This post was written to raise awareness for World Oceans Day which falls on 8 June annually
I absolutely love the ocean and beach holidays. This summer, I made a special trip to the Maldives so I could enjoy the magnificent view of the Indian Ocean.
The resort I lived in is called Angsana Ihuru resort which has one of the best diving and snorkelling spots in the Maldives. The view of the clear waters, shallow lagoons, white sand beaches and underwater coral gardens is truly a magnificent and beautiful sight.
Here are some gorgeous pictures:
Sadly, if we do not care for our waters, tropical paradises like those in the Maldives, will eventually be gone forever.
As the lowest lying country in the world, if sea levels continue to rise due to global warming, the islands will disappear before 2100.
This also affects the people and countries which rely on the ocean for jobs. Both fisheries and tourism are the main drivers of the Maldivian economy. Every year, over 600,000 mostly European tourists visit the Maldives, spending on average 225 Euros per day.
As this week was the week of World Oceans Day, to find out what enterprises and individuals can do to protect our ocean, I visited the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab to learn about conservation and protection of Marine Life. The lab conducts free marine biology talks for guests twice a week.
It was located just five minutes away from Angsana Ihuru by Dhoni. Both resorts are under the same group and as such guests who stay at either resorts can visit the other one and enjoy their facilities for free.
It was a great experience because I have never been to an island with a Marine lab before. Here are two interesting projects that they are working on:
A. Coral Reef conservation initiatives
Coral reefs are not just beautiful to look at when diving but they are also extremely important to the marine environment
While they only cover one percent of the ocean floor, they are home to 25% of all marine life.
As such, they are one of the priority species identified by the World Wildlife Foundation.
For many coastal areas, coral reefs also provide an important barrier against coastal erosion which is very important for small islands like those in the Maldives. Besides protecting the coasts, these barriers also reduces the negative damages caused by storms, hurricanes, and typhoons.
However, coral reefs are very vulnerable to changes in ocean temperature, PH level and also the UV rays. Due to some of the damages by humankind, such as careless tourism, pollution and construction, one-quarter of coral reefs worldwide are already considered damaged beyond repair, with another two-thirds under serious threat.
The Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru resort have initiated some projects to protect the coral reefs. Guests can also volunteer their time and participate in this unique opportunity to learn about marine protection and also make a positive difference to the environment.
Coral planting : The Marine Lab associates also plant corals along bare patches of reef crest. The basic idea is to use marine cement to attach broken pieces of living coral to dead corals in the sea. The process requires guests to kneed cement into balls; place them on dead coral formations and plant broken baby corals on top. The cement hardens after 3 to 4 hours. This gives the baby corals the necessary support to prevent them from being washed away by the waves
Reef cleaning: The resort also regularly conducts reef cleaning to remove any pollution and litter from the reefs. This helps to reduce the danger to fishes, turtles, birds and other marine life. The resort also clears removes creatures which are harmful to the coral reefs including the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish and the Pincushion Sea Star which feeds on coral polyps.
B. Turtle Head-Start project
Besides corals, another animal at risk in the ocean is also the endangered Green Sea Turtles.
Many of them do not survive after birth due to larger predators which hunt them on the shores where they are born and in the sea.
To make matters worse, many are still killed by people for their meat and eggs.
Their numbers are also reduced by boat propeller accidents, fishnet-caused drowning, and the destruction of their nesting grounds by human encroachment.
The Marine Turtle Conservation Project helps to give young turtles a head start and ensure their best possible survival.
Young baby turtles are cared for three months before being moved to larger cages within the lagoons where they can adapt to the ocean currents and also eat plankton, small fishes and crabs that enter the cages.
When they are large enough (at 12-18 inches in length) to stand strong likelihoods of surviving into reproductive maturity, they are then released into the wild. The most recent release was on 5 June 2014 which was World Environment day!
Even after they are released, their activity is monitored through a satellite tracking device attached to them.
Tourists who visit the Marine Lab can also watch turtle feeding by the guide which is conducted two times daily.
If you want to make a positive difference to our marine environment and help protect and conserve our beautiful ocean and its inhabitants, here is what you can do:
1. Protect Underwater Life
Choose not to touch, feed, handle, chase or ride anything underwater. Your actions may stress the animal, interrupt feeding and mating behavior or provoke aggressive behavior.
Make an effort to understand and respect underwater life and follow all local laws and regulations.
If you would like to watch feeding of animals, you can join professional staff who understand the animals diets and needs. For instance, this is a picture of a stingray feeding event which was also organized by the Marine lab.
Stingrays can be dangerous to human beings if you don’t know how to handle them. So, we watched this feeding from a safe distance. The staff was also very careful not to feed the reef sharks. Yes, sharks! The type of sharks in the lagoon are the black tip reef sharks and white tip reef sharks.
Most of the times, these sharks are not aggressive to human beings and guests at the resort can snorkel and swim along with them. However, these blacktip sharks can become aggressive in the presence of food.
2. Take Only Photos – Leave Only Bubbles
Do not collect from the beach or water, shells, crabs, corals and starfish. Nearly everything natural found underwater is alive or will be used by a living creature. If you take a coral, shell or animal, you can disturb the delicate balance and add to the depletion of dive sites for future generations.
For instance, the Giant Triton is one of the very few animals that eats the crown-of-thorns starfish, which as mentioned earlier is a predator and destroyer of coral reefs. As such, these Tritons play a critical role in the protection of coral reefs.
However, the excessive collecting of giant Tritons by people have contributed to the Crown of Thorns starfish plagues which devastated several coral reefs. It is thus important that as guests, we respect nature and not selfishly capture these animals for it may impact the environment greatly.
3. Eco-tourism and consumption
Engage in eco-tourism by volunteering and helping out at events such as reef cleaning and coral planting during your holiday. This is a great chance for you to have fun, learn something new and most importantly, actively participate in empowering and enhancing the environment.
As a consumer, you can also choose to purchase sustainable products such as biodegradable soap.
4. Make Responsible Seafood Choices
More than 87% of the world’s marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or over fished. Unless action is taken, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse in 2048.
As a consumer, if you choose to eat seafood, ensure that you select sustainably sourced species. Here is a Sustainable Seafood Guide by WWF Singapore instructing you on the type of fish which are endangered and those which are sustainable catches.
5. Cut down on pollution as much as possible
Cut down on the waste you produce by recycling whenever you can. Don’t litter in drains. An astonishing amount of waste makes its way underwater, reaching the big ocean eventually. Once there, it kills wildlife, destroys habitats and threatens our health and economy.
When snorkeling and diving, do your part and remove or report what does not belong underwater every time you dive.
The world’s oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, help feed us, regulate our climate, clean the water we drink and provide limitless inspiration and beauty. Let’s do our part as corporations and individuals to protect our marine environment together!