Archive for Marine Life

Climate Change Pushes Maldives into Uncharted Waters; Ecosystem-based Adaptation is Imperative for its Survival.


Coral bleaching 2010, Maniyafushi, 0ver 50% corals bleached but recovered causing little mortality.

In a new United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report titled, the “Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report” released on 24 March 2014, like its past reports,  scientists predict apocalyptic consequences unless the world changes course immediately and dramatically, the fundamental systems that support human civilization are at risk.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the effects of warming are “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”

The effects of warming on the Maldives further push it into uncharted waters. Maldives is a coral atoll based nation and coral ecosystem adds significantly to the national economy. Maldives tourism heavily depends on the goods and services the reefs provide in addition to the coastal protection they provide.

Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years. This observed increase is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently projected the rise of the sea level worldwide by two feet by 2100 as a result of melting ice sheets and the expanding of the sea by warming seawater.


2010, Maniyafushi, partially dead coral.

Temperature increase human induced coral bleaching.

Warming of the sea and changes to the weather pattern has been associated with coral bleaching leading to wide spread damage to coral reefs at a global scale.

Coral bleaching is caused when rising water temperatures stress the coral, forcing the coral to expel the algae it uses to obtain food and other nutrients.

When water temperatures rise even slightly (1-2 Degrees Celsius), algae leave the coral polyp causing the coral to lose its colour and eventually die due to insufficient food source.

Coral bleaching in 1998 in Maldives, severely beached 90% of hard corals in shallow waters. Bleaching was also recorded at depths in access of down to 30m. Post bleaching survey of the reefs at several location throughout the atolls across the country by Marine Research Centre showed a little over 2% on in 2004 shows recovery of 2 to 29% live coral, but the recovery extremely varies between the sites. Southern atolls showed faster recovery whereas the central and northern atoll showed slower recovery indicating regional differences in terms of reef recovery.


Bandos house reef, 2010 bleaching. A good recovery at one of the monitoring sites by MRC as part of long term monitoring of reefs initiated in 1998. The impact of 2010 bleaching was not significant since 90%of bleached corals recovered.

With IPCC predictions in increase in frequency of bleaching at global level, Maldives also witnessed coral bleaching event again in June 2010, similar to coral bleaching since of 1998 bleaching event. However, damage to the reefs due to bleaching of 2010 was far less that of 1998. Previous exposure to severe condition of bleaching may have resulted in conditioning the coral to recurrent exposure. This perceived increase in resilience is seen a positive indicator that the reefs can buffer extreme environmental pressure.

With little sign of reducing climate related pressure it is important to reduce and manage human induced pressures on these important ecosystems. Adaptation to climate change by changing the attitudes society to use natural resources at ecosystem level has always been important. The goods and services provided by the coral reefs and the pressures on these services are now been understood in the context of their capacity to natural and human pressures at ecosystem level.

Therefore, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is vital to Maldives to ensure these ecosystems are maintained to ensure inter generational equity.

 

Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is vital to Maldives

Conserving terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems should be vital for the overall goals of National Climate Change Adaption Plan for the Maldives. The atoll island ecosystems play a crucial role in providing number of ecosystem goods and services that are necessary for well-being of the people and the very survival of the islands in adapting to climate change.


Huraa Mangrove. Protected but surrounding development of various infrastructures are encroaching causing concerns.

Coral reefs act as first line of defence against wave action and storm surges and reduce coastal erosion.

Shallow Lagoon and sea grass beds of island in between the reef and beach act as second line of defence.

The coastal vegetation (Heylhi) with salt tolerant plants act as third line of defence.

Mangroves play vital role in protecting the atoll islands from coastal erosion by the waves, stop erosion and protect the islands.

Even though atoll ecosystems provide a wide range ecosystem based services, the degradation of many ecosystems due to the local human activities are drastically reducing the capacity to protect the islands, livelihood and loss of biodiversity.

The poor waste management and disposal via dumping untreated waste near coastal shores hamper coral growth and damage coral reefs. Untreated sewage into coastal areas creates potential problems such nutrient enrichment, algal blooms and eutrophication. Such situations badly upset coral reef.

