split image of merle cleaning trash and holding monofin

Merle the eco mermaid is on a mission to clean up our oceans, one piece of plastic at a time. 🧜‍♀️

To spread awareness of the damage us humans are causing to our oceans, Merle Liivand (Estonia) decided to break her own record for the farthest swim with a monofin.

Wearing a mermaid-like fin – and without using her arms – Merle swam 42.2 km (26.22 miles) around the coast of Miami Beach, Florida, USA on 7 May 2022.

Her fin-tastic record attempt lasted for 11 hours 54 minutes!

Could you swim for that long? 😵

Merle first broke this record in April 2021, after swimming 30 km (18.6 miles) using her monofin. However, Merle knew she could do better.

Over the next 13 months, Merle trained a lot harder and focussed on improving her breathing and nutrition. 🧘🍎

As you can imagine, swimming non-stop for almost 12 hours is very hard work. Merle said she had to “eat a lot to build up for this event.”

During the record attempt, Merle drank smoothies, baby food and soup whilst floating along. 🥣

“You can’t really eat anything heavy because you use your core a lot,” she said.


Even though Merle was attempting to break a record, she didn’t forget her eco mermaid responsibilities. She collected any plastic waste she found along the way and put it into the kayak rowing alongside.

By the end of her swim, Merle had picked up enough plastic to fill three big bags!

Merle believes some of the animals she meets are grateful for her help. 😊

“I have a really special relationship with the dolphins, and I think they know I pick up trash. Every time I clean the bay, I see dolphin tails swimming by to say hi. I feel a connection between us,” she said. 🐬

“I swam towards the rocks and saw a mother manatee and her two babies following me. I think animals know I fight for their environment and it’s a magical feeling.” 

Did you know?
Humans dump about 8 million tonnes of plastic into the ocean every year, where it will take hundreds of years to break down.


Not all the animals seemed to be on Merle’s side though…

“I got stung by jellyfish and kept telling myself that it was not the time to cry.” 😖

“The moments where I was feeling down, I had to remind myself that I’m a tool between the ocean and humans and I want my message to be heard.”

Merle was stung by a jellyfish during her record-breaking swim

Merle decided to begin swimming with a monofin when she saw the huge number of animals that get trapped and harmed by things like plastic bags and fishing nets.

Merle thinks it’s unfair that animals such as fish, dolphins and turtles are surrounded by plastic created by humans. 🐬🐢

“Swimming with the monofin without using my arms is similar to how dolphins and marine animals swim. They have a fin and can’t use any arms”

Did you know?
Plastics that end up in ocean water often break apart into small pieces that cannot be seen by the human eye. These small pieces are known as microplastics.


“When I see trash, I get angry,” said Merle. 😠

“I think about the manatees that are dying because there’s not enough seagrass for them to eat, or the kids who suffer because microplastics have affected their gut health."

Merle hopes that her record attempt will spread awareness of the damage we are doing to our oceans. She also hopes to inspire others to take action.

“Humans should take a moment to understand that we need to use less plastic or make sure that we clean up any trash on the ground.” 


How can you help protect the oceans?

Our oceans make up 71% of the planet’s surface and are responsible for producing most of the air (oxygen) we breathe. They are home to millions of 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. ♻️
  • Clean up the beach – Playing on the beach is great fun, but it’s important that we keep it clean. Make sure to pick up any litter you see, otherwise it might blow into the sea.🚯
  • Respect marine life – When exploring the ocean, it’s important to be respectful of the wildlife. Remember not to feed or touch any animals and try not to disturb any nesting spots. 🐟
  • Spread the word - Encourage everyone you know to make a positive change 😃
Take the Epic eco quiz as your first step to becoming an eco-mermaid!