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The Maldives designates marine protected areas

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LAAMU, Maldives, 18 January 2022: The Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his administration designated six naturally unique and eco-rich areas in Laamu Atoll as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The announcement comes just two months after the atoll was declared as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue while the  Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) was also recognised as a global leader in marine conservation during the recent 20th Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards.

The MUI team with Marteyne van Well, General Manager of Six Senses Laamu.

MUI, the marine biology team at Six Senses Laamu, consisting of hosts from the resort and its three partner NGOs: The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and The Olive Ridley Project, was named Marine and Coastal category winner at the 2021 Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards. Three independent sustainability experts judged 50 entrees from 26 countries, placing MUI top in its category ahead of five other projects.

This award celebrates the team’s dedication to marine conservation through their research, education and community outreach work. Their research has been presented at both science symposiums and governmental meetings to drive policy change. They have provided 199 children in Laamu with marine conservation and environmental education and brought 566 students from local schools on snorkelling excursions. Since 2019, they have had 26,000 moments of education with guests and certified 165 children through their Junior Marine Biology Programme.

Six Designated Marine Protected Areas

MUI’s celebrations continued when the President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, announced six MPAs were coming to Laamu. The team has been working towards this milestone for many years.

“Since MUI was formed, our ultimate goal has been to protect Laamu’s marine habitats and keystone megafauna species through legislation,” says Philippa Roe, MUI’s Head Marine Biologist. “For years, the partners within MUI – Six Senses Laamu, the Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and the Olive Ridley Project – have been gathering research on Laamu’s marine ecosystems and species, much of which was used as evidence to support marine protection.”

The areas which have been designated for marine protection include the turtle nesting beach, mangrove and seagrass area of L. Gaadhoo (a neighbouring uninhabited island of Six Senses Laamu), the channel between Six Senses Laamu and L. Gaadhoo, the mangrove of L. Hithadhoo (an inhabited island on the other side of Six Senses Laamu), as well as two channels, a mangrove, a wetland and an island in other areas of the atoll.

Now that these MPAs have been designated, the Environment Ministry will work with stakeholders, including Atoll and Island Councils, to develop management plans for each area. MUI and Blue Marine Foundation will continue to engage with local community members and leaders in the atoll, providing advice and assistance wherever needed.

Mission Blue Hope Spot

This welcome news comes just two months after the Laamu Atoll was declared as a Hope Spot by the international marine conservation non-profit Mission Blue. The Hope Spot announcement highlighted the importance of marine ecosystems in the atoll and the need for further protection.

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