Diving in the fast line, DPV diving in the Maldives

Seeing the concerned and rather worried faces of divers before a DPV (Dive Propulsion Vehicle) dive, is part of the “game”. In contrast to this, seeing the smiles from ear to ear after the dive is just priceless.

PADI in conjunction with BluEmotion have conducted a series of very successful DPV workshops over the last few months. These workshops were powered by SUEX, an Italian manufacturer of reliable and affordable DPV’s, which are distributed and serviced by BluEmotion in the Maldives.

From the north to the south of the Maldives, a total of 13 workshops have been conducted and over 40 new PADI DPV instructors have been trained. Results show that these workshops have been highly successful and have created a new source of revenue for many dive operators.

by Virgilio Gabriele

Testimonies from some workshop participants include:

Manuel Tobolars, General Manager of Dive Butler Maldives:

“We are super pleased with the DPV’s and have in less than two months got our investment back. Staff are also excited as it gives them an alternative option to dive and ways to explore the surrounding reefs”

by Jessica Ogliar Badessi

Hussein Shifau, Dive Centre Manager Bandos Island Resort:

“We weren’t sure in the beginning if we should invest in DPV’s. However we made a move to purchase three machines and haven’t regretted this investment at all. We have issued over 30 DPV certifications at Bandos in less than three months, and we have actually just placed an order for another three units.”

by Virgilio Gabriele

The workshop will be complimentary and will be conducted by PADI Regional Manager Matt Wenger, who will be working with experts from BluEmotion who specialise in the use of DPVs in the Maldives. These workshops are aimed at your PADI staff and will include:

  • How to effectively teach this course
  • Marketing techniques for increasing certifications
  • How to integrate the use of DPVs into your business model
  • Pricing strategies
  • How to set up and run a DPV wing of your dive business
  • Specific details on the Suex DPV and their use
  • The opportunity to register as a PADI DPV Centre of Excellence and receive special prices on Suex products in order to facilitate an easy and economical way of integrating this equipment into your existing business
  • PADI instructors whom aren’t yet DPV instructors will have the opportunity to be trained, free of charge

If you would like to be included in this project, please send an email to matt.wenger@padi.com so that we can plan the event We will then be in contact with you to confirm specific details of your personalised training.

 

Coral Lines Findings 2018

Our 2018 Coral Line update brings together different success stories, in the form of expanding the nursery, creating a workshop, and most importantly seeing a steady survival rate of our coral fragments.

IMPROVEMENTS

After four years, the Coral Lines Project was in need of expansion. Therefore, in May 2018 we added six new metal frames alongside the existing nursery.  This will allow us to continue the project into the future without the limitation of space.  We have phased out the use of plastic cable ties and now attach the lines to the frames by tying the end of the rope to each frame. We also up-graded the project by retagging all 204 lines to ensure identification is up to date. During this process, we removed all coral lines with no living colonies. Now we will have a much clearer view of the project into the future.

In March 2018, the Marine Biology team conducted training on how to implement and manage a coral line project. We invited interested researchers from resorts and local islands to Gili Lankanfushi to participate in a Coral Line Workshop.  The full day tutorial taught others to create their own project using a step-by-step process.  Some of the Workshop attendees have now begun their own coral rehabilitation projects on local islands.From November 2017, we began a coral recruitment project which will measure the coral larvae settlement and survival. This project is ongoing today with results expected in three months.Finally, in February 2018, we moved our Marine Biology blog and Coral Lines blog onto the Gili Lankanfushi Resort official website so it is more easily accessed by our guests and interested readers. As of June 2017, this blog is now published by PADI and reaches five million readers.

SURVIVAL

We have planted 204 lines in the nursery over a four year period and after a recent survey of re-tagging and removing dead coral lines we have found that 158 lines still remain in the nursery. Out of the 9928 colonies planted, 6713 remain alive.

 

 

There has been a steady increase in colonies added to the project with an overall survival rate of 68% which remains the same as our findings in May 2017.  The rate of survival is less than pre-bleaching in 2016.  However, it far exceeds the survival rate of coral on the house reef which was found to be between 5% – 10% after a recent coral cover survey.

