The government, in partnership with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, concluded its 26-day expedition to survey the marine ecosystem of Maldives from northernmost Haa Alif Atoll to the southern atoll of Laamu.
Led by the coalition, scientists from eight countries took part in the study. The researchers processed diverse sampling techniques such as 3D coral imaging, environment DNA (eDNA) sampling, baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) and water quality sampling.
As part of the expedition, 978 scientific dives were recorded in 16 atolls and 690 hours of BRUVS footage was captured. Moreover, 48 3D images of coral reefs were created.
The expedition was temporarily joined by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed and the Minister of Fisheries Marine Resources and Agriculture Zaha Waheed, in its northern leg at Neykurendhoo and Keylakunu, Haa Dhaalu Atoll. Keylakunu was protected by the President in 2018 under his pledge to protect one island, one reef, one mangrove in every atoll.
The next leg of the expedition to survey the remaining southern atolls of Gaafu Alif, Gaafu Dhaalu, Fuvahmulah and Addu will take place in March.
In a recently held press briefing, Head of MMRI, Shafiya Naeem, deemed the research as the most comprehensive study on Maldivian marine ecosystems to date.
Further, Minister Zaha stressed the importance of facilitating tangible measures to preserve the marine environment, noting the protection of natural resources for future generations as a "large responsibility which rests on everyone's shoulders".
According to the President's Office, the expedition, part of a larger partnership between the Maldives' Government and Blue Prosperity Coalition, will devise a five-year programme to ensure the sustainability of oceanic resources, and marine environment, including territorial seas, archipelagic seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The agreement will also promote the advancement of Maldivian ocean science and stewardship through research, education, capacity building and outreach, including collaborating with and providing support to local scientists and civil society.
Blue Prosperity Coalition partners include the Waitt Institute, National Geographic Pristine Seas, and Nekton Mission.