Thanda Ko Gyi
Founder, Myanmar Ocean Project
Driven by a firsthand encounter with the devastating impact of fishing nets on marine life, this passionate diver founded Myanmar Ocean Project, the country's pioneering non-profit organisation for ocean conservation. Since 2018, she has devoted her life to studying the extent and consequences of Abandoned, Lost, or Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) in Myanmar. In 2019, supported by the National Geographic Society, Ocean Conservancy, and Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Thanda Ko Gyi and her team embarked on a year-long expedition in the Myeik Archipelago to investigate ALDFG. To date, her organisation has surveyed nearly 90 sites across the archipelago, removing over 1,800 kilograms of harmful fishing nets and rescuing hundreds of marine animals. They work closely with the fishing communities to identify ALDFG hotspots and understand the root causes and impact of discarded fishing gear. Currently, Thanda Ko Gyi is working to implement Myanmar Ocean Project, Disposal Rig for Ocean Plastic (MOPDROP) , a collection shed for end- of- life fishing gear and other ocean-bound plastics.
Keynote Lecture 8 – Innovators Series – Innovative Collaborations
The unexplored Myeik Archipelago, located on Myanmar’s southern coast, sprawls across 800 islands, housing a wide range of marine ecosystems and hosting many charismatic and endangered marine species. These include oceanic manta rays, dugongs, various shark species, and marine turtles.
However, with a lack of active marine protected area management and limited surveillance beneath the waves, the Myanmar Ocean Project’s expeditions have been launched to systematically collect data regarding the prevalence of Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG). Our survey expeditions have united fishermen, island communities, and volunteer divers to find region-appropriate solutions, pinpoint ALDFG hotspots, identify the primary causes of gear loss, and train scuba divers in safe techniques for surveying and retrieving ghost gear.
Throughout our expeditions in the Myeik Archipelago, our team has deeply engaged with fishermen and island community members to comprehend their challenges with ALDFG and potential trouble spots. Additionally, we’ve gathered data by examining reports of ALDFG sightings from scuba dive liveaboard operators.
Our findings have been both eye-opening and concerning. Ghost gear is widespread in the Myeik Archipelago, demanding urgent action to reduce the flow of ALDFG into our oceans. There is compelling evidence of ALDFG causing damage to coral reefs and entirely smothering seafloors.
We persist in collaborating with fishermen, recognizing their pivotal role in helping us determine the best ways to assist them in collecting end-of-life fishing gear, and in reducing and preventing ALDFG from polluting our oceans.