A team of four tenacious women are coming together to kick off ‘Stand Up For Our Seas’ this month, an ambitious event aimed at raising awareness over a range of environmental issues in the Maldives.
Addu, the Heart-shaped Atoll, lies in the southernmost tip of the Maldives and is home to some of the most diverse natural habitats in the country. With its large islands, unique geography, flourishing population and long history and culture, Addu stands out as a destination that seamlessly marries nature with development. Addu represents a community evolved to embrace the future with imagination and pride.
With great pleasure we want to inform you that PADI Course Director Hussain “Sendi” Rasheed has been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (ISDHF) for his career service to the sport of recreational scuba diving
Hussain Rasheed (known as Sendi Rasheed) was the first PADI Course Director in the Republic of Maldives and a key figure in developing diving tourism there.
During his career, which is on-going, he has certified over 1,600 divers. He is active in developing regulations for the Maldives Islands and also works to assist marine environmental projects. His work came to international media attention when he created and organized an underwater Cabinet Meeting, chaired by the President of the Republic of Maldives, to bring world attention the threat of global warming.
He is the former Dean of the Faculty of Marine Studies at Villa College (2006 – 2008), overseeing four departments: Marine Science, Watersports, Scuba Diving and Marine Medicine.
He is affiliated as an Executive Director of all Villa Dive Centres under his company, Dive Oceanus, operating five PADI Dive Centres across four different atolls in the Maldives, and supervising 40 diving professionals. He is a founding member of the Divers Association Maldives (DAM).
Regarded as “the Godfather of the Maldivian diving industry” Hussain Rasheed, better known as Sendi, was born in Male’, the capital of the Republic of Maldives. He started diving in 1981 and became a PADI Divemaster in 1986, an Instructor in 1993, and Course Director in 2000. He currently focuses on teaching PADI Professionals and has been a mentor to literally thousands of new divers. Sendi has given numerous presentations at local schools, sharing his love and knowledge of diving and the marine environment, thus ensuring that the next generation of Maldivian’s understands their importance to the Maldivian economy, and also to the nation’s culture. Using regional television he has been able to further expand his programs delivering them to a much wider national audience.
In recognition of his many efforts on behalf of diving and the marine environment, Sendi has received both the Maldives Tourism Award, and the Presidential Award. Each of these are major career acknowledgements, and together they recognize his contributions and ongoing dedication over many years.
Sendi is a keen underwater photographer and dedicated diving professional. When asked about what he likes most about his work instructing divers he noted that, “It is the satisfaction that they will become environmental ambassadors. So, for the Professionals… they will become the ambassador trainers. I enjoy every moment, on all levels, and have so many good memories.”
Sendi has been actively involved in the lobbying of all marine protected species and dive sites in the Maldives since he started scuba diving. As a witness to the decline in the area’s shark population he has been active in opposing shark finning and the sale of shark souvenirs such as jaws and teeth, and was an effective supporter of the 2010 national legislation that provided protection to sharks.
Sendi’s 37 – year career shows his deep love of the ocean that he actively works to protect, and his educational abilities that produce a continuing stream of diving professionals that become Maldivian Ocean Ambassadors.
Since his first breaths underwater, Sendi has seen the Maldives diving industry grow from a few explorers to a multiple million – dollar industry that directly benefits thousands of local Maldivian many of who directly or indirectly owe their role in the industry to him. Sendi thanks his father for inspiring him to venture out into the blue, and to succeed in his chosen field. “He taught me that the ocean was not something to fear, but that it had much to offer.” His wife of 30 years and their two children, he credits with the rest of his impressive journey.
The immensity of the contribution that Sendi has made towards diving in the Maldives is indisputable.
During the resent BOOT show in Düsseldorf, Euro-Divers Worldwide together with PADI had the privilege to raffle a piece of art painted underwater by a Maldivian artist named Ihfal Ahmed.
The proceeds were generously donated to the Project AWARE foundation.
About the artist
Hussain Ihfal Ahmed, is a compelling artist who has experienced different mediums and techniques. His understanding of art led him to break free from art practices that are holding artist from reaching a favourable outcome. These artworks are a challenge to break boundaries and creating new techniques and insights.
He has more than 15 years of experience in the field. He creates his paintings to make people aware of climate change and sea level rise that are threatening the very existence of his home country Maldives.
The artist, who was born and raised in Maldives hopes to convey the urgency of threats to his nation through art!
The lucky winner …..
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:
- Arrival – Some of the birds would migrate from the old island to the new one.
- Population increase – With more nesting space available the populations of each island would increase.
- 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.
Earth Hour is an annual worldwide movement to encourage individuals, communities, and businesses to conserve our resources. Celebrating it is a symbol of our commitment to our planet.
At Gili we celebrated Earth Hour on March 24th with the rest of the world, we hosted a Coral Conservation themed day with multiple events leading into each other. For each event, all guests and hosts were invited to attend and take part.
