ST. PETERSBURG — Pierre-Yves Cousteau, the youngest son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, is in town this week. And his hosts are hoping he'll like what he sees so much, he'll make St. Petersburg the U.S. headquarters for his international organization, Cousteau Divers.
"We have one of the most powerful technological and marine-based research hubs in the world," said Dr. Peter Betzer, former dean of the University of South Florida's College of Marine Sciences. "It would be a natural for him to set up shop here."
Cousteau Divers is an Internet-based consortium of recreational and scientific divers from around the world.
"By uniting a community of divers who are concerned about the marine environment, Cousteau Divers brings the legacy of Jacques-Yves Cousteau to life, making each diver an agent of the study and conservation of the aquatic realm," reads the organization's mission statement.
The 29-year-old Cousteau, who studied both biochemistry and space exploration, worked as an intern for NASA and then the European Space Agency, before founding the not-for-profit Cousteau Divers in 2010. He lives in Paris.
Betzer, now president of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, met Cousteau on a recent trip to Spain and persuaded him to visit St. Petersburg.
During his four-day stay, Cousteau is scheduled to meet local dignitaries at St. Petersburg's Dali Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art. He will also tour the Canterbury School of Florida's new marine studies building and take a standup paddleboard trip through the mangrove tunnels of Weedon Island Preserve.
"We hope to show the best of what this area has to offer," said E. Howard Rutherford, president of the Pier Aquarium. "We share a common goal, and that is to help educate people and show them just how important the ocean is in our everyday lives."
Rutherford, Betzer, Dali Museum architect Yann Weymouth, and Maryann Ferenc, proprietor of Tampa's Mise en Place restaurant, are Cousteau's hosts.
"This could be great for our area," Weymouth said. "We already have so many prestigious organizations headquartered here. Cousteau Divers would be a natural fit."
Terry Tomalin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.