Explore the Human Connection to Beluga and Orca Whales on PBS in April '09

Santa Barbara, CA - February 9, 2009 —Traveling to extreme locations around the globe to reveal the mysteries of the ocean and its connection to our human world, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of explorers return to PBS with two new expeditions in the PBS signature environmental series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Combining science and discovery with expert storytelling and astonishing HD footage, the new specials premiere nationally with the one-hour “Sea Ghosts” (beluga whales), airing April 8 at 8 pm and the two-hour “Call of the Killer Whale” (orcas), airing on Earth Day, April 22 at 8pm. (Check local listings.)
Captured in high definition, “Sea Ghosts” is narrated by Anne Heche. The narrator for “Call of the Killer Whale” is Chris Noth.
Peabody and Emmy Award-winner Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of Jacques Cousteau, travels to the furthest reaches of the globe to learn the latest discoveries about two of the most appealing marine mammals on earth, the beluga and the orca. He and his acclaimed diving team, which includes his son, Fabien, his daughter, Celine, as well as his collaborator Holly Lohuis, explore a thrilling array of natural beauty, learn about efforts to protect these whales from the threats faced by human activities and climate change, and come face to face with the friendly and ferocious inhabitants of the deep.
Cousteau is no stranger to killer whales. His work to re-introduce into the wild the killer whale Keiko, of Free Willy fame, is documented in hour one, as well as the evolution of his thinking on how best to protect orcas. Cousteau also visits frigid Arctic waters to view first-hand how beluga whales—whose Cook Inlet population were added to the list of endangered species in October 2008—are now being protected in some places by the indigenous tribes who once hunted them nearly to extinction.
In each program, Cousteau explores the connection between the world under the sea and the inter-dependency of those species with humans. Cousteau demonstrates how human behavior on land has brought about changes in both the beluga and orca population’s ability to survive. But these great sea creatures have much to teach humans as well, and the Cousteau team point to several hopeful signs in the movement to protect these species.
In addition to the television programs, Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures has robust education and award-winning Web components.
“I’ve always said that if you protect the ocean,
you protect yourself .”
Jean-Michel Cousteau
Sea Ghosts (beluga whales)
There are places on this planet where it’s a marvel that anything survives. But in the cold Arctic waters of the far north, the sea is alive with sound. The canaries of the sea are singing. They're beluga whales, named from the Russian word for “white ones.” They’re an evolutionary surprise—a warm-blooded mammal in a numbingly cold sea. Resembling curious ghosts, these intelligent mammals use one of the most complex sonars of any animal.
Belugas inhabiting Cook Inlet, close to Anchorage, were added to the list of endangered species in October 2008. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that a decade-long recovery program had failed to ensure the whales' survival. The relationship between people and belugas is ancient. For more than 4,000 years, hunters of the north have depended on these whales for their own survival in a land with little to offer. These traditional cultures have now partnered with scientists and modern technology to protect the beluga, which in turn, ensures their own future. Yet these efforts are only a small part of the story as new discoveries have raised troubling questions about the health of belugas and their long-term survival.
Their world is now ground zero for climate change, and what threatens them is not confined to the Arctic, it’s global. What lies ahead for the beluga could become prophesy for many species everywhere, including our own.
“I’ve always said that if you protect the ocean you protect yourself and it’s never been more true, especially when you think about belugas and contaminants and the implications for human health,” stated Jean-Michel Cousteau. “But maybe it is worth protecting the beluga just for its own sake, for the beauty of its songs, and for the warmth of its social groups, and for their lifelong bonds to each other in the cold Arctic Ocean. Maybe protecting the beluga for its own sake improves us and helps us to define who we are. Protecting the beauty and wonder of these creatures and the natural world may be as essential to our spirit as food is to our bodies. I believe it’s important after all, that the sea continues to be filled with these songs.”
Call of the Killer Whale (orcas)
The most complex marine species on the planet, our counterparts in the sea, are the orca, the ruler of the ocean. They are the most widely distributed marine mammal in the world. Their realm extends from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Orcas, also called killer whales, number fewer than 100,000 worldwide, and learning more about them is a global endeavor for Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of explorers, who travel to both the northern and southern hemispheres as they seek out killer whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The team discovers that people and orcas share surprising similarities, and even similar needs, and they relate their findings to the captivity and release of Keiko, from Free Willy fame, who captured the world’s imagination and whose survival depended on pioneering efforts to re-introduce Keiko into the wild. Cousteau explains how time was spent un-training the trainers who, in turn, untrained Keiko for a life outside of captivity. Cousteau stated, “It’s easy to capture a wild creature and put it in jail. It’s nearly impossible to return them to the wild.”
The team also learns how some of the threats to killer whales now intersect with human lives. Intriguing detours in the expedition arise, leading to critical examinations of our environment, of the food on our dinner tables, even of our own health.
“What we’re trying to do is to make the connection between humans and nature, comparing humans and orcas,” stated Jean-Michel Cousteau. “They are the dominant species in the ocean. We are the dominant species on land and we all depend on the same thing.”