Our first event was a coral workshop hosted for Marine Biologists and enthusiasts. In attendance were three participants from our local island Himmafushi who have a keen interest in protecting their reef and inspiring locals. Additionally, Marine Biologists from Four Seasons Resort, Bandos Resort, Atoll Marine Centre and Hurawalhi Resort attended. Jinah, a journalist from Hotelier Maldives covered our event celebrations.
Our coral lines project launched in 2014 and currently has 190+ lines, each containing around 50 coral fragments. The aim of the project is to rehabilitate our degraded house reef through direct transplantation of mature corals and through indirect coral spawning from the nursery. The project was the first low-tech and high efficiency coral recovery project that involves rope in the Maldives.
Due to the optimal location and care that goes into the project we had 68% survival after the El Nino event and the crown of thorn starfish outbreak. Due to the success of our project, many Marine Biologists are interested in learning more as they want to launch their own projects or further their current projects in other locations. This is why we invited them to join us in celebration of Earth Hour.
We felt that hosting a coral conservation themed day would create a platform for a discussion on possible project improvements and new project ideas. Overtime the coral line nursery will contain heat tolerant coral species, fragmenting these species and planting lines could lead to natural spawning of more heat tolerant species which will increase survival rate in future warming events. This will lead to the creation of more healthy reefs decreasing the pressure of predation, providing a healthier habitat, refuge and nurseries for marine organisms like turtles, juvenile fish and other fish species as well as conserving a key ecological ecosystem.
On the day the visiting Marine Biologists arrived at 14:00pm and a land based presentation was carried out, topics included an in depth overview of the project, project creation, management, challenges and future plans. This was followed by a practical demonstration of making a coral line, monitoring the lines and general maintenance including cleaning and removal of invasive species. To view the coral line made by the Marine Biologists click here. To conclude there was a group discussion on possible project improvements and a question and answer session.
Following the success of the coral workshop together with guests, Marine Biologists and hosts we designed and created a coral shape in the sand on Library Beach. In celebration of the official Earth Hour which is between 20:30 – 21:30 we turned off none essential lights and filled the coral shape with sustainably sourced candles – coconuts and used cooking oil. During the official event our coral shape was beautifully illuminated by flickering candle lights and guests, Marine Biologists and hosts were able to enjoy this display whilst attending our Earth Hour cocktail evening.
To conclude our Earth Hour celebrations we hosted the documentary Chasing Coral in our Jungle cinema and Host Village. Chasing coral is a fantastic documentary about a group of divers, photographers and scientists who set out on an ocean adventure to discover why the reefs are disappearing and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. They found that coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate and documented their discoveries and explained them in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Overall the event was a huge success with all participants learning something new and being inspired to help conserve our resources. We hope that you will join us in celebrating Earth Hour next year!
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.
It doesn’t matter if you are a professional diver or a certified diver …as divers we have the passion, the access to the underwater world and the skills to become real ocean advocates!
We are a powerful movement which, through our actions of reporting and collecting valuable data can make the ocean safer for marine life, and more importantly, help inform policy change.
To further mobilize the citizen scientists, Project AWARE in 2016 launched the Adopt A Dive Site™ program.
Adopt A Dive Site is a unique and powerful program to involve dive centers, resorts and leaders around the world in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of local dive sites: participants commit to carry out monthly Dive Against Debris surveys, reporting types and quantities of marine debris found underwater each month from the same location.
To support Adopt a Dive Site participants, Project Aware will provide a full suite of survey tools to help implement their actions, a yearly report on the state of your local dive site and recognition tools for dive centers, resorts and leaders to share their stewardship with local customers and community.
Here are the PADI Pros and Dive centers who have made a commitment to their local dive sites through the Adopt A Dive Site program:
- ADS44 – Abu Dhabi Steel Blocks, Saeed Majed, Abu Dhabi
- ADS170 – House Reef, Natalie Sjostrom, Divers Down, Dubai
- ADS226 – Dibba Rock, The Palms Dive Center, Dubai
- ADS232 – Alga Wreck, Archimede Diving Center, Djerba
- ADS240 – Ricardo Wreck, Archimede Diving Center, Djerba
- ADS241 – Ras Taguermess Rocks, Archimede Diving Center, Djerba
- ADS253 – Sheraton Red Sea Resort, Issam Kanafani, Jeddah
- ADS265 – King Abdullah’s Reef, Marlee Thomas, Camel Dive Center, Jordan
- ADS268 – Dibba Rock, Hassan Khayal, Dubai
- ADS269 – Inchcape 1, Kholousi Khayal, Dubai
- ADS277 – Dream Beach, Muneeb Ur Rehman, Professional Zone, Jeddah
- ADS280 – Snoopy Island, Annie Halloran, The Dive Centre – Dubai
- ADS314 – Shark Island, Hassan Khayal, Dubai
- ADS382 – Dibba Rock, Kayleigh Hyslop, Freestyle Divers, Dubai
- ADS387 – Artificial Reef, Kayleigh Hyslop, Freestyle Divers, Dubai
What are you waiting for? Adopt A Dive Site™
Gili Lankanfushi conserves our limited resources and cleans up our islands to help preserve our future.
