Blue Guards, a youth fisher led beach cleaning initiative mobilised by ECOFISH II, removed 12,068 kg pollutants from sea beaches covering Cox's Bazar Sadar, Moheshkhali, Ramu, Teknaf, Ukhiya and Kuakata areas in 2021.
The Blue Guards participated in waste removal efforts in the sea beach areas and collected non-decomposable garbage including plastic bottles, polythene bags and sheets, food packets, single-use plastics, and discarded nets during March-December 2021, said a press release.
A Blue Guard, Tarek, said, "Plastic pollutants remain in the sea for a long time, which have long term harmful effects on fish and other animals. We are collecting debriefs from the coastline regularly to conserve the ocean and fish."
WorldFish Bangladesh engaged local youth (aged 18-35 years old) like Tarek around Cox's Bazar and the Kuakata sea beach areas and in the Nijhum Dwip Marine Protected Area (MPA) under its USAID funded initiative - Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh 2 (ECOFISH II).
Dr M A Wahab, team leader of ECOFISH II said "Ocean is the home of the most of the world's biodiversity and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the Globe, but ocean pollution reached to the alarming level day by day,"
"Aiming to conserve marine biodiversity and optimising potential of the blue economy in Bangladesh, we have mobilised the Blue Guards."
The Blue Guards have received training from the ECOFISH II on various aspects of beach cleaning and marine biodiversity conservation and have been equipped with the necessary logistics including jerseys, trousers, caps and shoes.
"A significant number of people are involved in fishing in Bangladesh. Their lives and livelihoods depend on the ocean. Recognising the youth potential, ECOFISH II involved youth fishers as Blue Guards to keep the coastal waters clean," Dr Wahab reiterated.
So far, about 100 youths, of which 20% are women, are engaged as the Blue Guards. The number will be increased to 200 and the initiative will cover St Martin's Island as well in 2022.
The Blue Guards, after collecting plastics and discarded fishing nets from coastal waters and beaches, dispose of those materials through linking with the local plastic recycling system or storing them in a safer place.
In addition, they are voluntarily working with the EOCFISH II team in marine biodiversity conservation and developing awareness among the fishermen to sympathetically treat the megafauna, sharks, turtles, dolphin, porpoises and small whales if they are knotted in the fishing nets and carefully release them into the waters.
The practice of releasing knotted turtles and dolphins has gained popularity among artisanal fishing boat skippers.