Operation Big Blue Association


The Operation Big Blue Association (OBBA) is a Lebanese NGO founded in 1997 upon the initiative of diver Hazem Idriss who, infuriated by the sight of marine debris and dead animals in every dive, stepped in to confront the risks jeopardizing the Lebanese coast and marine life. The OBBA, which began its operations initially under the umbrella of the Cedars for Care Association, was officially certified in 2010 pursuant to the Notice of Registration no. 1/161. It is currently headed by Mrs. Effat Idriss, Hazem’s sister, with a clear mission to protect and monitor the coastal and marine environment and to resolve the predicaments resulting from the misuse of natural resources. . The organization is active at the national level and operates in some of Lebanon’s neighboring countries- Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine and Syria. Today and thanks to support from international agencies, it aspires to expand its scope of work to cover wider geographical areas on the Mediterranean Sea.


At the center of the OBBA activities is the cleanup of beaches and coastline. The organization conducts its annual cleanup with the assistance of the Lebanese Army and thousands of volunteers from environmental NGOs, Scout and social movements in addition to schools and universities.

The organization has enlarged its functions by introducing four teams:

  • A research team responsible for conducting studies on marine life and species and for planning media programs.
  • The Blue Police team tasked with executing awareness campaigns and protecting sea life.
  • The Big Blue Dive team consisting of divers responsible for underwater cleaning.
  • The Blue Junior club, a youth club that supports school and university programs.


The common lack of interest in environmental issues and the lack of societal commitment towards nature are two major hurdles that are yet to be conquered. During the years of war, the environment did not rank high on government agendas. Municipalities were not assuming their responsibilities and there were not any waste management or sewage treatment plants. Even in the post-war era, the focus was geared towards reconstruction and infrastructure, with little if any attention to green initiatives, while anti-nature human behaviors persisted.


The OBBA operates through five core programs run by specialized groups, each having a specific objective.

  • Big Blue Cleanup and Awareness Campaign: It aims at raising societal awareness towards ecological issues on the beach, at school or in the workplace.
  • Big Blue Dive Center: It is a hub for underwater activities that support the organization by seeking, monitoring, protecting and reporting on the state of marine environment and species.
  • Specialized Team: It consists of specialized members responsible for conducting and documenting scientific studies and research.
  • The Blue Police: It conducts marine and coastline patrols to enhance safety and promote proper use of resources both on the beach and under water. It ensures a healthy environment for beachgoers and strives to protect marine species.

Since its establishment in 1997 until 2011, the Operation Big Blue Operation has attended to both shoreline and offshore cleanups with the cooperation of 8 ministries, foreign embassies, municipalities, NGOs, diving teams, young volunteers and students and national and international media outlets.

Throughout its journey, the OBBA has paid regular visits to schools and universities for awareness purposes and given ecological education sessions to members of the navy and the Lebanese Army. Several ecological studies were conducted with the participation of marine experts and meticulous attention was paid to the well-being of turtles and dolphins and the rescuing of other sea animals. The organization has undertaken the management of the Ramlet El-Bayda beach and built the Blue Room from plastic bottles to use as a center for environmental awareness. It has also organized field activities and media campaigns and launched several river cleanups. In 2010, every second Sunday of May was announced from then on to be a national beach cleanup day pursuant to a decree signed by the then Prime Minister.

In recognition of its immense contribution towards making beaches and waters safer places, the OBBA was given the 2012 Dubai International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment from among 312 participants, in addition to awards from the Ministry of Tourism, the First Lady and the Sustainable Management Council. 

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