The poisonous pufferfish: Their true story

A floating ball of spines drifts past. This ball of spines is actually the most poisonous fish in the world and is responsible for multiple human fatalities every year. But what are the facts? Should you be worried? No!

Pufferfish are a diverse family of fish. They are found worldwide and have over 100 species. Although some species have adapted to live in brackish and freshwater the majority are encountered around the tropics and subtropical ocean waters. In the Maldives we have 5 genera and 18 species. They have a distinctive appearance with their long tapered body and large round head. These pufferfish can range from two centimetres long to almost one metre. In the Maldives the largest pufferfish is the Starry Pufferfish which grows to almost one metre and the smallest is the White-spotted Pufferfish which is around eight centimetres. Pufferfish are mostly bottom dwelling, inhabiting either reefs or sanding flats. Larvae are pelagic and a few species are completely pelagic.

In the Maldives we also have four species of porcupinefish which are in a different family to pufferfish – they belong to the Diodontidae family. They are very similar to pufferfish; the defining difference is that the porcupinefish’s body is covered in visible sharp spines that become upright when inflated. Pufferfish spines are not so visible prior to inflation. Porcupinefish in the Maldives are uncommon and are encountered individually. During the day they take shelter at depth, at night they become more active. Sometimes large porcupinefish can be found hovering around shallow reefs during the day – the reason behind this is currently unknown.

Whilst some pufferfish species have distinguishing bright markings over their bodies to show off their toxicity, for example the Saddled Pufferfish others camouflage themselves to match their surroundings. They are a scale-less fish with rough or spiky skin, beady eyes and all four teeth are fused together to form a beak. Big pufferfish use their beak to crack open and consume clams, mussels and shellfish. Smaller pufferfish prefer algae and smaller invertebrates.

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Most pufferfish are highly toxic due to containing a toxin called tetrodotoxin. The fish obtain this poison from vibrio bacteria which is found in the animals they eat, specifically from eating starfish and turban shell. Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin which is flavorless, odorless, heat stable and causes nerve paralysis. The location of the poison changes between species and is generally found in the liver and ovaries. To humans this poison is 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide and there is enough poison in one pufferfish to kill 30 people. Additionally there is no known antidote. It is believed that pufferfish underwent a spontaneous mutation that caused structural changes in the fish allowing them to incorporate this bacteria containing the lethal toxin in their bodies to their advantage. Sharks are the only known animal to be immune to pufferfish poison. Although the toxin will kill, current research is testing whether low doses have medical benefits. Studies show that the toxin may relieve pain particularly with cancer patients. This could be an alternative to opiate use and it has also been shown to reduce opiate withdrawal pain.

Even though it is well known that pufferfish are highly poisonous and can kill it doesn’t stop people eating them! Pufferfish is popular to eat steamed, roasted, in broth or hot pot and as sashimi. In Japan and Korea it is considered a delicacy. A pufferfish dish, called Fugu which means swell up has been eaten in Japan for over 2000 years, although during this time there have been restrictions. For example, in the 16th century Japan’s supreme war lord ordered that the eating of Fugu was illegal. This was in response to some of his troops dying after eating Fugu whilst he was rallying them to invade the Korean Peninsula. Whilst some people continued to eat Fugu in secret prohibition did not end until 1887 when Japan’s first prime minister went to a restaurant. The local fisherman had not caught anything and only Fugu was available – the prime minister was served it and he loved it. The year after this the ban was lifted in that region. Other regions shortly followed.

In Japan there are now 22 different species that have been approved to eat. To serve pufferfish the chef must have a certification. Training for this certification takes seven to ten years and includes a written examination, together with the chef being able to gut and remove the poisonous parts of the fish within 20 minutes. Two types of pufferfish are very popular: Torafugu (luxury option) and Mafugu (cheaper alternative). Typically one kilo of Torafugu costs $200USD.

