The Maldives’ atolls are the jewels of the Indian Ocean. Its reef system is the seventh largest in the world and the largest in the Indian Ocean. Not only are coral reefs the foundation of the Maldivian economy, they are the actual foundation of every island; they act as natural barriers and protect the low-lying islands from the eroding forces of the sea. They also provide the environmental setting for the country’s most lucrative industry, tourism. Coral reef protection is fundamental to the future of the country and Maldivian people. Yet, there are no examples of well managed marine protected areas in the country and due to over exploitation – fishing, tourism, pollution, coastal development, climate change – these reefs are degrading and losing their capacity to support the people who depend on them.
BLUE’s aim in the Maldives is to restore coral reefs as climate resilient ecosystems for Maldivian people, nature and the economies that depend on them: tourism and fishing. To achieve this BLUE works across the board with all stakeholders ranging from grassroots conservation with fishermen and communities to high level engagement with policy makers.
On Laamu Atoll, BLUE is working with its partners to create the first managed marine reserve in the Maldives. The reserve will seek to combine effective management of small-scale fisheries and reef protection in a network of locally supported and effectively managed reserves. Next year BLUE will be convening a conference on marine protected areas and fisheries for members of parliament to ensure that policy makers in the Maldives are fully aware of the science that supports the need for such management measures.
BLUE is also facilitating a Maldivian delegation to visit Palau, an island nation that has managed to successfully protect 80% of its waters and develop itself in a way which minimises impact on the countries coral reefs. Our hope is that the delegation will be able to learn from the conservation successes in Palau and bring some of these back to the Maldives.