This DVD promises to take us “deep beneath the ocean to stunning dive locations revealing the Mediterranean’s magnificent sea life”. But first we have to take note of some of the sea’s less-magnificent absences of life.
Enterprising marine ecologist Enric Sala, with a track record in protecting Cocos, sets off with Pierre-Yves Cousteau – Jacques’ youngest and less well-known son – to visit some of the Commander’s old haunts.
The premise is that the two want to see whether the Med is as rich in life as it was in Cousteau senior’s day. To say that we could all answer that one and save them a trip would be to undermine what turns out to be an interesting film.
Starting in Marseille, at the point where Cousteau first filmed, the duo compare today’s dismal underwater seascape with his old black and white footage, and conclude that some fish species in the area have declined by more than 90%. It’s a bad start.
Jacques Cousteau warned long ago that, without pre-emptive measures, pollution and overfishing would overcome the Mediterranean, and he was a wise man. But as the film focuses on four locations that have since become that rare thing in the Med – marine reserves – it highlights how things might have been and still could be.
This being a Nat Geo film, the underwater scenes in these reserves are ravishing. I wanted to dive at least two of them immediately – Scandola off Corsica and, best of all, Cabrera in the Balearics, which was new to me. Shoals of fish, elderly grouper, barracuda, rays, crustaceans, red coral – it all looks great.
The others were Formantera, also in the Balearics, and Spain’s Medas Islands, where the park, I was surprised to find, covers only 1sq km.
By the end of their adventure Enric and Pierre have met some bright fishermen who like the idea of marine reserves because they know fish will flourish and spill out of them into their nets. Prince Albert of Monaco (Jacques Cousteau was of course closely connected with the principality) goes diving with the film-makers and suggests a summit meeting.
So all that’s needed is for southern Europe’s political leaders to climb aboard and save the day. Unfortunately, I think they’re a bit preoccupied right now. This is an important film, however, so let’s hope someone heeds its message while there’s still time.
Steve Weinman

FremantleMedia Enterprises
DVD, 52min, £7.99,
iTunes download £1.89