split image merle the mermaid

Merle isn’t just a regular mermaid, she's an eco mermaid! 🧜‍♀️

Merle Liivand (Estonia) celebrated her 30th birthday in an epic way – by swimming 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) and achieving the world record for the farthest swim with a monofin. 🏊

Without using her arms, she swam like a mermaid for 9 hr 19 min. That’s a lot of fin-flapping! 

What's an eco mermaid?

Merle spends her time protecting the sea and saving its wildlife. 🐳🐬

When she saw how plastic pollution hurt and trapped the animals in our oceans, she challenged herself to swim the same way as them. No arms, just one tailfin – what most sea creatures have when trying to escape a net or plastic bag.

“We looked at videos of how seals, dolphins, whales, sharks, or turtles will get stuck on fishing nets or plastic. They can’t use their fins and they can’t flip around and be happy animals.” – Merle Liivand

turtle trapped in plastic bag

Merle believes that more needs to be done to protect our oceans. During her visits to Key West, Florida over the years, she became shocked at how quickly the coral reefs were dying.

The final straw for Merle was when she saw all the trash in the sea and on the beach during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. That was when she decided that she can no longer complain about the problem – she had to do something about it.

Did you know? 🧐
Coral reefs only take up 1% of our oceans, but they provide a home to 25% of sea animals. Over 4,000 species of fish rely on coral reefs! 🐠🐟

Merle floating making heart hand sign

Merle often cleans up the sea, pulling out as much rubbish as possible. Sadly, it’s impossible for her to clean up all 8 million tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans each year. 😨

"There's too much trash on the beach. Pick up your trash!"

Merle hopes to draw attention to the plastic problem with her record-breaking mermaid swim. 

Did you know? 🧐
It takes 450 years for plastic bottles to break down in the ocean. 🌊

Merle floating head above water

Because she was breaking a record to raise awareness about ocean pollution, it was important for Merle that her fin wasn’t made of plastic. 🧜‍♀️

Swimming with a monofin is also a lot harder than regular swimming. When swimming without a fin, if your legs get a bit tired, you can use your arms to help out. Mermaid swimming is all about having strong hips and stomach muscles.

The hardest challenge for Merle was being mentally strong and not giving up. Swimming for over 9 hours is difficult by itself, so can you imagine doing it without using your arms? Wow! 😲🤩

"Go for it and get it done; that was my main mental aspect on that day."

She was able to keep going for so long by remembering the message she wanted to spread about saving the environment. Merle also remembered the suffering that sea creatures experience every day – her pain was nothing compared to theirs.

Merle mermaid swimming

How can you help protect the oceans?

Our oceans make up 71% of the Earth’s surface and are responsible for most of the air (oxygen) we breathe. They are home to so many types of fish and other sea creatures and new species are being discovered every day! 🐋🐙

Here’s how you can help protect them:

  • Use less plastic – If you use less plastic and recycle it when possible, you can help reduce the amount that ends up in the sea. ♻️
  • Help clean up the beach – Everyone loves spending a day at the seaside, so it’s important we take care of it. Make sure to pick up any litter you see, otherwise it might blow into the sea and harm the wildlife. 🚯
  • Respect marine life – It’s important to be respectful when exploring the ocean. Remember not to touch or feed any wildlife, and try not to disturb any nesting spots. 🐟

For her help with the clean up of our oceans, the Mayor of the City of Miami Beach named a day in her honour. Make sure to celebrate Merle Liivand Day each year on April 17 by picking up as much trash as possible!

Merle holding record certificate