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Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures
boat hull on seafloor provides a home for various forms of sealife, including a starfish

Sharing Our Waters

Eric Kett

Jumping into the unknown is how Eric Kett, a diver and recreational fisher, describes the thrill of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. “You never know what you are going to see, this creature or that,” he says. “We all have a sense of adventure, and diving rewards that sense so immediately and so overwhelmingly.”

Kett’s close relationship with the sanctuary was built over thousands of scuba diving trips he helped lead, first as a deck hand, then as a licensed boat captain for 10 years. When he started a family, he decided that the demanding schedule didn’t fit the kind of family life he desired. So, in 2000, Kett gave up commercial boating. But, with 20 years of experience at the Channel Islands sanctuary, Kett stays connected by serving on its advisory council, representing recreational divers. He’s also maintained his captain’s license and periodically hosts diving and fishing trips to the sanctuary. “I’ve grown up there in so many ways — spiritually, physically, emotionally,” he says, “and continue to just be in awe of its beauty above the water and below. I’ve never had two days that are similar out there.”

Divers are one of the sanctuary’s largest user groups, and Kett brings their intimate knowledge of the ocean’s floor to advisory council discussions. “Marine reserves are being presented as our saviors,” he says. “But the real savior is our getting smart. As a diver, I see all the debris from coastal runoff at the bottom, your Vons plastic grocery bags and Carl’s Jr. fast-food cups. That’s what is killing our fish.”

Like many recreational and commercial fishers, Kett opposed the creation of “no-take” zones, even though the marine protected areas don’t prohibit diving there. He favors other management tools to thwart overfishing, from lowering fish limits to reducing the number of commercial fishers. “I don’t want to destroy things,” says Kett. “I have two young daughters. I’d like to be able to take them snorkeling, and if they want to fish, I want them to be able to do that.”