Jean-Michel Cousteau softens opposition to Caymans cruise port development

Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famous underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques Yves Cousteau, has performed an apparent volte-face and significantly toned down his previously strenuous opposition to a contentious plan to expand Grand Caymans’ George Town Harbor.

In 2018, Cousteau published an open letter that was strongly critical of the planned port expansions and its effects on Caymans’ reefs and marine environments and, late last summer, he also recorded a video in which he is strongly critical of the environmental impact of the proposal. He summarized his opposition to the planned port expansion:

I hope the government will see the wisdom or protecting its natural heritage for all generations to come

However in a statement released last week, he seems to have significantly softened his position on the environmentally damaging development: “I have spoken with the preferred bidders, Verdant Isle Port Partners, and reviewed the most recent plans, and I am impressed by the amount of work that has gone into responding to the concerns raised by members of the Cayman Islands community.

In a press release on 8 December, Cousteau again did not condemn the plans, despite local activists stating that “the government refuses to release or obtain an updated environmental impact assessment based on the new plans. They don’t even have our own Environmental department (as a) part of the process.”

Wetpixel has reached out to Cousteau and to his Ocean Futures Society non-profit to clarify this and to find out whether they have actually withdrawn their opposition to the port development. At the time of writing, neither has responded to our inquiries.

On 23 September Carnival Corporation announced a partnership with Cousteau, to “provide expertise on initiatives supporting corporation’s commitment to achieve and sustain environmental compliance and excellence.” Carnival Corporation (along with RCCL-Royal Caribbean) is funding the proposed George Town cruise pier project.

It should also be noted that the Corporation’s Cruise Line subsidiary is shortly to appear in Florida court charged with environmental breaches and has already been fined $60 million for violating the previous court environmental protection rulings.

There is an active local campaign that seeks a public referendum on the proposed development.