May 5, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

It was a dream he couldn’t imagine would come real in a million years. Andreas Weil, the founder of Israel’s marine education and research NGO EcoOcean, was contacted by the legendary Cousteau family to collaborate on marine education in Israel.

After reading a story about EcoOcean’s unique ship and education center Megallim on ISRAEL21c, the Cousteaus approached Weil. It was in December this past year and Weil had been busy, as usual, fighting against marine pollution off Israel’s coast.

Weil recalls his heart skipping a beat when he was first contacted by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s organization, the Ocean Futures Society. He tells ISRAEL21c: “I knew about the famous Jacques Cousteau since I was seven. I envisioned myself maybe in 10 or 20 years from now meeting someone from this foundation, in the same room, at a conference.

“But when the Cousteaus contacted EcoOcean directly, I know this means we have succeeded in doing something really good for marine education in the region. There could be thousands of marine NGOs they could work with. But they asked us to come to their camp to see how we can work together. My heart really jumped,” says Weil.

Cousteau, the son of his late father Jacques, wrote ISRAEL21c: “It is very important to make all of Israel’s youth appreciate the value of their marine resources and we applaud the good work of EcoOcean in this important endeavor.”

The two organizations are now looking into ways to broaden marine research and education in Israel. The impact could reach the entire Middle East region, where water security has become such a major issue.

With nothing written down on paper, if the collaboration works well, the Cousteaus may consider building an education center in Israel under their name and EcoOcean’s. Such a center would benefit all sectors of Israeli society, such as the Arab minority and underprivileged kids who get little environmental education.

It would be a bigger extension of what EcoOcean through its “Megallim” project, is doing today, says Weil.

After receiving the call, Weil headed to Cousteau’s marine camp on Catalina Island in California to see how the two organizations could work together. The proposed plan is that the Ocean Futures Society will co-create educational marine projects with EcoOcean. Both are now at the information-exchanging level.

“It would be so great if we could build a center together,” says Weil. “There is so much needed to be done and the Cousteau name can help gather the money to build up a school and an international reputation. It’s exciting that there is a potential in Israel and that they like what we do.”

“Jean-Michel Cousteau is interested in creating a global network of environmental education programs through an expansion of the Ambassadors of the Environment program,” explains Richard Murphy, the director of science and education at the Ocean Futures Society.

This educational experience is designed to give young people a good understanding of the wonders of nature, ecological science, how people are connected to the environment and what kids can do to live more sustainable lives, Murphy explains.

“In short,” says Murphy, “it would be a perfect complement to what EcoOcean is doing, and aspires to do at a greater level, in Israel.”

“We are now discussing collaboration between our two organizations and eventually having EcoOcean host Ambassadors of the Environment programs here in Israel,” says Weil. “We are excited about such collaboration and have invited Jean-Michel to visit us as soon as his schedule will permit.”

Until that happens, Weil will keep pushing ahead with much needed marine research and education, to help save the Mediterranean Sea from environmental catastrophe. While the reports and research do not look optimistic, Weil is positive there is still time to turn the situation around.

Fittingly Jacques Cousteau once said: “The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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