean without displaying any captive animals. More recently, Jean-Michel has been involved with the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, an environmentally and culturally oriented family resort, conceived as a model to prove to the business community the economic benefits of environmental concern and design. In order to expand the impact of ecological tourism, he created L’Aventure Jean-Michel Cousteau, a flagship dive operation at the resort in Fiji. He is currently forming an action partnership to expand this ecologically responsible model to other sites. In 2005, the resort was awarded Conde Naste’s highest award for small resort environmental design.

Cousteau is currently working on a documentary highlighting the epic and disastrous 2010 Gulf Oil Spill in which 11 workers were killed during an explosion of deepwater rig 50 miles (80 km) off the coast of Louisiana.

In 2012, he published the book My Father, The Captain: My Life with Jacques Cousteau.

-Honorary Doctor’s Degree in Humane Letters in 1976 from Pepperdine University
-DEMA’s 1994 Reaching Out Award
-1995 NOGI Award from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences
-1996 The SeaKeepers Award from Showboats International
-1996 John M. Olguin Marine Environment Award from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.
-1998 Environmental Hero Award at the White House National Oceans Conference
-2003 Inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame
-2003 Trustee of the British Virgin Islands National Parks
-2003 Ocean Hero Award from Oceana
-The Poseidon/Lifetime Achievement Award from Reef Check
-2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from Jules Verne Adventures
-2008 National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award

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