GROWTH RATE

Every three months after planting a line, we measure the widest point of the coral fragments to determine growth rate and note the fragments survival level. We measure each line for a period of one year.The species found to be most resilient post bleaching were A.aspera, A. pulchra and A.muricata. Although P.lichen does not show a huge increase in growth it has a high survival rate. Whereas, A. digitifera has a particularly high mortality rate (90%) and we have consequently not planted any more of these.

GROWTH FORMS

Species of coral can more simply be grouped into ‘growth forms’. We are mostly using bushy and digitate species as these are the growth forms that have survived best on the lines.We have an abundance of Porites lichen on the house reef which we have just started using on our lines when it is broken off in storms.  This accounts for a 2% increase in submassive form 4% in 2017 to 6% in 2018.

TRANSPLANTATION

In June 2017, we transplanted 15 fragments of A.humilis onto our house reef.  It was our biggest transplantation post bleaching.  The line survived for around two months but bleached due to predation despite our attempts to remove all coral predators.Due to the fragility of coral, our rehabilitation plans are very flexible, and subject to a long monitoring period.  We adapt our approach and long term management to ensure we keep up with the changing environment of the reef. So far in 2018, the ocean surface temperature has not been stable enough to transplant our lines on the reef but we will continue monitoring the situation.

FUTURE PLANS

Many of our lines are so large and heavy after four years of growth that we have had to hang the lines over the frames in order to keep them off the floor.  In these cases, we would like the lines to hang from frame to frame and therefore we plan to attach flotation devices at intervals along the line to reduce the total overall weight.

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi

Events – Scuba Pride 2018!

 

Continuing from my last post about events that PADI are supporting, I would like to bring your attention to Scuba Pride 2018!

Scuba Pride which is taking place at Vivian Quarry in Parc Padarn, Llanberis on the 21st of July.  (Please click here for more information). Also, there is NUPG Scuba Pride Photo Competition taking place on the 22nd of July.  

Vivian Quarry is in a prime location to venture out to the stunning Snowdonia National Park. Duttons divers is a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centre and a Project AWARE 100% Partner Centre based in North Wales.  

Speaking with PADI Course Director Clare Dutton (Vivian Quarry and Duttons divers), they have 12 stands in total who are already confirmed. They will also have the face painting, bbq, competitions and will also have a mini ‘fairground’ – coconut shy, other small games around the quarry for fun. 

Throughout the day they will be offering various try dives – discover scuba, discover the Menai (The Menai Strait is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 25 km long, which separates the island of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales), Sidemount diving, Full Face Mask and Twinsets.

Hopefully, manufacturers maybe offering trials of their equipment and will have slots in the training cage we have on site.

Clare has said that they will have some t-shirts that have been designed for the scuba pride event. If you would like to purchase one, please let her know. They are £15 each with profits going to LGBT North Wales.

The team at Vivian Quarry are excited about the event and to be supporting the LGBT community in Scuba diving. There have been lots of emails from various groups including the chairman of both LGBT North Wales and GLUG UK that have been advertising the event.

It is great to be able to support this event and PADI will be there to help make the event memorable.

Creating future ambassadors of the oceans in UAE !

Michela Colella – PADI Course Director and Operations Manager at Divers Down in UAE – tells us about her ‘School Project’:

A

As a PADI Instructor, I know teaching scuba diving is not solely about introducing people to a sport and a lifestyle I love.

Divers love to dive and divers learn to love the environment.

By teaching young people to dive, it is possible to engender in them a passion for the seas and a determination to ensure the reefs and sea-life we treasure survive for generations to come.

Warming oceans, overfishing, and chemical and plastic pollution are placing pressures and challenges on the environment unprecedented in human history.

One estimate suggests by 2050 there will be, by weight, more plastic in the sea than fish.

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Living in the UAE and being part of the team at Divers Down, I have had the great opportunity to introduce young people to scuba diving and also to educate them about the value of conservation.

At Divers Down, I have led a schools’ programme to introduce young people to scuba diving. As part of the programme, we also raised important issues relating to the risks posed by human activity to the environment.