The process of toxin removal has improved over time with it now being possible to completely remove the poison from the ovaries of fish. The ovaries are pickled for one year in salt and then for a further two years in rice bran. During the pickling process fermented sardine extract is poured over the ovaries to mature them. This removes the poison and delivers flavour. The science behind this process is unknown and only a few places are permitted to produce it. Additionally in some aquaculture facilities poison free pufferfish are being bred. They are bred in sterile environments where no vibrio bacteria are present. Theoretically the pufferfish should not be able to store the poison because there is no poison in their diet. These facilities are focusing their research on the liver. They have sampled 4000 fish livers over a nine year period and none of these fish were found to have the toxin. Now in special places poison free liver can be eaten and it is said to be very tasty.

The poison is a major deterrent for predators, but this is not the pufferfish’s only defense. When the pufferfish is threatened they can inflate by 40% making them harder to eat since they become a large stiff ball. For a mature fish this process takes around 15 seconds. Inflation is as a result of the fish unhinging their jaw and rapidly gulping large amounts of water (or air if the fish is out of the water) which causes their body to expand/puff up. The ability to inflate is mainly due to the pufferfish having an elastic stomach – the stomach has a special large and folded lining which allows it to expand and accommodate a large volume of air or water. The pufferfish’s skin also has collagen fibers which allows it to stretch and not break. Additionally most pufferfish lack some ribs and have no pelvis which allows them to become a ball shape. It takes the pufferfish around six hours to return to normal size and during this time they are vulnerable due to their increased size and lack of mobility. The process of puffing up is also very exhausting and can be damaging to the fish. For these reasons it is important that divers and snorkelers are respectful of pufferfish and avoid triggering their inflation by scaring or antagonizing them.

We have a variety of pufferfish that can be seen around Gili Lankanfushi. So next time you’re here grab your snorkel and camera and take a look!

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

 

Dolphin encounters in the Maldives Part – 2

The Maldives is a tourist hot spot for dolphin cruises. These majestic animals are found commonly around Gili Lankanfushi and never disappoint with their impressive aerial displays and playful attitude.

The Maldives is a dream destination for wildlife seekers and ocean adventurers. The ocean temperature averages between 27 – 31°C, contains plentiful fish and has incredible visibility. This makes it an ideal location for cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are aptly named as the word cetacean means huge fish.

Spinner Dolphins:

Spinner dolphins are a common species of dolphins seen in the Maldives and worldwide. They are easily identified due to their tricolor pattern, the upper side is dark grey, the middle a light grey and the underside white. They have a defined dark line from the eye to the flipper and an elongated nose. They get their name due to their unique jumping behaviour, they are the only species of cetacean to spin laterally in the air. The maximum number of spins recorded is seven. These spinning displays can vary, these variations are thought to be caused by habitat differences.

Spinner dolphins are usually found in coastal environments generally associated with island chains or atolls. Spinner dolphins have a high re-sighting rate which indicates high site fidelity. During the day they use bay areas to rest and socialise, at night they venture offshore to hunt. These resting bays are generally in close proximity to feeding grounds, have a flat and sandy bottom with a depth around 20m. These features allow the dolphins to use only vision (instead of echolocation) to keep a look out for predators. If visibility is poor the dolphins are unlikely to rest as they are vulnerable to predation.

Reproduction in spinner dolphins varies greatly between sub-species. Their calving period is year round with a gestation time of 10.5 months, after birth the calf will nurse for two years. The period between calves is three years. Females reach sexual maturity earlier than males (seven for female and seven to ten for males).

Spinner dolphins have predictable daily patterns but there social structure is variable. Group size varies with habitat, with some open ocean populations traveling in groups numbering thousands. Group size could be dependent on the size of the sandy bay bottom and activity, for example resting group size is smaller than hunting groups. Dolphins living in remote reefs and atolls have higher affinity to each other whereas coastal population are more changeable. In coastal environments individual groups rest separately during the day and can come together at night to hunt. These dolphins typically hunt prey that live in deeper water but migrate vertically at night following the plankton. Feeding occurs at depths between 200 – 400m and includes fish, shrimp and squid. The size of the prey is small (five – 15cm) with males preferring lantern fish and females cuttlefish. Spinner dolphins along with bottlenose dolphins are vulnerable to a variety of human activities and developments.

