Maldives star conservationists featured in UK paper

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British newspaper The Times shared the stories of “key conservationists engaged in ecotourism” in an exploration of multi-pronged efforts to protect the imperilled Maldives marine environment.

Mariyam Thuhufa, a marine biologist at the Siyam World resort, explained the process of planting coral fragments on metal frames for her coral reef restoration project. She teaches tourists to spot broken pieces and tie them to the frames and sends updates on the health of their coral. Thuhufa expressed optimism over the growing interest of environmental conservation among young people.

Oliver Steeds, founder of the UK marine-research institute Nekton, spoke about the pioneering ocean mission due to set sail on 4 September. Deploying submersibles with local and international scientists, the research expedition will carry out the “first systematic survey from the surface to 1,000m below sea level at key locations across the country” and gather critical data to help inform the government’s goal of protecting at least 20% of Maldivian territorial waters. In the unexplored depths, Steeds hope to find solutions such as resilient coral that could be replanted in shallow reefs.

Scientists from Nekton will also take up residency at the Vakkaru resort for workshops and talks to raise awareness among guests.

Jess Haines, marine biologist and project manager for the NGO Manta Trust based at Intercontinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, commended the government for designating new marine protected areas, including plans to protect 10% of coral reefs and 20% of wetlands and mangroves, up from just one per cent at present. Following the discovery of an aggregation area for juvenile mantas near the Maamunagau island, the resort has proposed declaring the nursery as a protected area, she said.

In October, Haines will be leading a five-day retreat to teach guests about scientific research on mantas, which would involve “gathering plankton samples as part of a long-term study looking at what mantas are eating and how that’s been affected by climate change.”

Check out the full story on The Times.