Education and Web
KQED Education Network will host a series of screenings and discussions around the nation in coordination with the premiere of Belugas. The national educational outreach campaign deepens understanding of ocean issues among students by providing engaging educational materials for educators in both formal and informal settings. Curricular resources integrated with dynamic video demonstrate the ocean’s magnificence and vital importance while teaching scientific concepts. Outreach efforts will inform teachers of the available resources, aligned with National Science Content Standards set by the National Academy of Sciences, and how to best use these resources in the classroom. Workshops will be presented at national conferences, including the National Science Teachers Association conference, and will also be offered through collaboration with zoos and aquariums across the country. These workshops will provide educators with innovative ideas and tools to effectively use Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures multimedia resources with their students.
For the new specials in the Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures series, the website www.pbs.org/oceanadventures will be expanded to include even more in-depth content exploring the mysteries of the world's oceans and rivers. Building on the success of the Ocean Adventures video podcasts, the site will feature web-original video stories – available on the site and as iTunes podcasts – that will appeal to viewers at all levels, from science buffs and environmentalists to teachers and students around the country. These web videos will engage audiences through "creature features" on specific animals, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the Ocean Adventures team during their various explorations, examinations of remote locations and indigenous cultures the team encounters in their travels, and in-depth looks at the fascinating and innovative technology that is used in making the program. In addition to these web-exclusive videos, the enhanced Ocean Adventures website will include the customary episode summaries, web resources and classroom content such as lesson plans and viewer guides. Viewers will also be able to upload their own diving exploration photos through the photo-sharing site, Flickr. In 2006, the website was honored as a Japan Prize Grand Finalist.
About the Series
The PBS signature environmental series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures reveals the oceans’ mysteries to millions of landlocked television viewers, and has inspired a groundswell of public awareness of the unique problems faced by the world’s marine environments. While all television documentary series hope to have impact, few can claim the mantle held by season one of the Cousteau series. In “Voyage to Kure,” Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team explore the wonders of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the dangers lurking due to human activity. Shortly after a screening at the White House, President George W. Bush declared the area a Marine National Monument, protecting forever the fragile ecosystem contained in an area more than 140,000 square miles. At the announcement for the monument designation, the President stated, “He (Cousteau) has made a really important movie that I hope people will watch about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. I think the American people will understand better about why I made the decision I made when they see the movie.” On January 6, 2009, the president signed the declaration for three new Marine National Monuments, representing an additional 165,000 square miles.
Consistent with the Cousteau hallmarks of exploration and conservation, Ocean Adventures shares with television viewers the largely inaccessible, dangerous and spectacular locales across the globe. Through Jean-Michel’s observations, the series illuminates the great need for better understanding and sustainable management of the oceans’ rich natural treasures.
Previous series titles include “Voyage to Kure,” which is largely credited with the 2006 designation of the Northwest Hawaiian Island National Marine Monument; “Sharks at Risk;” “The Grey Whale Obstacle Course;” “America’s Underwater Treasures;” and “Return to the Amazon”.
Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures is produced by KQED and Ocean Futures Society. The exclusive corporate sponsor is The Dow Chemical Company.
About KQED
KQED ( www.kqed.org ) is a service of Northern California Public Broadcasting, Inc. (NCPB). KQED Public Television 9, the nation's most-watched public television station, is the producer of local and national series such as QUEST; Check, Please! Bay Area; Jacques Pepin: More Fast Food My Way; and Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. KQED's digital television channels include KQED HD, KQED Life-Encore, KQED World, KQED Kids and KQED V-me, and are available 24/7 on Comcast. KQED Public Radio, home of Forum with Michael Krasny and The California Report, is the most-listened-to public radio station in the nation with an award-winning news and public affairs program service (88.5 FM in San Francisco and 89.3 FM in Sacramento). KQED Education Network brings the impact of KQED to thousands of teachers, students, parents and the general public through workshops, community screenings and multimedia resources. KQED Interactive offers video and audio podcasts and live radio stream at www.kqed.org , featuring unique content on one of the most-visited station sites in public broadcasting.
About Ocean Futures Society
Ocean Futures Society (OFS) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. With the motto, “Protect the ocean and you protect yourself,” the mission of OFS is to explore our global ocean, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean's vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet. OFS is based in Santa Barbara, California, with offices in Paris, Lucca, Italy, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. For more information, visit www.oceanfutures.org .
About PBS
PBS is a media enterprise that serves 355 public noncommercial television stations and reaches nearly 73 million people each week through on-air and online content. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is a leading provider of digital learning content for pre-K-12 educators and offers a broad array of other educational services. PBS’ premier kids’ TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online ( www.pbskids.org ), continue to be parents’ and teachers’ most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org , one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.
About Dow
With annual sales of $54 billion and 46,000 employees worldwide, Dow is a diversified chemical company that combines the power of science and technology with the "Human Element” to constantly improve what is essential to human progress. The Company delivers a broad range of products and services to customers in around 160 countries, connecting chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help provide everything from fresh water, food and pharmaceuticals to paints, packaging and personal care products. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at www.dow.com .