Visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Kelp Forest exhibit were treated to an unusual sight today, as an underwater diver unveiled a banner with an exciting announcement.

Diver Gil Falcone reveals the BLUE Ocean Film Festival banner
Diver Gil Falcone reveals the BLUE Ocean Film Festival banner.

In what Hank Armstrong of the Monterey Bay Aquarium called the "worst-kept secret" of the area, the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, featuring the best underwater and ocean-centered films of the year, will make its permanent home in Monterey County beginning in 2010. The BLUE Ocean Film Festival, which debuted last summer in Savannah, Georgia, uses film and presentations by filmmakers and scientists to inspire people to make a difference and give them the tools to do so.

Fabien Cousteau at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Fabien Cousteau speaks in front of the Kelp Forest exhibit

Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary Jacques Cousteau and son of Jean-Michel Cousteau, the president of the Ocean Futures Society, read from a biography of his grandfather about the elder Cousteau's first work filming underwater. Jacques Cousteau's passion for underwater filmmaking was triggered by his desire to inspire the public to protect the ocean, Fabien said, a mission that is continued by the BLUE Ocean Film Festival. He quoted one of his grandfather's famous sayings: "People protect what they love, but how can people protect what they don't understand?"

BLUE Ocean Film Festival marble
A blue marble handed out during the BLUE Ocean Film Festival announcement

To bring the conservation theme home, Monterey Bay Aquarium staff members handed out blue marbles. Cousteau explained that recipients of these blue marbles were required to perform "a random act of kindness for the oceans" and then pass it on to someone else, who would be expected to do the same, thus creating a chain of positive actions for the marine world. Debbie Kinder, Executive Director of the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, said the festival would make its own efforts to reduce environmental impact. "Our agenda is to make this event a plastics-free event," she said. Every speaker emphasized their view that Monterey County and the BLUE Ocean Film Festival were a perfect match. "This is one of the meccas of the ocean world, full of passionates for its health," said Cousteau when he detailed why he was so enthusiastic about the festival's move to Monterey.

Photographer and filmmaker Bob Talbot agreed, saying, "[Monterey] is the hub of ocean experiences." Talbott feels this event will be the cornerstone of an "Ocean Week" in Monterey. Ted Balestreri, chairman and CEO of the Sardine Factory, expanded on this idea. "This will truly be the Concours d'Elegance of film festivals," he said, referring to the legendary Pebble Beach car festival that is the cornerstone of the many events of Monterey Auto Week. Dan Basta, director of the National Marine Sanctuary System, seemed to agree with this sentiment when he said the BLUE Ocean Film Festival would be "the largest ocean film festival ever in the history of Planet Earth." The BLUE Ocean Film Festival will take place from August 25-29, 2010. Make your hotel reservations now!