Despite having opened its doors just six months ago, the Awei Pila Resort in Myanmar’s remote Mergui archipelago has already had a positive impact on its surrounding waters.
In May, a team from the resort embarked on an ocean clean-up with a group of international divers. The effort saw more than 300 kilograms of abandoned fishing gear retrieved from the water and from coral reefs.
On World Oceans Day 2019, details for the next ocean clean-up in September this year have been revealed. Volunteer divers from around the globe will embark on a week-long operation to retrieve more ghost nets from the ocean.
The divers will sail to Red and Rocky Islands from which they will dive twice a day, to depths of up to 30 metres, removing discarded nets.
Marcelo Guimaraes, marine biologist for Awei Pila Resort, told The National: "Ghost nets are a real threat to the world oceans, not only because they continue to kill when on the bottom [of the ocean] but because they are made of plastic which take years to biodegrade."
Each net can weigh up to 80 kilograms and it can take a team of eight divers up to an hour to successfully retrieve just one fishing net. Abandoned fishing lines and traps will also be recovered.
Any live marine life found tangled in the nets will be carefully returned to the ocean before the ghost nets are brought to shore.
Seahorses, frog fish and other marine creatures are often caught in the abandoned fishing gear.
The project is a collaboration between Awei Pila resort and Ocean Quest Global in partnership with Myanmar Ocean Project, which organises similar clean-ups.
The recovered nets will be examined to ensure the size of twine being used by fishermen is within Myanmar’s legal parameters. Some try to use alternative twine to catch juvenile fish, a move which can severely affect the future of the archipelago’s fish stock.
According to the United Nations, 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear was littering the world’s oceans in 2009. May’s ocean clean up in Myanmar was led by Anuar Abdullah, the founder of Ocean Quest Global, an organisation dedicated to the protection of coral reefs.
For Steffen Kroehl, Awei Pila’s general manager, sustainability is the goal for the resort. In a bid to create “minimum impact on a pristine environment,” he said that the luxury eco-escape is also committed to being plastic-free by the end of 2019.