Almost 2,000 islands are scattered over 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean. It comes as no surprise that the Maldives’ future is fully dependent on the protection of its marine and coastal environment.
Over the years, this vulnerability has attracted several ambitious non-government organisations (NGOs) to the destination that are dedicated to protecting its marine ecosystems.
Collaborating with resorts and local islands, these organisations are ensuring that the Maldives’ reputation as paradise on earth does not threaten its future; instead, helps protect it.
The Olive Ridley Project
Established in 2013, Olive Ridley Project (ORP) protects sea turtles and their habitats through rescue and rehabilitation, research, education, and outreach. ORP has bases in six atolls: Baa, Laamu, Lhaviyani, North Male’, Noonu, and Raa. Since 2017, ORP has released over 95 rehabilitated sea turtles from their rescue and rehabilitation centres in Maldives.
Since 2005, Manta Trust has been protecting manta and devil rays by coordinating global research and conservation efforts around them, their relatives, and their habitats. Founded by Dr. Guy Stevens, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) is the charity’s flagship research project. Since its inception, the project has identified over 5,000 different individual reef manta rays from more than 70,000 photo-ID sightings, many of which were submitted by the public through IDtheManta.
Blue Marine Foundation
Blue Marine Foundation addresses overfishing by expanding marine protection, improving fisheries management, building capacity for Maldivian marine conservationists and promoting sustainable tourism. In 2019, Blue Marine launched the #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass social media campaign in partnership with Six Senses Laamu, to call on resorts to stop removing the seagrasses around their resort island to make clear lagoons for their guests. Within three months, Blue Marine managed to convince more than a quarter of all resorts in the country to commit to protecting more than 830,000 square meters of seagrass.
Blue Marine Foundation, The Olive Ridley Project, Manta Trust, and Six Senses Laamu partnered in 2018 to form Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) – whose efforts made Laamu a designated Hope Spot by Mission Blue.
Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme
Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) carries out whale shark research and fosters community focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives. Based in Dhigurah in South Ari Atoll, MWSRP’s search for whale sharks takes them across the southern outer reef of the atoll, which is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks aggregate year round. In 2009, their research contributed towards the area being designated as the Maldives largest Marine Protected Area.
Maldives Resilient Reefs
Maldives Resilient Reefs (MRR) aims to restore Maldivian coral reefs as climate resilient ecosystems through research, education and partnerships. Affiliated with Blue Marine Foundation, MRR has initiated campaigns to protect seagrasses (#ProtectMaldivesSeagrass), sharks (#SaveOurSharks) , as well as reefs from overfishing (#FishForTomorrow).