Potential Threats:

The majority of bottlenose and spinner dolphins in the Maldives reside in coastal environments which makes them highly susceptible to human activities. Coastal habitats are becoming degraded and as such management of coastal environments is critical for dolphin survival. Both species of dolphin are particularly vulnerable to human activities including dolphin watching, swimming with dolphins, pollutants including acoustic and chemical pollution, gillnets, by-catch, hunting, habitat degradation, boat traffic, sea planes, climate change, purse seines and trawling fisheries.

As awareness about the threats to the planet grows there is a shift from activities that degrade wild animal populations to activities that educate and raise awareness. The number of participants for dolphin watching activities is growing and highly profitable. Dolphin watching has many positives; less invasive than swimming with dolphins, reduced desire from aquariums, alternative employment, reduced hunting and by-catch. Unfortunately some dolphin watching activities have little or no regulations and can be conducted in a manner that is negative for the dolphins. These activities can alter feeding, resting and reproductive behaviours. Stressed behaviour can be exhibited as changes in swimming speed and direction, changes in communication, respiration rate and aerial behaviours.

It has been observed that cetaceans avoid areas with heavy boat traffic and it is thought that disturbances to dolphins could lead to increased injury rate, unsuccessful reproduction, increases stress and damages survival probability. Prolonged disturbance may lead to permanent relocation of dolphin populations. A common misconception people have with dolphins is that they can leave if they aren’t happy, dolphins can find themselves too stressed, confused and blocked in by boats to leave. Additionally, many dolphins are reliant on coastal environments, moving away from the coast can lead to diminished survival chances. As more research is conducted it has become apparent that dolphin watching can be executed in a sustainable way.

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

Dolphin encounters in the Maldives – Part 1

The Maldives is a tourist hot spot for dolphin cruises. These majestic animals are found commonly around Gili Lankanfushi and never disappoint with their impressive aerial displays and playful attitude.

The Maldives is a dream destination for wildlife seekers and ocean adventurers. The ocean temperature averages between 27 – 31°C, contains plentiful fish and has incredible visibility. This makes it an ideal location for cetaceans: whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are aptly named as the word cetacean means huge fish.


The Maldives is home to 23 out of the 85 cetaceans species globally. The most common encounters are spinner and bottlenose dolphins. The cetacean species here are very diverse; they range in size from one metre with a weight of 50kg to 30 metres and weighing over 150,000kg. The distribution of coastal dolphins is thought to rely on a number of factors including temperature, prey concentration, location, salinity, depth, tides, habitat type, type of ocean bottom and predation pressure.

The closest living relatives to cetaceans are hippos and other hooved animals like camels and pigs. They diverged from this group over 50 million years ago. The ancestor that made the leap from land to ocean is Ambulocetus which translates to running whale for it could both walk on land and swim, although it wasn’t great at either. This mammal lived in Pakistan and was around three metres in length. Its home was the brackish waters that reside in mangrove ecosystems. Over many millions of years Ambulocetus evolved into the cetaceans that we see today. The changes include the streamlining of the body, the hind limbs regressing, a decrease in hair, increases in blubber content, expansion of the hand bones into flippers, the relocation of the nostrils to the back of the head and changes to the snout.

Bottlenose dolphins:

Bottlenose dolphins are a long lived and larger species of dolphin with a length between two to four metres. Females live around 50+ years while males reach their 40’s. On the upper body they are grey in colouration whilst the underside is paler with the belly being white. Stripes can be observed from their eyes to the blow hole, older dolphins can exhibit spotting on the underside. These dolphins live in a variety of habitats including the ocean, tidal creeks, rivers, lagoons and estuaries. Bottlenose dolphins are one of the most extensively studied species of dolphins as they inhabit inshore environments making them more accessible.

The main calving period for bottlenose dolphins is late spring/summer when the water temperature is at its peak, although they can give birth year round. These dolphins have a yearlong gestation period with an interval of three years between each birth. After birth the calves remain with their mothers for three – four years, this duration is dependent on nutrition and size. These years together are critical for development of social, foraging and courtship skills. These skills can vary greatly between habitats. Weaning of calves starts after three years and within 10 months of the mother’s next pregnancy. The age at which dolphins reach sexual maturity ranges considerably. Females are considered mature between four and 13 years and males at seven to 16 years, the difference in age is dependent on geographical and environmental differences.

