The big fish that inspired a beach cleaning drive

Photo of a load of plastics in the gut of a shark that washed ashore galvanised 300 youth to act

November 20, 2017 10:23 pm | Updated 10:23 pm IST - CHENNAI

 Volunteers clean up the coast in one of the fishing villages in north Chennai.

Volunteers clean up the coast in one of the fishing villages in north Chennai.

It’s the fish that launched a thousand beach cleaners. Well, maybe not a 1000. But the image of plastic all twisted up in the belly of a dead shark that washed ashore has become a catalyst for a massive beach cleaning movement in the fishing villages of north Chennai.

“We had gone to discuss the decline of fishing resources around our villages with a marine research scholar a few months ago,” explains K. Vinod, a young fisherman, who along with friends is spearheading the movement to clean the coast. That’s when inspiration struck him in the form of a dead shark. “The scientist showed us a photo of the dead shark that had washed up along Kovalam beach, and we could see the insides. We saw a whole load of plastics in the gut. He told us that the whole bunch of waste plastics weighed around 50 kg. The plastic waste was the reason for reduced catch too, he told us.”

“We were aghast. And we decided we need to do something about it ourselves,” Vinod adds. Since then, he and his friends have been campaigning under the banner of Chennai Tiruvallur District Progressive Fishermen Association.

They have mobilised around 300 youngsters to clean up the shores and fishing hamlets every weekend. So far, they have removed two tonnes of plastics and thermocol, 5000 bottles and one tonne of old plastic-wired fishing nets.

“Apart from the waste disposed of by fishermen including thermocol waste from ice boxes, plastics that clog stormwater drains and other waterways also find their way into the sea and estuaries. When river mouths are clogged, fish breeding comes down,” says G. Mohan, who has directed a film Pazhaya Vannarapettai, and is part of the group of do-gooders.

Indian Fishermen Association’s M.D. Dayalan, who is helping the youngsters, says that most fishermen are not aware that the plastic in fish nets can be recycled.

‘More toilets needed’

“Fishermen usually throw away smaller pieces of net into the sea since they cannot be repaired. Larger pieces of net are used by fishermen with traditional craft. It is imperative that the Kasimedu fishing harbour is kept clean for us to export fish. We need more bins and toilets,” he adds.

In addition to actually picking up the plastic waste, the youth have also planned to organise a marathon along the shoreline on the Ennore Expressway for about 10 km. Those willing to participate can call 9940444007 to register.

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