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We have been running weekly Discover Scuba Diving sessions in school swimming pools across Dubai. This great opportunity also gave us the chance to raise awareness of the some of the most pressing environmental challenges to young minds.

 

Me and the team teach children ways to care for oceans and how to reduce human pollution.

We lead children in discussions and then show them evidence – the detritus of modern life that litters the beaches and reefs, not just in the UAE but around the world.

It is hugely rewarding to be with a young student as they take their first breaths underwater. It is equally rewarding to encourage in them the right attitude to create a sustainable world – that is the goal of the schools’ project.

Like all PADI Instructors, we hope to change the direction of our students’ lives for the better.

Introducing children to the natural world can instil in them a lifelong love of the natural world and can help them protect delicate ecosystems for generations to come.

The reaction from the students, and their teachers and parents – awe, respect and wonder — was beyond our expectations.

We know children learn better while having fun. Introducing them to the natural world – exploring delicate aquatic ecosystem – is one of the best ways young people can learn about the threats to the oceans (without them actually realising it).

I am certain that if all children were lucky enough to learn about diving and to fall in love with it and the environment, our world would be a better place.

A big thank you to those Schools who gave me this great opportunity and to an amazing educational system that was open to allowing its students to learn about the fun and adventure of diving, and practical ways to protect our environment.

 

On behalf of PADI, congratulations to the students who enrolled in the project ! 

…. and special thanks Michela and Divers Down’s Team : keep up the good work!

Quick wins to target new markets

Easy steps every dive centre can take to attract customers from China

With Chinese tourism making up more than 30% of all visitors to the Maldives, every dive centre benefits from ensuring that these potential customers know about the PADI courses being offered.Did you know that PADI has a dedicated Chinese marketing tool kit especially for you? You can access it free of charge by logging into the PADI Pro Site, and then clicking this link:

http://padi.co/cnkit

There are a huge number of resources available to you.

Each link in the tool box has two options. The option on the left is ‘simplified’ Chinese. The option on the right is ‘traditional’ Chinese.Tourists from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are most likely to speak Traditional Chinese, whilst those from China, Malaysia and Singapore are most likely to speak Simplified Chinese. Depending upon the tourists in your area you may choose to use one or both versions.The more you tools use, the better the results will be. However, if you are short of time, here are a few key steps to take:

  • Exterior signage is a key step to show visitors that you are able to cater to their needs. The marketing tool kit includes a PADI Open Water Diver course poster and banner that you can download – this represents a great starting point.
  • If you work with a hotel or guest house, you can use the specific images to create brochures or hand-outs for guests
  • There are dedicated promotional videos available for you to use on TV screens in your centre, or at welcome events for arriving guests.
  • If you need help employing Chinese instructors, you can advertise jobs on the Chinese PADI Pro Site – simply log into the PADI Pro Site and click the link below:

https://www2.padi.com/mypadi/pros/my-pro-development/jobs/mainpage.aspx

You’ll find the Chinese employment board at the bottom of the screen.

If you need further assistance in accessing the Chinese diver market, contact your regional manager at matt.wenger@padi.com

PADI Power!

Are you getting the most from your PADI marketing power?

The PADI logo is the most distinctive and powerful logo in the diving industry. Recognised as a sign of quality diver training and service, divers around the planet proudly state that they have ‘got my PADI’.

As a PADI dive centre, a key benefit of your membership is the right to utilise the power of the PADI brand to bring more custom to your dive centre – here are some suggestions on how to make sure you are doing this effectively:

  1. Use your PADI Dive Centre Marketing kit to its full effect. Every renewed PADI dive centre receives a physical marketing tool kit which includes flags, banner and other marketing collateral completely free of charge. Maldivian dive centres can get their tool kits through MA Services, the official PADI material distributor in the Maldives. If you have not yet received your pack, make sure you contact them directly to arrange collection.
  2. Use your digital resources – make sure your website shows the PADI logo – you can download a range of logos by logging into the PADI Pro Site and clicking the following link: https://www2.padi.com/mypadi/templates/cb-login.aspx?id=2782
  3. Also make sure you are using the latest images and text to boost your website’s impact! All dive centres in the Maldives have been sent an email providing them with a digital marketing tool kit that includes pictures, videos and text for you to use on social media and websites. If you have not accessed this yet, contact matt.wenger@padi.com for more information

If you want more information on how to effectively boost your marketing, and drive more custom to your centre, join us at a PADI Business Academy! Next event is scheduled in September in Male.