Different species of bottlenose dolphins travel in different pod sizes, for example one species prefers travelling in pods between five – ten individuals whilst others in pods between 25 – 100. This variability depends upon food availability, activity, time of day and number of calves. Within these dynamic groups there may be an affinity between a few of the dolphins. These associations are hierarchical and depend on individual range and habitat type. These affinities usually occur between same sexes and mothers and calves. They have been known to last many years, with one association lasting 13 years. It has been observed that females have stronger associations and a larger social network than males.


When hunting bottlenose dolphins use the entire water column and feed on a variety of prey including fish, cephalopods, eels, small rays and sharks. Foraging methods depend on habitat, number of individuals and prey type. Dolphins are known to feed individually, in small groups and can use cooperative feeding strategies including circling, herding and bubble blowing. Dolphins are intelligent hunters, for example some have learnt to follow trawlers whilst others have been observed to use sponges on their nose for protection during hunting. These dolphins can make seasonal movements in response to prey location, water temperature and predation threats.
Bottlenose dolphins share their habitat with other dolphins including spinner dolphins. It is thought that the different species are able to live together due to differences in prey requirements and social behaviours. This co-existence is seen more commonly in the tropics and around coastal islands. This could be due to the higher concentration of nutrients compared to the open ocean.

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

The importance of a good dive buddy

From the very beginning of a divers training, the importance of being and having a good buddy is emphasised, it is one of the key aspects of recreational scuba diving. As well as helping reduce risk, a buddy should enhance your dive from start to finish – a shared experience is always the best!

Benefits of buddy diving:

  1. They are an extra pair of hands when donning the scuba gear and taking it off again at the end of a dive – why struggle alone when a buddy can help?
  2. In the water, they can offer reminders about planned/actual depth and to check how much air is left – on a really exciting dive where sharks and rays are swimming all around, divers can be easily distracted and forget these basic checks – a good buddy means another chance to remember
  3. Should a diver need a little help such as with a cramp in their leg a buddy can help to alleviate the problem quickly and effectively – the divers can then get back to enjoying the dive
  4. In absolute emergency situations such as running out of air, a panic situation or entanglement, a buddy is an immediate source of life-saving help, without which the consequences could be life-threatening
  5. Navigational help – two brains are often better than one in navigational challenges!
  6. Someone to share amazing sightings with and most importantly, a witness to the countless sharks, super rare critters and giant manta rays seen – without a buddy the story just wouldn’t be believable!
  7. A second pair of eyes on the reef and in the blue – diving with a buddy presents double the chance of spotting something really amazing.
  8. Safety stops can be a time of quiet contemplation of the dive just completed and they can also be a time of funny faces and silly signals…and a lot of laughing bubbles drifting up to the surface – a buddy can be an excellent source of entertainment, diving is meant to be fun after all.


Divers usually find themselves travelling without a dive buddy in tow but this is not a problem at all – especially when diving with Prodivers Maldives. Buddy teams are agreed on the boats and the instructor guiding the dive is always very happy to accompany anyone who isn’t paired up. It’s beneficial for the buddy teams to stay with the guide anyway as they know the reefs like the back of their hand and can point out all the really cool stuff.

As divers get more experienced they may be tempted to go and dive on their own, they may think that they can handle anything and become quite blasé about the risks involved. The fact is that scuba diving is a high-risk adventure sport IF embarked upon alone, but when the correct procedures are followed and the buddy diving system is adhered to, the sport enjoys an excellent safety record. No matter how experienced a diver is a good buddy is as essential as the tank on their back!

Shark Week 2018 with Prodivers Maldives

 

Picture by Ray van Eedden
Picture by Ray van Eedden

Shark Week 2018 saw the teams at Prodivers dive centers celebrate these amazing creatures in the best way possible – spending time with them in their natural environment, the ocean. The teams’ love of sharks is well-known, as is the Maldives for being a world-renowned shark diving hot-spot, and their love was shared on dives and snorkel trips as well as in the classrooms, on the boats and pretty much anywhere else they could! Prodivers even shared their sharky love with the world on Facebook and Instagram too! If you missed Shark Week don’t worry – every week is a shark week with Prodivers Maldives!