Following the success of plastic recycling on Gili Lankanfushi we took the leap and expanded our project. On November 2nd Gili Lankanfushi visited Himmafushi, a local island and a big producer of plastic waste due to their plastic water bottle factory. With the assistance of the local NGO Parley, who are spearheading plastic recycling in the Maldives our aim was to implement a plastic recycling project at the school and expand this throughout the island. Together with Parley, the teachers and local council members in attendance Gili Lankanfushi conducted a 30 minute presentation including two activities which all the children participated in. The presentation was well received and the council were positive regarding expanding recycling to all areas of the island. After the school visit 50 staff from Gili Lankanfushi conducted an island plastic clean to demonstrate how easy it is to recycle plastic and what types of plastic can be recycled. A huge amount of plastic was collected and on seeing this the Himmafushi local community has also become inspired to recycle their plastic waste. Gili Lankanfushi will remain in close contact with Himmafushi and offer support and guidance when needed.
Throughout August 2017 on Gili Lankanfushi 280 hosts attended the sustainability training. Host mentally regarding plastic pollution, water, electricity and food waste has now changed for the better. In addition to Gili Lankanfushi’s plastic presentation Maai Rasheed from Parley visited and conducted a presentation about plastic recycling. Hosts can now be seen regularly recycling their plastic and helping with island cleans – for example the recent Himmafushi clean.
Following the training activities aimed at increasing host water and electricity use awareness, hosts now know how to reduce wasting these resources through enhanced understanding of water and electricity requirements of common activities. They were given top energy and water saving tips, for example using the fan over the AC, turning off electrical appliances, washing full loads in the washing machine at a low temperature – 20°C, air drying clothing, turning off lights, having shorter showers, only using a small amount of water when cleaning, turning the tap off when brushing teeth, shaving and soaping up. You can make these changes too!
Over the coming months plastic recycling, food waste, electricity and water use will be monitored. In the near future we will host a no bin day in the canteen which will teach hosts about portion and waste control. We have already observed a decrease in water use – before training the average host would use 200L of water per day – this is now reduced to 160L. We are confident that hosts will continue to reduce the waste of resources and participate in plastic recycling.
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
A team of more than 113 guests and staff took part in the event and collected rubbish from the islands, the ocean and the reefs.
A staggering 75 bags were collected as well as lots of pieces of wood and metal. The volunteers were organised into groups and were each given an area to clean.
After the clean-up came the celebration – participants enjoyed a cocktail party held in their honor and were each given a thank you gift of an event t-shirt.
A big thank you to the guests, Resort staff and Prodivers team members who gave up their time for such a good cause – what an amazing team effort.
We all could do with reducing our carbon footprint and one easy way is to support local and global sea grass conservation initiatives.
Known as the lungs of the ocean, sea grass can produce 10 litres of oxygen per 1m2 everyday! Sea grass meadows are also a fantastic carbon sink as they sequester carbon dioxide from the water and this can slow the effects of ocean acidification created by global warming. This beautiful plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change.
Yet despite this, 29% of global sea grass beds have already disappeared with 7% more being lost per year. In an attempt to address this issue, the Marine Biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is conducting a sea grass regrowth experiment. At the resort we have sea grass growing in shallow lagoons around the island and in a 10m2 area on the south east side of the island, we have been collecting data on how fast sea grass regrows after it has been removed.
The experiment has currently been running for six months, so it is too early to be accurate, but results currently show that 10% of the area has signs of regrowth. To date, we are only seeing shoots of a robust species of sea grass called E.acoroides. This is a species found in the tropics in water depth of one to three metres with light wave action.
In the beds we find nursery fish, crustaceans, worms and sea cucumbers using the leaves as a nursery and haven against the current. We also often see resident green sea turtles feeding on sea grass as it is their primary diet and they consume 2kg per day!
Marine Biologists are very pro sea grass because sea grass beds stabilise sediment and reduce erosion by creating a network of roots. They also increase the water clarity and quality by soaking up nutrients or chemicals that run into the water. If given the choice, we would regenerate the meadows surrounding the island as with an increased meadow size, the resort would benefit from cleaner and clearer water and an increased population of nursery fish species and green sea turtles. By regenerating the full size of our sea grass meadows we would also offset some of our carbon footprint.
We have been in touch with sea grass specialists from Seagrass Watch and SeagrassSpotter and hope to work with these global conservation projects in the future. We have learnt from their wealth of experience that it takes around 3-4 years to naturally replenish a small sized, single species sea grass meadow and around 10 years to replenish a large sized multi-species meadow. If we helped regrowth by planting sea grass seeds, the areas would be replenished in around 2 years.
This brilliant plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change. We hope resorts in the Maldives consider regenerating their sea grass beds to help offset their carbon footprint.
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.