 

 

A New Home for PADI in the Maldives!

We are delighted to officially announce that PADI has a new home in Male’!

Last month, MA Services, the official PADI distributor in the Maldives, opened a spacious new retail outlet on Male’ Square, the latest shopping and dining destination in the capital.

As part of the move, the PADI store also relocated and is now open during regular shopping hours, welcoming divers and shoppers until 10pm.

Although we know that many of you have already visited the new store, which is just off Majeedhee Magu, we invite all of you who haven’t popped in yet to drop by and say hello! With our extended opening hours, we hope that many more of you will now have the opportunity to do so.

Alongside all PADI merchandise and services, the store will be home to a wide range of products stocked by MA Services. As the official distributor of PADI, Bauer Kompressoren, Scubapro, UWATEC, Hatz and Analox, the store is a one-stop-shop for all your diving needs and will offer customers a more streamlined approach to placing orders and purchasing new equipment.

The MA Services service centre remains in the same location and will continue to provide all the same facilities as previously.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

PADI

 

How You Can Help Sustainability and Eco Tourism in the Maldives

Eco tourism and sustainable tourism may be a hot topic in the travel industry at the moment but it has always been an integral part of our philosophy and part of our mission statement.

Secret Paradise tours are designed to allow our guests to experience the best from the paradise we call home, whilst ensuring that there is limited or no negative impact on the community or the environment.

We are committed to informing and demonstrating to our competitors, our team, our partners and ultimately our guests that we are committed to following social and environmental best practices.

At Secret Paradise we see this as an ongoing commitment in the development of sustainable tourism in the Maldives and pride ourselves that we were longlisted for the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015.

The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part during your holiday but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.

Reusing towels and saving electricity in your guest house

It is seen all over the world in small and large hotels, businesses trying to reduce their carbon foot print and the Maldives is no different. Re-use your towels in your guest bedroom rather than having them refreshed each day. Turn off your air conditioning when you leave your room. Make sure all the lights are switched off. All small actions that will provide long term positive results to the environment for you and future generations.

Plastic in the Ocean

The Maldives, like many countries has experienced a real challenge in recent years with plastic bottles, straws and plastic bags washing up on the beaches. Local Island residents are making huge efforts to work together with many islands organising regular beach clean ups. Education and awareness regarding littering and how to reduce the use of plastic in daily life has also started to be introduced led by NGOs and dive centres in particular. But as a tourist you can also help. Bring a re-useable bottle with you and re-fill your water bottles where possible. Take your own bags with you when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags every time you leave a shop. Remove packaging from newly acquired items before leaving home and consider taking home as much plastic waste as you can.

For more details on local initiatives check out http://www.savethebeachmaldives.org

Buy Local

By staying in local island guest houses you are contributing to the local economy and increasing local employment. Local island guest houses in the Maldives are usually run by local island families where everyone is instrumental in the day to day running of the guest house. As a guest you benefit from meeting these local families and learning about their cultures and traditions; take it from us nothing beats Maldivian hospitality.

Buying local and eating local means that you are contributing to the local economy just like when you stay in the guest houses. Buying locally made souvenirs and eating local produce means that local farmers and small businesses benefit.Don’t be afraid to ask where produce or souvenirs have originated as there unfortunately is still a lot of imported souvenirs on offer.

Leave no traces of your visit behind

Many people say ‘I am just one person how can I make a difference to the environment on my own?’ But all you need to do is take responsibility for yourself and the people you are travelling with. Don’t leave litter on the beaches or around the islands. Don’t throw garbage over board when on the boats travelling around the islands. Lead by example and pick up rubbish and dispose in the nearest waste receptacle. Every small effort like this will have a positive effect on the future of our environment.