Take a look at how the Prodivers teams across the Maldives celebrated Shark Week 2018:

Hurawalhi
Instructor Steve and repeater guest Markus opened shark week on Hurawalhi with an amazing dive on Kuredu Express, where grey reef sharks were hunting and cleaning. Steve and Markus, together with other guests, were lucky enough to snorkel with a whale shark, also on Kuredu Express, just before the last dive of shark week.

The Prodivers team on Hurawalhi did in total 20 dives in which we saw 7 different species of sharks: 1 whale shark, 1 white tip reef shark, 88 grey reef sharks, 3 silver tip sharks, 1 lemon shark, 5 black tip sharks and 2 nurse sharks.

Lily Beach Maldives Diving

Komandoo
Besides the fact that it’s always shark week on Komandoo with the baby blacktip reef sharks patrolling around the island all day, the divers and snorkelers on Komandoo were very lucky as they had a couple of special encounters with Guitar Sharks during shark week around the island.

All scooter divers also enjoyed uncountable sightings of nurse, grey reef, lemon and silvertip sharks while crossing the channels of the Lhaviyani.

Kuredu
There’s just one word for Shark Week on Kuredu: EPIC!

Kuredu’s Shark Week couldn’t have been better: It started off with an epic early morning sunrise dive at Kuredu Express with grey reef sharks, a mobula manta ray, a silvertip shark and even dolphins under water! The team did scooter introductions and insane channel crossings where they saw a big school of eagle rays accompanied by lots of grey reef sharks, lemon sharks, around 50(!) silvertip sharks. The participants of the PADI Maldivian Shark & Ray Distinctive Specialty Course were also very lucky: Before they jumped in for their dive at Kuredu Express, they spotted on the top reef a whale shark and had the chance to snorkel with it! As this is a very rare sighting in Lhaviyani Atoll, all guests and the whole Prodivers team were super excited and happy about this incredible encounter!

Shark Week Maldives Diving

Lily Beach
Lily Beach arranged exciting trips for divers of all experience levels to search for sharks and identify the different species of common in South Ari Atoll. The highlight of the week was definitely a mature guitar shark on Kalu Giri, followed by a whale shark whilst snorkelling at Ari Beach. The biggest surprise: a massive silver tip reef shark at Vilamendhoo Thila during the current check, during the dive grey reef sharks, white tip reef sharks and a nurse shark resting on the top reef. Even the Bubblemakers spotted blacktip reef sharks during their sessions in the lagoon. Big smiles everywhere as we spotted sharks on all our dives during this special week.

Vakarufalhi
Vakarufalhi had an amazing week of sharks! As they had their boats filled with experienced and advanced divers, they were able to visit some of our more challenging dive sites. Diving into a strong current is always thrilling, and comes with rewards: among black-tips, we spotted some silvertip sharks! Silvertip sharks are a rare, oceanic species, that live nearby deep drop-offs. The place they can be often seen by divers is a shallower reef, serving them as a cleaning station- just like the dive site named 7th Heaven. Divers on the house reef also had a good time with the sleepy nurse shark and some white-tip reef sharks! The lagoon is a nursery for baby white-tip sharks, while their parents can be encountered around the reef, and for the ones who are obsessed with big fish: a whale shark has been seen also during the week. Vakarufalhi is only 30 minutes away from the marine protected area near Digurah Island, well known for whale-sharks!

Marine Science Workshop at Hurawalhi: The First of its Kind in Lhaviyani Atoll

Hurawalhi Maldives is proud to announce that the resort’s Marine Biology Center, a Manta Trust research facility, is set to host a Marine Science Workshop, the first of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll.

The workshop, which will take place on Saturday, 14th July 2018, invites marine biologists, dive instructors, snorkel guides and tour operators in the region (Lhaviyani Atoll) to come and meet their fellow ocean advocates and to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to provide their guests with the most up-to-date information; what’s more, the workshop will look to further instill sustainable tourism values and practices in the atoll’s community, and facilitate better research collection and collaboration in the atoll.

