We’ve all heard stories about changes in the colour of the ocean, or about sea creatures choking on plastic litter. Perhaps we’ve experienced something akin to this ourselves while snorkelling during a resort trip, only to be surprised by the amount of debris in what was supposed to be clear, pristine waters. Imagine the nightmare that ensues!
To play her part in alleviating the problem, Hong Kong-based actress and DEVE founder Hidy Yu (余曉彤) partnered with us to lead a beach cleanup on June 19 this year at Shek O Beach. Armed with collection bags and a determined spirit, Hidy and a group of volunteers collected plastic and debris that had gathered on the shore. We spoke with Hidy to find out more about her motivations behind marine conservation, and how each of us can play a role in creating a more eco-friendly environment.
Photo Credit: Hidy Yu
Meet Hidy Yu 余曉彤
Hidy Yu has 13 years of diving experience. She has served as an underwater model for diving magazines, travel specials and TV shows, as well as the spokesperson for the Miss International Diving Contest in 2011.
As a marine ambassador, Hidy is committed to promoting the message of marine conservation. She has previously shot a video about dancing with sharks to promote the importance of shark conservation. In 2018, Hidy won the top prize in the Beijing International Ocean Culture Week. In 2018 and 2019, she was also a marine conservation ambassador in Singapore. She always looks forward to participating in different types of diving promotion activities so that more people understand about and fall in love with the ocean.
Photo Credit: Hidy Yu
Interview with Hidy Yu 余曉彤
How did your passion for ocean conservation begin?
I really love the ocean. It started from the first dive, which brought me so much happiness. However, since I started diving 15 years ago, I realised that the ocean got progressively worse and less beautiful. I began to recognise that the underwater environment was getting sick.
The experience that left the greatest impression on me happened more than 10 years ago. When I first went diving in the Maldives, it was a diving paradise that brought me bliss. But when I returned to the Maldives again, I was surprised to find that there were no colourful corals and that they were all bleached instead. I was shocked to find that what should have been beautiful, colourful coral was instead black and white. It’s a memory that will forever be etched in my mind.
The other experience that left an impression on me was the Mangosteen Typhoon in 2018. Lots of marine rubbish washed up at Xinghua Village in Shangxi Province, and I saw that part of the garbage was plastic waste that had not decomposed for more than 20 years. This means that garbage has always existed in the ocean – our failure to see the waste does not mean that marine debris does not exist. This is precisely the warning that the ocean has given to mankind. So I knew I couldn't ignore it anymore and that we needed to tackle it early.
Why did you decide to start DEVE and what do you hope to achieve through this organisation?
Very early on, I decided to build an online platform relating to the ocean. A lot of the time, searching for marine-related information is difficult, especially in Asia, so I really wanted to create a platform that exclusively addressed the ocean.
During the pandemic, the world seemed to stop, yet information spreading through the internet became more vigorous and everyone was learning things online. This prompted me to speed up the process of building an online resource. During this time, I learned to make web pages, and also learned social media language and network culture. I also asked many marine experts for their opinions, and asked people following similar paths to collaborate with me. This was how DEVE emerged. I hope that the ocean will gain popularity in the future so that the public understands that the ocean belongs to each of us. Everyone on earth needs to rely on the ocean to survive, not only divers or marine users. We need to let everyone understand and cherish the wonders of the ocean.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues in ocean and marine conservation today?
The ocean is now full of rubbish. The most common is plastic waste garbage, such as plastic bottles, garbage bags, takeaway tableware, and discarded fishing nets which account for 46% of marine debris. It’s convenient to use plastic, but it has also brought us misery. These plastic wastes not only pollute the ocean, but also cause many marine life injuries and deaths.
As everyday consumers, what are the top things we can do to be kinder to the oceans and marine life?
If we don’t want to see more plastic than fish in the sea in the future, I believe that everyone should work together. Reduce your use of disposable plastic products and replace them with something recyclable. For example, bring your own water bottle or takeaway box, and discard your drinking straws. These may seem like simple practices, but perseverance also requires determination. The future of our humanity and oceans rely on our ability to unite and work together.
What are your plans for the future?
I see myself continuing to live with the ocean. If I have the ability, I hope to protect it using different methods throughout my lifetime. I hope that my behaviour will influence others to pay more attention to the issues posed by marine pollution and to take action. This way, we can create a healthier ocean for both ourselves and future generations.
While resort getaways may not be in our plans just yet, visiting your local beach is always an option! As Hidy mentioned, take your kids for a swim to emphasise the importance of marine conservation, but not before decking them out in some of our sustainable swimwear! They’re specially repurposed from synthetic fabrics that will not biodegrade, which helps save our planet.
August Society Founder & Creative Director