Leave the ocean as you found it

As tempting as it is to take a piece of beautiful coral home or chase after the sea turtles, mantas or whale sharks and touch them – you are destroying the oceans natural habitat by doing these things. Maldives turtles and Whale sharks are endangered species and need protection. Feel free to view the beautiful underwater world of the Maldives but leave it where it is. The ocean life is wild and we want it to remain that way. The Maldives is one of the many countries affected by coral bleaching due to rising temperatures in the sea and global warming. Campaigns run by Save the Beach and local island guest houses like Eco Dive Club in Maafushi are working hard to rebuild these areas by planting coral nurseries and researching the effects of global warming.

Respect local culture and dress codes

The Maldives is an Islamic country and tourists should respect cultural differences not try to change them, we are after all only guests in someone’s home. Dress respectably away from beaches, ask permission (and ladies cover your head) if you are visiting religious places. Note local dress codes and follow them. There is so much culture in the Maldives and the local island people love to share their traditions and culture with tourists so ask, learn and enjoy.

Want to help more?

Volunteer/beach clean up

Many local islands are running initiatives like volunteer beach clean ups on a regular basis. Ask your Secret Paradise guide or guesthouse owner if there is one scheduled during your stay, it’s a great way to meet the local community and you are contributing to environmental clean ups.

How about learning more about the local communities and initiatives?

Secret Paradise Maldives and Sun sHADe Volunteers provide opportunities for responsible and meaningful working holidays in one of the most beautiful places in the world. More details about this program can be viewed here: https://secretparadise.mv/product/volunteer-local

Remember together we can make a difference #letusguideyou

You can also view our full Responsible Tourism Policy here

https://secretparadise.mv/responsible-tourism-policy

 

From Doomed Voyager to Victorious Wreckage

The story beneath one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives

Part Two

The skeletal beauty

“Victory sank on the captain’s second voyage to the Maldives,” said Saeed. “On his first journey, the captain miscalculated the distance to Male and ended up all the way in Vaavu Atoll. Then on his second journey…” he trailed off with a wry laugh.

Though Victory met a watery death on the unfortunate captain’s second trip, the expensive goods she was carrying were not beyond saving. A team was put together which, led by Hassan “Lakudiboa” Manik, began the operation to salvage the wreck’s cargo.

“The cars were the first things we salvaged,” he had said in an interview to veteran diver Adam Ashraf. The recovered goods were later auctioned off.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

Amongst those who got to see the salvage process was Hussain “Sendi” Rasheed, a renowned name in the Maldivian diving industry.

“My first dive was at the Victory wreck,” revealed Sendi, who had regularly visited the site between 1981 and 2003.

Over the course of 20 years, Sendi was able to observe MV Victory’s metamorphosis from lifeless skeleton to a vibrant ecosystem pulsing with life. Lying upright and parallel to Hulhule’s reef, she naturally became a breeding ground for corals; and the multitude of marine life she attracted, along with great visibility due to the currents in that area, established Victory as one of the hottest dive spots in the Maldives.

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“This is one of the most beautiful wrecks, and one of the biggest. It’s around 110 metres in length,” stated Sendi.

However, even 37 metres underwater, Victory did not lie undisturbed for long. Bits and pieces began to disappear. Portholes, doors, the anchor and steering wheel fell prey to scavengers until all that remained by the year 2000 was “a metal skeleton”.

The culprits behind the robberies included local and tourist divers – a foreigner had personally shown Sendi one of Victory’s portholes, wrapped up and ready to be shipped to her home country as a souvenir.

“Everything that could be physically removed was gone … It’s like breaking into a museum,” said Sendi, expressing frustration over the lack of established laws and regulations to ensure the protection of shipwrecks.

Though the rich coral life and abundant fish surrounding MV Victory remained ever picturesque, Sendi noted with remorse that her true beauty remained lost to those viewing her after the new millenium.