The workshop will be led by Manta Trust’s Project Manager and Hurawalhi’s Resident Marine Biologist, Kirsty Ballard, who will educate attendees about Manta Trust’s Maldivian Manta Ray Project‘s most recent finding. Kirsty will be joined by representatives from Atoll Marine Centre and Olive Ridley Project who will discuss their current turtle and clownfish research projects.

Event update and photo gallery

Marine Science Workshop Hurawalhi Maldives

The Workshop was a huge success! Participants from Hurawalhi, Kuredu, Komandoo, Kanuhura, Cocoon and Atoll Marine Centre had a fact-filled day. Hungry for knowledge, they were all ears during introductions from Kirsty Ballard who organised the event and Mohamed Solah, Director of Operations at Hurawalhi, and subsequent presentations: Kirsty further expanded on the Manta Trust research and findings, Dr. Stephanie Köhnk (Olive Ridley Project team member and Turtle Biologist and Educator at Kuredu) provided insights into sea turtle research, Atoll Marine Centre team shared knowledge on turtles, clownfish breeding programme and coral propagation, and CorAlive spoke about coral accretion methods.

Hurawalhi was pleased to have had the pleasure to host the Marine Science Workshop. We are certain that the resort’s Marine Biology Center will play an important role in educating marine users and providing tools to ensure tourism activities are conducted in a sustainable manner also in the future.

This was the first marine science workshop of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll and both Hurawalhi and Manta Trust are confident in saying that it provided an excellent starting point for an even more increased and integrated research collaboration within the atoll.

Underwater Symbiotic Relationships – Part 2

There are so many interesting symbiotic relationships happening underwater that we thought we should come back with more on the subject. If you missed our first article, you can read it here. There we explained the different types of symbiosis and introduced you to two interesting pairs. This month, we decided to talk about two other symbiotic relationships. One between a giant and a tiny fish, and the other invisible to our human eyes.

Cleaner wrasses and manta rays

Being manta season, we couldn’t leave this one out. Here is another example of mutualism, where these little fishes get food while ridding the mantas of dead skin and parasites.
The cleaner wrasses usually set up “shop” in a coral block, so the mantas can visit them. They swim around it with the mouth wide open and let the cleaners do their job. It is just like a spa or even a medical center, as the wrasses also keep the manta’s wounds clean, helping them to heal much faster.
Fun fact, the female mantas seem to spend much more time in the cleaning stations than the male ones. Does it remind you of another animal species?

Zooxanthellae and coral

Zoo…what??? We know, we know, that’s a difficult one to pronounce, but let us explain. Zooxanthellae is a brown-yellowish alga and we can definitely say it plays an essential part in the existence of coral reefs. These little algae find shelter in the coral polyp and start an interesting symbiotic relationship. The algae produce nutrients through photosynthesis, benefiting the host, which in turn expel a waste in the form of ammonium, a nutrient for the algae. Keeping this chain of food supply within, the coral has access to more food, therefore growing faster.

Global warming and coral bleaching

Coral bleaching has been a hot topic for many years now, but do you actually know what it is? The phenomenon is correlated to the symbiotic relationship above.
When the ocean gets too warm, the corals get stressed and expel the zooxanthellae, exposing its white skeleton. If the temperature quickly goes back to normal, the algae might come back, and the coral will slowly recover. A prolonged exposure to high temperature, might lead the coral to starvation, causing its death.

Guest Blogger at Ocean Dimensions

Diving and snorkelling in the Maldives is like no other place on Earth. Located at the incredible Kihaa Maldives Resort, Ocean Dimensions offers a range of courses and activities to allow novice and seasoned pros the chance to experience the wonders of the Indian Ocean.

With over 20 years in the Maldives, the Ocean Dimensions team not only offers its experience, but also its passion to those who would like to share and enjoy the waters around Kihaa and the world famous Baa Atoll, a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve.

Kihaa is the closest resort in the Maldives to Hanifaru Bay, a unique protected area that offers the chance to swim with manta rays and whalesharks as they come to the area to feed.

