Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Myanmar, but spent about ten years of my life in Australia, where I became a passionate diver and learned a lot about ocean conservation.
In 2017, I went on a diving trip in the Myeik Archipelago on the south coast of Myanmar – it changed my life. Our group of divers encountered a massive discarded fishing net that had entangled about a dozen bamboo sharks. We spent our dive freeing the sharks, but didn’t have enough time to remove the whole net.
About a year later, I returned to the same dive site. It was completely deserted. There were no more sharks and reef fish. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
After seeing the destruction a single fishing net could cause, I wanted to do something about ocean pollution. In late 2018 I founded Myanmar’s first non-profit ocean conservation organization, Myanmar Ocean Project.
Tell us about your project.
No one had ever researched the scope and impact of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in Myanmar. In 2019, with support from the National Geographic Society and Ocean Conservancy, Global Ghost Gear Initiative and Ocean Conservancy my team and I set out on a year-long expedition into the Myeik Archipelago to find out more about ALDFG.
Over the past year, working with the Department of Fisheries, Flora & Fauna International and Istituto Oikos, we have surveyed almost 90 sites around the archipelago, removed over 1,800 kilograms of harmful fishing nets from marine ecosystems and saved hundreds of marine animals. We stay with fishing communities and work with them to identify ALDFG hotspots, learn about the causes of discarded fishing gear and find out how it impacts their way of life.
Due to COVID-19 and the monsoon season, our 2020 expeditions are currently on hold. However, we continue to support the island communities we work with and are raising funds to send a boat with basic supplies to them to help them get through monsoon season safely.
I am also currently working with Thant Myanmar to contribute data on discarded fishing gear for a World Bank project about plastics pollution in Myanmar.