Onslaught of damages

Victory, and by extension the diving sector, suffered more blows years later when the site was closed down in March 2016 for the development of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge between Male and Hulhule. The bridge is a mere 500 metres away from Victory’s resting place.

The first setback was the abrupt cessation of revenue. Wreck diving, though a rather obscure activity for most civilians, holds a significant popularity for divers who travel to the Maldives from around the world. As such, MV Victory was responsible for contributing to the attraction of hoards of visitors daily from within the central atoll dive circuit.

According to Sendi, local dive guides typically escorted a minimum of eight dive boats, with around 15 divers on each, to Victory every day.
“That’s an income of at least USD 3  million from Victory alone, every year,” said Sendi.

Illustration depicting the value of Dive Sites around Central Male region. IMAGE_ RAE MUNAVVAR_THE EDITION

The second blow to MV Victory did not take place till later that year when Dive Instructor Adam Ashraf, having extensively researched the wreckage for years, approached the government regarding protecting the wreck during the construction and development of the bridge. He led a team of divers to set up four buoys to mark Victory’s location so that bridge workers would steer clear of the wreck site.

Damages caused to Victory Wreck

However, later it was discovered that Victory had sustained damages of magnitudes that could only be caused by dropping anchors of vessels, which were deployed around the bridge, onto the wreck. With the housing ministry’s permission, a team of divers inspected and documented the damages: two wings of Victory’s wheelhouse had been destroyed, while several cabins on one side, including the captain’s, were crushed.

Subsequently, Ashraf proceeded to meet with the boat captains working around the bridge, intending to expand their awareness on MV Victory’s importance. However, her proximity to the bridge meant other adverse effects continued; the ongoing construction work disrupted the ocean floor, encasing the wreck in the suspended sediments, thus suffocating the corals and chasing marine life away from their homes.

Heaving a sigh, Sendi recalled his last dive to Victory, accompanied by Ashraf: “There’s no more life now.”

“Shipwrecks are underwater museums”

Though Sendi and Ashraf remained optimistic that coral and other marine life would return to Victory once the bridge has been completed, both admitted that all the damages might not be repairable – damages that could have been prevented had there been proper protocols.

“We need to regulate diving, or establish standards and regulations for wreck diving,” said Sendi.

The divers stressed that it was imperative for authorities to protect shipwrecks for the sake of heritage and tourism promotion. Though all sunken vessels become state property under Maldivian law, they claimed that proper steps have not been taken to preserve them.

Inside the wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – ADAM ASHRAF

“[Victory] belongs to the museum. It should be an asset of the museum,” Sendi declared, stating that all shipwrecks in Maldivian waters should fall under the ownership of the National Museum.

Describing them as underwater heritage sites, Sendi said that under the museum’s protection, shipwrecks could be properly maintained and conserved for future generations.

He added that preserved shipwreck sites could possibly generate sustainable revenue towards the maintenance of these sites by providing additional income serving the needs of the hospitality sector.

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“Wreck sites could be sold as facilities for wreck diving training,” said Sendi. “… The museum could also charge fees for divers to visit wrecks.”

It is the divers’ long-enduring wish to see a day when the shipwrecks, scattered across the atolls, would be properly protected and conserved. Listing some of his favourite sites such as the wrecks at Fesdhoo, Halaveli, and Macchafushi, Sendi added, “Every individual wreck has a story” – such as the tanker “British Loyalty”, which was torpedoed by the German navy in 1944 and later scuttled by British forces off the coast of Addu Atoll’s Hithadhoo in 1946; a unique relic of the Second World War that is now another top dive site in the Maldives.

“Underwater archaeology, museums, history – shipwrecks are symbols that represent all of these.”

PADI’s guest blogger  Fathmath Shaahunaz  introduces herself:

Fathmath Shaahunaz is a long-established shinnichi currently writing as senior Journalist at The Edition. A self described ‘english nerd’, she also harbours a deep appreciation for ocean and all things magical.  The Edition brings readers the most comprehensive news coverage throughout the Maldives delivering the latest in breaking news and updates covering defining moments in politics, business, sports, travel, entertainment and lifestyle across the country and the region. 

www.edition.mv

Reef Restoration at Gili Lankanfushi – “Mahuge Veshi”

Home to more than a quarter of all marine species, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. But these reefs are now under threat.

