The image of a young man with a boat full of garbage collected from the ocean has become familiar to people in Phú Vang District of central Thừa Thiên-Huế Province. Trần Văn Cường has been nicknamed "rubbish Cường" or "crazy guy" thanks to his efforts.
Trần Văn Cường on his boat with full of plastic waste collected from the ocean after an offshore fishing trip. — Photo tienphong.vn
Cường, like many residents in Thuận An Township, has fished offshore for 15 years. He has seen fishermen and tourists discharging plastic waste, bottles and cans into the ocean, and decided to do something about it.
“The ocean will be full of trash if everyone acts like that every day. The marine environment will be seriously polluted if the waste is not collected. Marine creatures can not survive anymore. And the fishermen who benefit from marine resources will be affected first," the 29-year-old told Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.
"Every time I go fishing offshore, I always pick up floated plastic objects on the sea and bring them to the shore for handling."
Since starting his mission, Cường has faced criticism, with some saying he was wasting his time and energy, others calling him crazy and some people have even thrown garbage into the sea when they saw him.
But he ignores the mocking laughter and keeps on keeping on.
Cường uses simple tools such as small nets or broken baskets to collect garbage at sea and stores it on his boat until he returns to shore.
Cường said he often follows his family members to go offshore fishing for more than six months a year, with four to five trips a month. The longest trip will last up to half a month.
His boat is always full of rubbish after each trip. He sorts and handles it or sells it to scrap traders.
Cường uses about VNĐ300,000 (US$12.8) earned from selling trash after each fishing trip to raise funds for the local youth union to help poor students.
“The money collected from picking up trash is not much, but it is joyful for me because I am able to contribute a little of my effort to help poor students and make the sea cleaner," he said.
"How clean the ocean will be if all fishermen collect garbage together onshore or on each offshore trip."
"I am trying to call everyone to join hands to clean the ocean. Each fishing vessel should have at least one trash can in order to stop throwing rubbish directly into the sea, that will affect aquatic resources," said Cường.
Fishermen in some coastal provinces have worked in groups to call on other fishermen to make a commitment not to throw garbage into the sea and bring it ashore.
Cường said he hoped his job collecting waste at sea would attract more people to join in.
He also needs help from all levels of government and organisations in Thừa Thiên-Huế Province to get local people involved in cleaning up the sea.
According to Lê Hoành Thành, secretary of the Youth Union in Thuận An Township, Cường's actions have made a change in the locality.
Many fishermen have begun to change their awareness of littering at sea.
“Soon, we will collect old nets to make garbage bags and give them to fishermen when they sail offshore," Thành said.
For his work protecting the marine environment, Cường was awarded the Lương Định Của Award at the end of 2019, a reward of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee to young people in rural areas with outstanding achievements in production, business, application of modern science technologies, environmental protection and new rural lifestyle building. — VNS