Ribbon Eels – the stars of Nakolhu Giri

Scuba diving in the Maldives brings with it the chance to see many ‘must-see’ creatures such as manta rays, sharks and turtles as well as huge shoals of tropical fish congregating on the reefs. All of these things are hard to miss and there is a whole lot more to see when you start diving very slowly and really looking at the reef, the critters that can be found can be just as mesmerising and special as the big stuff…

One such critter is the ribbon eel, also known as a ghost moray, Rhinomuraena quaesita, it is widespread in Indo-Pacific but not so common in the Maldives so finding one is a real treat. Divers in the Lhaviyani Atoll are in the fortunate position of being able to have a go a finding them on Nakolhu Giri where sightings have been occurring for many years.

Known to inhabit the same spot, once found the ribbon eels are easily found again – as long as they are not hiding in their hole at the moment the diver passes by. It pays to be patient and keep very still,just watching the area until it eventually pokes its head and neck out again. Patient observers will be rewarded with the distinctive flattened ribbon eel with its flared, extended nostrils. They reach a length of up to one meter but typically only the head and neck are seen. Their colour is very distinctive and eye-catching; males/juveniles have a black body with a bright yellow dorsal fin. As the ribbon eel matures it slowly turns to the more commonly sighted bright blue colour, also with the yellow dorsal fin and accents around the mouth. It’s not only the colour that changes as the ribbon eel matures, upon reaching a certain size, the body of the male starts to turn yellow and develop female parts until it can eventually lay eggs, making them sequential hermaphrodites. These completely yellow females are the rarest ribbon eels to spot.

For a chance to see these fascinating creatures come and dive with Prodivers and visit the beautiful underwater island reef of Nakolhu Giri.

Are Our Efforts in the Maldives to Reduce Plastic Waste Really Worth It?

We are overwhelmed with the fantastic response from businesses and like minded travellers looking at ways to improve sustainability through sustainable initiatives like banning single use plastic straws in the Maldives and around the world. Everyone is discussing what we will lose if we don’t take action now, but what will we gain? Is there really any benefit to this massive international surge of environmental awareness and initiatives? We discuss here some exciting things we will gain from all our efforts:

Creating Employment

Once people get into the habit of bringing reusable bags when they are shopping people will seek more durable bags so they last longer, thus creating new job opportunities for manufacturing durable sustainable shopping bags, thus creating employment! In Male Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society (MACCS) an advocate for alternatives to single use plastic bags in the Maldives are producing bags for life and working with corner stores, supermarkets and households to reduce the usage of single use plastic bags.

Saving Energy with a More Efficient Production Process

To produce nine plastic bags it takes the equivalent energy of driving a car 1km. Considering the typical life span of a plastic bag is about 12 minutes of use, this is a very inefficient use of time, energy and products. Creating sustainable, reusable bags makes more sense and uses far less energy.

Happy Marine Life!

There is an estimated 46,000 to 1,000,000 plastic fragments floating within every square mile of the world’s ocean. Often they are mistaken for food by animals, birds, and marine life like fish and sea turtles. The consumed plastic then congests the digestive tracts of these animals, and can lead to health issues such as infections and even death by suffocation. By us all working together to reduce this waste, marine life, birds and other animals won’t have to suffer these terrible infections or slow painful deaths from excessive plastic waste. Meaning they will have a safer, happier environment to live in and both guests as well as those who live in the Maldives can continue to enjoy our marine life bio diversity.

Healthy Humans

Plastic fragments in the ocean can absorb pollutants like PCBs and PAHs, which are known to be hormone-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals can be consumed and make their way through the ocean’s food chain which then pass into humans who eat fish and other marine organisms.Given that tuna forms part of the staple diet of Maldivians and that the fishing industry is also a key exporter of fish products, less pollutant means healthier humans!

Money Saved on Clean Up Can Be Used For Other Things

A lot of time, money and selfless effort from individuals and groups are contributed to the efforts of ocean and beach clean ups. Image what this money could be spent on if we were no longer fighting the plastic battle. Not to mention the extra time we would all have on our hands! A week doesn’t go by where there is not a beach clean-up organised on at least one island in the Maldives. Let’s estimate that there is 50 people cleaning for 4 hours once a week;our conservative estimate is over 10,500 hours a year being donated for free time by locals and tourists. Together with the expense of rubbish collection bags, gloves and travel.