It is imperative to protect the coral reefs, sea grass, coastal vegetation and wetlands to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change. Conserving island terrestrial, freshwater and marine island ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems should be vital for the overall goals of National Climate Change Adaption Plan for the Maldives.

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MALDIVES ALLOWS HARVESTING OF ENDANGERED TURTLES EGGS: Isn’t it the High Time Maldives Outlawed all Marine Turtle Egg Consumption.

All marine turtles not all the eggs are protected in the Maldives and the most recent legislative measure to conserve turtles came into effect from January 2006, when for the first time harvesting turtle eggs from 14 islands was prohibited in the Maldives. In addition, the regulation prohibited catching or killing of any marine turtle species nationwide, and their sale, import and export of its products for ten years.

Bluepeace from very its inception in 1989 has been adamantly advocating for the conservation of marine turtles in the Maldives. Prior to the Rio Summit in 1992, the Maldives was the second largest exporter of the tortoiseshell (hawksbill turtle shells) in the world, and Bluepeace felt the seriousness of the issue, and raised our concern with the President of the Maldives and requested to take measures to protect the endangered turtles in the Maldives. Few months later, the Government enforced a tortoiseshell  export ban, while the export of processed ornamentals made from tortoiseshell was permitted. Even then it was prohibited to capture Hawksbill turtles less than two feet (61cm) in carapace length and other turtles less than two and half feet (76cm) carapace length.

The Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) , a leading non-profit organization that works undercover to fight environmental crime in March 1995 found tortoiseshell products were openly available in shops in Colombo despite a complete ban on its sale in Sri Lanka. The EIA infiltrated the trade and their investigation revealed that four main dealers were exporting tortoiseshell to Sri Lanka from Maldives, often smuggled in consignments of dried fish, and tracked down the biggest supplier in the Maldives. The entire EIA investigation was filed with hidden camera. On 30 March 1995 as part of the “Animal Detectives” series British national television broadcasted the entire investigation.

Under heavy pressure from environmentalists around the world and even threatening to boycott Maldives resorts, intervention of Parliamentarians from Europe and at a time when momentum was gathering for huge protest in front of the Travel Market in London by environmental groups. Bowing to this pressure, the Maldives Government had an Emergency Cabinet meeting on 21 June 1995 to protect marine turtles.

The Emergency Cabinet decided a 10 ten year moratorium prohibiting catching or killing of any marine turtle species, and their sale, import and export of its products for ten years. However, the poaching of marine turtle eggs was not banned. According to the Press Release the Cabinet decision was “aimed at conserving the dwindling turtle population in the Maldivian waters, which the Government saw as a serious threat to the marine environment of the country.” The Press Release also stated that the Government of the Maldives had decided to take a number of other measures towards conserving marine turtle. They consist of “the formulation of legislation for protecting endangered species, the setting up of sanctuaries for turtle conservation and the presentation of national awards for conservationists.”

When the first 10 years moratorium expired on 2004, it was extended for another 10 years in 2006, apart from prohibiting catching or killing of any marine turtle species, and their sale, import and export of its products for ten years, for the first time harvesting turtle eggs from 14 islands has been included. The Press Release  by the Fisheries Ministry says that while the new 10-year moratorium was adopted after the earlier one expired in 2004, catching turtles and taking turtle eggs from specific islands were banned because it takes a long time for turtles to grow and because the measures taken before to protect sea turtles did not show satisfying results. However, Fisheries Ministry’s announcement said that when banned on catching or killing was imposed in 1995, turtles have started to become more visible in the waters of the Maldives.

Turtle egg harvesting has been banned from the following islands, but not enforced in the Maldives. HA. Mulidhoo, HDH. Muiree, HDh. Vaikaramuraidhoo, R. Furaveri, R. Vandhoo, B. Maamaduvvari, B. Maaddoo, B. Olhugiri, B. Miriyandhoo, Th. Kanimeedhoo, Th. Fonaudoo, Th. Kandoodhoo, L. Gaadhoo, GDh. Gan.

Under the 2006 ten years moratorium, 14 sanctuaries have been declared protected and its nesting beaches in the Maldives. Sadly there has been no proper management and enforcement of regulations.  Some of the resorts do protect the nesting beaches, however most nesting beaches are not protected from human encroachment. Eggs harvesting and even removing eggs from turtles stomach while it alive and illegal poaching of turtles have become most critical issue facing in the Maldives to save dwindling stock of marine turtles.

