DA NANG – Anh Dao Dang Cong Trung, 43 years old, is likened to a mutant thanks to his ability to free dive to a depth of 15 m to cut nets left in the sea, and pick up trash to save corals.
Early in the morning of the last day of September, taking advantage of a break from work at the largest 5-star resort in Da Nang, Mr. Trung brought his propellers, diving goggles, swimwear, net bags and a specialized pair of scissors to Son Tra scuba diving. .
Taking advantage of the clear water, Mr. Trung, with curly hair and brown skin, leans over the jagged rocks and then dives deep into the water, where there are large colorful coral reefs extending from the shore about 50 m. In a few minutes, nearly a dozen beer cans and nylon bags were collected by him in a mesh bag and gently pulled under the water.
Discovering a piece of ghost net – a torn fishing net that was stuck on the coral reef, Trung took a breath and then dived to a depth of 12 m, approached and cut each segment with pliers. It took nearly a dozen times to swim to the surface to inhale oxygen and then return to the sea floor before he could cut off the net covered with algae.
After four hours in the water, Mr. Trung cut five ghost nets and ropes clinging to coral, and recovered nearly 30 bottles, cans, plastic plates, and nylon bags. This amount of garbage is not much compared to 6 years ago, when every time he scuba dives, he brings ashore about 20 kg of plastic waste. “The less trash I can collect, the happier I am, because then people’s awareness of environmental protection has increased,” he said.
Among the types of garbage in the sea, Trung said that cutting ghost nets is the most difficult. To cut clean, you must find its termites, then use scissors or a sharp knife to cut it off. The most important thing is to be patient enough, if you are short of breath, you have to come to the surface to breathe, then dive, don’t be impatient because you only need to pull hard to break the coral. “Ghost nets are enemies of corals, so they need to be removed, just meet a wave hitting the shore and it will break the coral,” he added.
Born in the seven-acre coconut village of Cam Thanh, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, when he was 5 years old, Trung was taught his first skills in swimming by his father, who was a swimmer. Excited to wave in the water, many days Trung followed his cowherd friends to swim, sometimes he was too weak to follow the cow’s tail across the river.
In the flood season from upstream of Ngoc Linh mountain to the Thu Bon River flowing down to Hoi An, Trung again played with his friends to build banana rafts to play freely. Thanks to his father’s teaching and interest in this subject, in the second grade, Trung was selected to join the swimming club of Tong Van Suong elementary school near his home.
Trung practices swimming every day and achieves some achievements in competitions. But to perfect his swimming skills, it was not until 2003, when he went to work for the first 4-star resort in Hoi An, he joined the lifeguard team and went to a training course trained by the Australian coach.
That year, Mr. Trung won the bronze medal in the swimming competition with the masters in swimming. Receiving an international certificate of diving and rescue, he decided to swim across the sea from Cu Lao Cham island to the shore, 18 nautical miles (about 33 km) long. He successfully crossed the sea twice by freestyle swimming, without using a buoy.
In September 2011, he went to Da Nang to start a business, work for a high-class resort on Son Tra peninsula and start a new habit – picking up trash in the forests he passes through every day. “I don’t think one day I will dive into the sea to collect garbage like now,” Trung said, saying that in 2012, when diving into the sea near the resort to survey coral for visitors, he had not seen any plastic waste. Three years later, he brought guests back and did not expect so many ghost nets and cans under the sea.
Since then, Trung’s job of picking up trash has moved from the forest to the bottom of the sea. Proficient in each sea area, from June to the end of August, taking advantage of the sunshine and clear sea, he spends two times a week scuba diving, each time diving from 4 to 5 hours. “One day I earn hundreds of bottles,” he said, showing off pictures taken with hundreds of beer cans and plastic bottles, sometimes even drums being picked up.
According to Mr. Trung, in addition to climate change causing corals to die, plastic pollution is seriously affecting the marine ecosystem. Coral only grows in the equatorial and sub-equatorial regions, where there is clean, clear water. This species only grows one centimeter a year, so if a coral reef is dead or broken, it will take decades or even hundreds of years in suitable habitat conditions for them to grow back.
Training over the years, he is capable of holding his breath for up to 2 minutes, free diving 10-15 m, but often diving to a maximum depth of 12 m. Once he had to try to dive to the bottom of the sea 15 meters deep to get a bunch of ghost nets, when he got to the surface he was stunned. Since then, he has limited diving too deep and often dives fast but goes up slowly to pressurize.
“I usually take a deep breath, use swimming techniques to get into the water, when I reach the bottom, I use my hands to cling to the cliffs to keep me from floating. There are also places where there is a lot of garbage, but because it is too deep, I have to give up.” Trung shared. Recently, he bought a set of gas cylinders of nearly one hundred million dong to return to collect garbage in these areas.
Sitting next to her husband, Ms. Ngo Thi Thu Nguyet, 33, said that the first time he went to pick up trash on the seabed, he was very angry, partly because he went diving every day off, neglecting his family, and partly worried that he was busy collecting garbage at Deep seas can be dangerous. “Later on, many good swimmers knew that what he did was often accompanied by support, so they were less worried,” she said.
Mr. Ngo Xuan Quang, 30 years old, residing in Son Tra district, knew Mr. Trung from Sup rowing, knew that he often scuba diving to pick up trash, so for the past three years, he has asked to follow. “The sea with coral reefs is like my playground, seeing that there is garbage dirty and harmful to corals, I went down to collect it to keep the water clean,” Quang said.
What Trung worries about is that the coral reefs in Son Tra are threatened by the exploitation of coral diving tourism and spontaneous catering business; People who go camping do not have the habit of bringing garbage back, or bringing out their nets to fish and then leaving them in the sea. “In order for the sea to be free of garbage, not only the plains but also the people in the mountainous areas need to join hands, not to throw garbage indiscriminately into rivers and streams. I remember the 2017 flood, nearly a hundred tons of garbage landed on the coast of Da Nang. Nang,” said Trung.
Mr. Phan Minh Hai, deputy manager of Son Tra peninsula and Danang tourist beaches, said Mr. Dao Dang Cong Trung was the first to pick up trash on the seabed. “Besides being good at swimming, it takes a great love for the environment to persevere and strive to be like Mr. Trung,” said Mr. Hai, saying his actions have awakened the awareness of environmental protection. for many city dwellers.
“We have mobilized more Sup, Kayak … Coral reefs recover and develop, from which the city has resources to exploit unique tourism products,” said Mr. Hai.
The management board of Son Tra peninsula and tourist beaches are assigned by the city government to manage 5 coral reef sites. Mr. Hai said that he is developing a plan to manage and exploit Bai Nam (where many spontaneous tourism activities affect coral). Particularly, the area of Hon Sup with a lot of people rowing Sup to play will be limited to 650 m of operating area to protect corals.
Keyword: Pioneers pick up trash in the sea