Saving Money on the Weekly Shopping

Plastic bags cost about 3-5 cents each to produce, and that cost is either incorporated into prices of the items sold at stores or you as the shopper have to pay for the bag, either way you as the consumer are absorbing all the costs of these plastic bags. It is said that the average American shopper will use 500 bags per year, 80% of these are plastic. Image the money you will be saving if stores didn’t need to apply these additional costs into your shopping. More money to save for your vacations to the Maldives!

Some Top Tip on Staying Plastic Free on Your Holiday to the Maldives

Reusable Containers

The popular traditional afternoon snack hedhikaa is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. However take outs are often presented in the blue plastic bags. So by bringing your own reusable container you are refusing a single use plastic bag.

Refuse Plastic Straws

Let’s face it most of us don’t need to use a straw and those that do can use alternatives. So the next time you order a drink or enjoy a local coconut, refuse the plastic straw and tag us online #strawwarMV

Re-useable Water Bottles

So many more places are offering fresh, clean drinking water to re-fill your water bottle. So instead of drinking small bottles of water and throwing them out, re-fill your own water bottle.

Join a Beach Clean Up

We know you are on your holidays when you visit the Maldives but as you will be visiting the local islands why no find out if there is a beach cleanup organised during your stay. We work closely with Save the Beach and The Cleaning Quest, if you let us know before you arrive we can incorporate it into your tour package.

Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago.

Women’s Dive Day Maldives

50 local female divers ‘splash down’ with Moodhu Goyye for PADI Women’s Dive Day

 

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

The Maldives participated in the fourth annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on Saturday, with over 50 local female divers who enthusiastically dove into the event.

This marks the third time for the archipelago to take part in this special dive organised by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which brings together the female dive community from around the world to bond and share their love for the ocean and marine life.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

 

The Maldives participated in the fourth annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on Saturday, with over 50 local female divers who enthusiastically dove into the event.

This marks the third time for the archipelago to take part in this special dive organised by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which brings together the female dive community from around the world to bond and share their love for the ocean and marine life.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

Participating from Maldives are the members of “Moodhu Goyye”, an unofficial community of local women with a shared passion for water sports.

“This year we have 50 certified female divers taking part in the PADI Women’s Dive Day, in addition to five local instructors and four dive masters – all female,” PADI Course Director Zoona Naseem and Dive Instructor Shaziya Saeed told The Edition.

A giant moray eel photographed during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

The event began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m., with two dives scheduled. The first dive, according to Shaziya, was at ‘Lankan’ near Paradise Island Resort, while the second was at ‘Furana North’, a dive site off the coast of Furanafushi in capital Male Atoll.

Noting that Moodhu Goyye continues to attract more women towards the field of water sports, Shaziya expressed hopes that participating in the PADI Women’s Dive Day event would bring more women of all ages on board Scuba Diving.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU BULHAA

“Since all the dive guides at this event are women, we’re hoping to not only engage more ladies in recreational diving, but show that there are great opportunities for them in this field,” she said, further highlighting that two out of the three PADI-certified local course directors in Maldives are women.

“The field of diving is a very positive one here,” agreed Zoona. “There is a lot of support for female divers.”

A turtle photographed during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

Thanking various sponsors and dive centres that supplied the equipment and boats for the Women’s Dive Day, Zoona and Shaziya declared that they were looking to reach new heights with the local female dive community in the future.

“One of our future plans is to break the world record for most women Scuba Diving together, here in Maldives,” revealed Zoona. “We want to make the record by a substantial margin.”

Local women divers pictured before the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

PADI introduced the Women’s Dive Day in 2015, and it has continued to gain momentum as both new and experienced divers geared up for the events, which range from beginner to advanced dives as well as underwater clean-ups.

PADI Pros America reported that female certifications are noticeably increasing every year, noting that over 880 events were hosted in 85 countries just last year for the Women’s Dive Day.

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