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Making waves in the Maldives

June 7, 2023 - Six Senses Laamu and the Maldives Underwater Initiative unveil their marine conservation progress and sustainability results from 2022, cultivating waves of positive actions around the Laamu Atoll and beyond.

Since it opened in 2011, Six Senses Laamu has aimed to lead the Maldivian tourism industry through meaningful marine conservation efforts based on research, education, and community outreach.

“Our oceans are facing unprecedented threats. To protect our marine ecosystems, we need to understand our oceans and the life within them. Six Senses Laamu recognizes its responsibility to contribute and, where possible, pioneer and share solutions to drive sustainability and conservation within the tourism industry,” shares Marteyne van Well, Regional General Manager. “Looking to the future, we will continue to find innovative and creative ways to share the team’s research, making it accessible to guests, hosts, and local and scientific communities alike, with the aim of creating the next generation of conservation heroes.”

The Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) is a marine conservation collaborative involving  Six Senses Laamu’s marine biologists and partner NGOs; The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and the Olive Ridley Project, aspiring to make a splash that matters and ripples throughout the seven seas.

Ripple after ripple, wave after wave

To mark World Seagrass Day on March 1, 2019, MUI launched the #ProtectMaldivesSeagrass campaign to preserve seagrass at all resorts in the Maldives. In 2020, Six Senses Laamu launched the home-based Junior Marine Biology program during global travel restrictions to help foster an understanding of marine biology and the importance of marine conservation.

The Laamu Atoll was designated as one of the planet's Hope Spots by the international non-profit organization, Mission Blue, in the following year, 2021, highlighting Laamu’s unique marine ecosystems and how they are proven to hold significant ecological, economic, and cultural importance.

In 2022, the vision of creating a marine conservation center for environmental learning became a reality. On May 6, the cornerstone of the Sea Hub of Environmental Learning in Laamu (SHELL) was placed. This facility now houses the MUI team, along with a gallery exhibition space, offices, a marine laboratory, a cinema room, and an interactive zone. The team also use it to showcase the progress made.

Sea-sational stats from 2022

Megafauna sightings

  • A total of 4,666 sea turtle sightings were reported, including Green turtles, which are classified as Endangered, and Hawksbill turtles, which are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN red list.
  • There were 8,877 shark sightings, including over seven different species, including Black Tip Reef Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, and the Endangered Grey Reef Shark.
  • Along with sharks, 3,812 rays were spotted including nine different species, with two sightings of the very rare Ornate Eagle Ray.
  • There were 1,374 sightings of the Endangered Napoleon Wrasse.

Reef recovery

It has been an exciting year of coral spawning, with 70 colonies observed and 22 colonies tracked long-term. Every six months, the MUI team takes part in the reef monitoring framework Climate Change Adaptation Programme (CCAP), donning their dive gear and surveying the same location over multiple years to assess the temporal changes in the reef ecosystem and monitor the overall health.

Saving the seagrass

This essential ecosystem has a superpower – seagrass meadows – which are highly effective at carbon sequestration, the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Indeed, seagrass is estimated to be 35 times more effective at this process than even a tropical rainforest!

  • 200,591 square meters of protected seagrass meadows at Six Senses Laamu.
  • A 42.87 percent increase in meadow size from 2020 to 2022.

Manta rays are saying hi

Did you know that each individual manta ray has a unique spot pattern on its belly? This allows researchers to identify individuals, study population dynamics, and track their movements in a non-invasive manner using photo identification.

  • In 2022, there were 657 confirmed manta ray sightings, an increase of 209 sightings compared to 2021.
  • Our most sighted individual, with 39 sightings across the year, was none other than Michele, our poster star of Laamu.

The mystery of manta ray births continues, with no natural birth recorded in the wild. The team did, however, witness 15 individuals displaying courtship behavior. The hope is to observe pregnancies in the coming months using the world’s first contactless underwater ultrasound scanner, created in collaboration with Vetsonic, IMV Imaging, Cambridge University, and Six Senses Laamu.

In the depths

“We are proud of MUI’s journey so far, and the research and results that have come out of this marine collaboration between the resort and its partnering NGOs,” Marteyne van Well concludes. “Since the resort opened in 2011, we have strived to be a leader, not only in minimizing negative impacts on the environment, but also in establishing a standard for tourist resorts to make a positive impact and give back.”

Ready to dive in?
reservations-laamu@sixsenses.com
+960 680 0800

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