Members of the Lay Apostolic Association of Masan Diocese release fish fry on June 15 as part of a marine ecology conservation project. (Photo: Catholic Times)

By UCA News reporter

Jun 26 2023

A lay Catholic group in South Korea has paired with a non-profit fisheries association to sustain marine life and fish species as part of a project for the recovery of the ecological environment and resources.

In their latest marine conservation efforts, members of the Lay Apostolic Association of Masan Diocese along with priests and nuns visited Gwangam Port and released live fish fry in the sea on June 15.

Two crates full of flounder, rockfish, and red sea bream were released.

A similar fry release program is scheduled to be held in nine more places.

The participants also chanted slogans for the end of pollution of the sea and recovery of the marine ecology.

The program was endorsed by the Ecological Environment Subcommittee of the diocese.

The marine ecological environment and resource recovery project started last year when the diocese held its General (Pastoral) Assembly.

Among the agenda were the diocese’s programs and activities for the “7-Year Laudati Si’ Journey,” taking cues from Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical published in 2015.

The diocese resolved that as many local Catholics rely on fishing for livelihood, marine ecology recovery should be a pastoral priority.

Since then, the diocese sponsored various lecture sessions, discussions, and exhibitions on ecological conservation, and the live fish fry project was conceived.

“Looking at the polluted sea, I thought of despair and death, and at the same scene I tasted hope and resurrection from the powerful voices of those who shouted for the recovery of marine ecology,” said Andrew Choi Jong-rok, the head of the lay association.

The church group has been partnering with the Korea Fisheries Association to implement the project that cost about 130 million won (US$99,470).

Kang Seok-joong, chairman of the Diocesan Ecology and Environment Subcommittee, said: “I thought it was most necessary to inform people about the actual state of marine pollution and the importance of fishery resources, so I planned to release young fish that could attract the attention of many people.”

“Local residents have expressed interest,” he added. 

During the event, three booths were set up with warnings and suggestions about pollution and environmental protection.

The ‘No Plastic’ booth informed about the dangers of using non-degradable plastic and paper packaging that can replace plastic.

In the ‘Ghost Fishing Gear’ booth, pictures of fishing gear abandoned in the sea were displayed.

In the ‘Beach Coming’ booth, visitors were led to think about how to collect and recycle sea flotsam and garbage.

Local residents say such efforts are necessary to save marine life from total destruction.

“Compared to when I was young, I feel that the water has become muddy and the amount of catches has decreased,” said Son Myeong, 81, who has lived near Gwangam Port all her life.

It was a good event to inform people about the situation in the sea that we are not familiar with, she added.

Father Paul Shin Eun-geun, apostolic administrator of the Masan diocese thanked the organizers and participants for their concerns for ecological conservation and urged them to engage with many people for a wider impact.

Among the participants were 28 children from church-run St. Mary’s Kindergarten in Myeongseo Parish of Masan diocese.

They marched and shouted slogans: “Don’t throw away garbage!” and “Love the environment!”

Choi, the president of the lay association admitted that the ecosystem cannot improve “miraculously” with a single event, but in the long run, such acts by many will have positive outcomes. – UCA News

* This report is brought to you in partnership with the Catholic Times of Korea.