The Maldives should declare a nationwide total ban on harvesting of turtle eggs, and properly protect and manage feeding grounds and other important habitats for effective conservation and management of these interesting endangered turtles. Almost all the uninhabited islands are leased to individuals or companies. The Government should include a new clause prohibiting the harvesting of turtle eggs from their nests and to protect the nesting beaches to the existing agreement on leasing of uninhabited islands. However, this would not solve the problem of poaching of eggs completely without strict enforcement.

While enforcement of regulation is critical, refreshing public memory on the need to protect and preserve turtle population in Maldives has also become important. Responsible public agencies, such as Island Councils, civil society organisations and media should make an effort to raise awareness on and enforce the regulations on turtle protection.

 

REFERENCES
Anderson R. C and Waheed A (1990) Exploratory fishing for large pelagic species in the Maldives. Bay of Bengal Programme. BOBP/REP/46: 46pp.

Didi N. T. H (1993) DhivehirajjeygaiUlheyVelaa.Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture of Fisheries and Agriculture Malé Republic of Maldives. 74pp.

Frazier J. G (1975) Marine turtles of the Western Indian Ocean.Oryx. XIII (2): 164-175.
Frazier J. G., Salas S., Didi N. T. H (1984) Marine turtles in the Maldives Archipelago. Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture of fisheries Malé Maldives. 53pp.

Gardiner J. S (1906) The fauna and geography of the Maldive and Laccadive Archipelago. Cambridge University press.2 vols.

Hackett H. E (1977) Marine algae known from the Maldive islands.Atoll Research Bulletin. 210: iii + 30.

Laidlaw F. F (1903) In: Gardiner J. S The fauna and geography of the Maldives and Laccadive Archipelago 1: 119-122.

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FISH DYING EN MASSE IN THE MALDIVES

Dead fish are being sighted all over the Maldives at present. First it was reported in July 2007 near Meemu Atoll Raiymandhoo. At that time, according to the Marine Research Centre, dead fish floating near Raiymandhoo were caused by ‘red tide’. At present the Marine Research Center says the deaths were due to low levels of oxygen. However, it is still unknown what causes the recent deaths of thousands of reef fish all over the Maldives. Officials warn locals not to touch or eat the fish. And they are also burying the dead fish to avoid health dangers.

Dead fish on beach of a resort in Ari Atoll and dead reef fish in the inner habour of Malé.
Dead fish on the beach of a resort island in Ari Atoll and
dead reef fish in the inner habour of Malé.

In August 2007 masses of dead fish have been sighted in Ari Atoll. During the last week of November, many dead fish were spotted in the harbour at Kamadhoo of Baa Atoll.

On 2 December 2007, masses of dead fish were littering the eastern and northern beaches of Hulhumale’, around Male’ and Villigili.

Most of the dead fish spotted are reef fish such as triggerfish, groupers and parrotfish.

The Marine Research Centre has said that they were monitoring the unusual phenomenon and that they have sent dead fish specimens to India and Denmark for examination. They are also conducting research to find the oxygen concentration of the surface waters in the seas where the dead fish were spotted in order to ascertain the possible cause of masses of dead fish.

Sulfur Fumes of the Piton de la Fournaise of La Réunion

The Piton de la Fournaise volcano on the French island of La Réunion ( a small island wedged between Madagascar and Mauritius) in the Indian Ocean, which has erupted more than 150 times since the 17th century, has been active since August 2006. On May 2007, Piton de la Fournaise volcano erupted, with the total estimated volume of 120 million cubic meters, making this event one of the largest known historical eruptions. The volcano spat lava 200 meters into the air, while lava flows into the sea had killed hundreds of fish near La Réunion. The most recent activity has been called by experts as “eruption of the century”.

Are the sulfur fumes of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano causing fish dying en masse in the Maldives? If coco-de-mer can float to the Maldives from Seychelles, why cannot sulfur fumes of the Piton de la Fournaise reach the Maldives with ocean currents? Is algae poisoned by sulfur or is there an algae boom caused by sulfur? We need to wait and see the results of the tests of experts.

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