Today, the Government of the Maldives, in partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, is launching the first of several ground-breaking scientific expeditions to explore the country’s diverse marine habitats from shallow to deep water. The data collected will inform policymakers on ways to sustainably manage fisheries and improve ocean health across the archipelago. These expeditions are part of a larger partnership between the Government of the Maldives and the Blue Prosperity Coalition with the goal of sustainably utilising and protecting ocean resources.

“71% of Maldivians rely on the ocean for their primary source of income. It’s imperative that we protect the health of our oceans now and for the future. By studying our ocean from shallow reefs to deep waters we are taking a step forward towards effectively understanding and managing our ocean resources,” said President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The first expedition, led by the Waitt Institute, the Sandin Lab from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, members of the Ministry of Fisheries, and scientists from the Maldives Marine Research Institute, will survey the health of coral reef habitats and fish populations across the Northern and Southern atolls. The 26-day expedition will consist of scuba diving surveys, collection of water quality samples, and the use of remote cameras to better understand the composition and health of nearshore marine habitats.

Shafiya Naeem, Head of Maldives Marine Research Institute, commented, “From fisheries to tourism to our way of life, the ocean is a key part of each Maldivian. We are excited that this expedition will build upon existing research being done by the government to explore the sustainable use of the ocean.”

In addition to enriching our understanding of the Maldives’ ocean resources, this research will assist policymakers in several regards, including: marine spatial planning efforts to designate ocean zones to be used for specific activities, devising ways of preserving important fish stocks, and; helping to implement sustainable tourism practices that can improve ocean livelihoods and economies without compromising ocean health.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to work with the Government to better understand the unique ocean ecosystem of the Maldives. Surveying the many reefs across the entire Maldives’ archipelago will help us understand the bigger picture of ocean health and prioritise the areas that need to be protected,” said Andrew Estep, Science Manager of the Waitt Institute.

The Government of the Maldives and the Blue Prosperity Coalition signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the 74th United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City in September 2019, formalising a five-year programme that will involve local ministries, non-governmental organisations, and marine experts from both the Maldives and abroad. The Blue Prosperity Coalition is a global network of ocean experts working to advance ocean protection and grow Blue Economies. 

Members include the Waitt Institute, National Geographic Pristine Seas, Nekton, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Through close partnership, the Maldives’ Government and Blue Prosperity Coalition aim to sustainably grow ocean economies and ensure a thriving marine environment for future generations.

You can follow the progress of current and future expeditions, along with related scientific work with the hashtag #KanduFalhuDhiraasaa and follow all Blue Prosperity Coalition related work with the hashtag #NooRaajje.