Nina Gomes (4) cleans up Brazilian beaches “Because fish and turtles die”

Nina reaches for a plastic bag in the ocean, she's wearing pink goggles with her dad right behind her
Nina Gomes collects garbage in the sea accompanied by her father Ricardo Gomes, photo: Reuters/Pilar Olivares

Nina Gomes is just four years old and already helps clean up the water along the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. “She is already a mini-defender of the ocean,” her father, Ricardo Gomes, told Reuters.

In the polluted waters of Rio’s Guanabara Bay, she grabs plastic bottles and bags with her father and puts them in a net. Asked why she collects waste from the sea, she says: “Because (otherwise) fish and turtles die.”

Eleven million tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Plastic garbage is deadly to seabirds and marine life, with thousands of animals dying each year by consuming or being trapped in plastic waste.

Studies by Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation found about 400 species of birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals living in or around Guanabara Bay.

“From a young age, when she learned to speak, she would say that she did not understand why people could drink something and leave the rubbish on the beach. Since she was little, she never understood that,” her father said.

Gomes hopes that Nina’s example will inspire others and also help break public indifference towards environmental protection in Brazil.

“Kids who are raised only within concrete will not become defenders of nature, of the ocean,” he said.

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