Of the many problems facing coral reefs, rising sea temperatures due to global warming are perhaps the most serious. In 1998, a complex climate event in the Pacific Ocean known as ‘El Niño’ pushed global temperatures to new highs and killed 16% of coral worldwide; this was declared the first major global coral bleaching event. The El Niño of 2010 triggered the second global event, and in October 2015 The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a third global bleaching event – so far this has been the longest event recorded, impacting some reefs in successive years.

Here in the Maldives, we witnessed the effects of global warming first hand when the bleaching event caught up with us in 2016 – affecting about 60% of corals.

In view of the environmental and economic value of coral reefs there is considerable interest in preventing further damage as well as rehabilitating and/or restoring coral reefs subjected to damage. A widely adopted method for reef restoration is the construction of Artificial Reefs (AR’s). The main purpose of these structures is to attract fish by providing them with habitats that are as favourable as those that are present in the original environment.

Gili Lankanfushi is surrounded by a beautiful and diverse coral reef, but we weren’t exempt from the bleaching of 2016, and some of the varied habitat once provided by corals has disappeared. To aid the reef we recently constructed a small AR adjacent the damaged coral. In this instance, the term ‘artificial reef’ is somewhat of a misnomer as its purpose is to rehabilitate an already existing reef; so a better way to think of our project is the building of ‘fish homes’. To maintain the natural aesthetic we are accustomed to here at Gili, the AR was constructed using natural rock from around the island. After settling on a location the rocks were assembled in a pyramid shape and care was taken to leave several openings as previous studies found that reef blocks which had a higher number of holes also possessed the greatest fish species richness and abundance. We have named our structure Mahuge Veshi (Pronunciation: ma-hoo-geh veh-she), meaning fish environment.

AR’s tend to develop in fairly predictable stages: When an ocean current encounters a vertical structure it creates a plankton-rich upwelling. This upwelling provides a reliable feeding spot for small fish, which draw in pelagic predators such as trevallies and sharks. Next come creatures seeking protection – hole and crevice dwellers such as grouper, snapper, squirrelfish, eels, and triggerfish. Over months and years the reef structure becomes encrusted with algae, tunicates, hard and soft corals, and sponges which add to the structural integrity of the AR. There is an expectation that ecologically the AR will resemble the local natural environment over the long term as plant and animal assemblages associate with the structure.

We know from previous studies that AR’s can increase the total aggregate of fish and invertebrate species, and in some cases the abundance of corals have exceeded that of adjacent natural reef areas.

The use of AR’s to increase fish populations goes back at least 400 years, but there have been suggestions that they don’t actually increase the total numbers of fish, and act simply as attractors; moving fish from one place to another. However, we know from well documented studies between animals and their environment that when a habitat range is extended their numbers tend go up. Imagine an island populated with birds: their population is at its limit, until one day another island appears within flying distance. What we would expect to see is a sequence of events:

  1. Arrival – Some of the birds would migrate from the old island to the new one.
  2. Population increase – With more nesting space available the populations of each island would increase.
  3. Persistence – Assuming a steady supply of resources (food, nests, etc.) the birds on each island would thrive.

AR’s can be thought of like underwater islands, and for each one built we essentially extend the geographical range of the animals that live within reef structures, and so we would expect to see the same sequence of events mentioned above.

So far Mahuge Veshi has been visited by large schools of surgeonfish, butterflyfish, and on last inspection a large moray eel had made itself at home within the structure. The Mahuge Veshi project is a simple, environmentally friendly and self-sustaining venture. All being well, the structure will help grow the natural area and support help marine life while our corals recover.

PADI guest blogger Jon Fry introduces himself:

After receiving my degree in Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology from Plymouth University I worked in Madagascar where I gained experience in reef restoration and tropical biology. I believe awareness is the most important tool we have in conservation, and I am pleased to be here at Gili Lankanfushi where I can educate the curious about marine life and sustainability.