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The beach looks extra clean this week with the corona situation – in reply to Vietnam’s widespread poster campaign: ‘To stay at home is to love your country’ – and in reply to massive global reductions in carbon emissions and plastic waste.

No bubble cups or straws, no noodle wrappers or worse from the fishing boats, no rice sacks of stuff from the city have washed up on the beach this week. The floating city of lights, layers deep across the horizon at night, has morphed into a small hamlet.

The change echoes the call of Prime Minister (PM) Nguyen Xuan Phuc from G7 and GEF 6 meetings in June 2018, for the marine plastic issue to top all agendas. The PM is wise enough to listen to the science and scientists. Vietnam is praised by World Health Organisation (WHO), for maximizing limited resources to slow the spread of the coronavirus. With focus on testing, quarantining, isolating, and treating people, as well as awareness campaigns, like the hand washing instruction song, going viral on social media.

Fascinating to read UNESCO’s plastic blog, 8 March 2020, which mentions plastic eating micro-organisms can be recognised by their ocean and distance from shore. Wondering if the micro-organisms help clean up plastic at a viral level and how global warming impacts them……also wondering if the sea will ever look extra clean in terms of microplastics.

This paddle-tow (to sample microplastics from behind a paddle board), looks more like a jellyfish-tow than the standard manta-tow! Anyway, here is how to make a microplastic-tow/plankton-tow from materials in isolation – and the plan:

  • Redirect a 6-liter water container from the fisher-folk gardening initiative.
  • Use a smoking hot knife to cut the plastic and a smoking hot needle to pierce a hole for the towline.
  • Sacrifice winter stockings for the material of the microplastic tow.
  • Attach a long enough towline.
  • Test drive at sea.
  • Investigate the samples, with a microscope.
  • Compare with microplastic results around the world, including the recent 8 March 2020 UNESCO blog and SCRIPPS Institution for Oceanography. We never stop learning/perfecting the techniques!

Lessons learnt: The positive impact of coordinated global collaboration is evident, thanks to Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and his mobilization of Vietnam.

Let’s hope coordinated global collaboration continues to have positive impacts on global priorities – encouraging more zero waste qualities of life, reducing plastic waste on land and sea, with ‘drawdown’ to reverse global warming – a movement which says: We can reverse global warming, before our planet destroys us!

About the author: Julia Shaw is founder of MANTA Sail Training Centre. Her most recent training: An International Olympic Committee scholarship to draw Vietnam’s national watersports plan. Her most recent publication: A chapter in a Springer series on Biodiversity, in Sarawak, where she was born.

Current focus: Swimming/watersports survival workshops for climate action, with local children, some too poor for school, and some yet to read, write, and swim, despite sea levels rising, and high drowning rates. Thanks to Beyond Sport, Swedish Postcode Foundation, and Laureus Sport for Good for support. Great respect to UNESCO’s plastic initiative awareness raising.

Photo credit: Tam Nguyen

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We are located in Muine bay, an ideal location for sailing, with a gentle beach gradient, minimal beach break and protected inshore areas from the northeasterly winds.

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Mui Ne
Phan Thiet

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