July 20 (Reuters) – Nina Gomes is no average environmentalist. With bright pink glasses and barely 4 years old, she collects litter with her father in the water along the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
“She’s already a mini ocean defender,” her father said. With Nina in tow, Gomes sets off on a paddle board in the scenic but polluted waters of Rio’s Guanabara Bay, where she grabs bottles and plastic bags and puts them in a mesh net.
When asked why she collects garbage from the sea, she replies: “Because (otherwise) fish and turtles die.”
Eleven million tonnes of plastic are released into the ocean each year, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Plastic debris can be fatal to seabirds and marine life, with hundreds and thousands of marine mammals dying each year from consuming or becoming trapped in plastic waste. (Graph on plastic waste)
Gomes, who made a film in 2017 about the underwater world of Guanabara Bay, was inspired by the birth of his daughter to found the Instituto Mar Urbano, a group based in Rio and dedicated to the fight against marine disasters.
Studies by the Brazilian Chico Mendes Institute for the Conservation of Biodiversity have found that there are more than 400 distinct species of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals that live in or on the outskirts. from Guanabara Bay. Thousands of Rio’s residents also depend on the bay to support themselves through fishing. More than 10 million people live in the areas surrounding the bay.
Gomes hopes that Nina’s example serves to inspire love and empathy and also help break the public apathy surrounding environmental protection in Brazil.
“Children who are raised only in concrete will not become defenders of nature, of the ocean,” Gomes said.
Reporting by Sebastian Rocandio; Written by Jimin Kang; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
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