Under the Sea

Try something aquatic on your next family outing.

As our society becomes more aware of the dangers that aquatic populations and waterways are facing— especially in light of the recent Gulf oil spill— several individuals and organizations have begun to roll up their sleeves to actively tend to the underwater world. Among these is a nimble, new nonprofit called Plant A Fish. Based in Brooklyn, the organization is founded by third-generation ocean explorer, filmmaker and environmental ambassador Fabien Cousteau. Plant A Fish's mission is to empower communities to get involved with the responsible re-planting of key marine species in distressed bodies of water around the world.

Growing up on his grandfather Jacques Cousteau's salt-stained ships Calypso and Alcyone, Fabien had the unique opportunity to explore our wondrous and largely undiscovered oceans. In witnessing the deterioration of our oceans' health over the past few decades, Fabien felt compelled to go beyond documentary filmmaking. The idea for Plant A Fish came to him as he was reading about yet another tree-planting program. While there are many crucial tree-planting initiatives, no comparable program at the time focused on marine restoration. The question "Why not plant a fish?" inspired and prompted Fabien to launch his organization. It also spurred several restoration programs around the world, including the responsible re-planting of sea turtles in El Salvador, mangroves in South Florida and corals in the Maldives.

Perhaps you have heard of the Plant A Fish project that has been taking place this summer in our own marine backyard. Over the past several months, Plant A Fish has been working closely with students and teachers at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School to begin an oyster restoration program in the New York Harbor.

Like mussels and clams, oysters act as a natural filtration system for our oceans. They remove pollutants and improve oxygen levels and water flow. Given the special role that they play in our delicate marine ecosystems, the Plant A Fish team, the Harbor School and others felt it was instrumental to reestablish a thriving oyster population in the New York Harbor, which in past centuries used to harbor one of the largest oyster rookeries in the world.

On June 7, Fabien officially launched Plant A Fish in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his grandfather's birth, which took place on June 11. Fabien also conducted a preliminary survey dive with the Harbor School of the restoration area south of Governors Island, with plans to re-plant several thousand oysters. Plant A Fish's goal is to eventually increase the oyster population by upwards of 1 billion in the New York City area and water bodies around the world.

This is a mutually beneficial partnership for the students, Plant A Fish and the community at large. While Plant A Fish will be seeding and executing an important initiative that will strengthen the harbor's oyster population and ecosystem, students will benefit from a robust scientific program that should boost their confidence and afford them greater post-secondary opportunities— all while fueling their passion for our waterways and motivating them to lead the next generation to steward and safeguard our water planet as well as become active contributors to our society.

How can you and your family become involved with Plant A Fish and support its mission? There are actually lots of ways that you can help regardless of your swimming and diving abilities. For those who want to get their hands and toes (but not their entire bodies) wet, some projects, such as the forthcoming mangrove restoration programs in Florida, take place by the shorelines in shallow water. Plus there's a lot of preliminary work that needs to be completed on land for all restoration programs before the actual re-planting can begin. If you're a social media guru, you can help spread the word about Plant A Fish by adding a post to your blog or Facebook page. The organization also welcomes in-kind and monetary gifts, which directly support its initiatives. Finally, Fabien and his team encourage individuals to mobilize other like-minded folk in their communities to launch other fish re-planting programs.

A simple step that your family can take to help support and protect sea life worldwide is to download the Seafood Watch report from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Refer to it anytime you are about to purchase seafood at the supermarket or a restaurant. In taking this simple step, you will be aware of which species are recommended for consumption, helping to play a big part in keeping our oceans, rivers and lakes healthy and rife with life.