President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared on Tuesday that Maldivians "have a responsibility to safeguard and conserve our oceans for future generations".
Speaking at an event held by Maldives Marine Research Institute in association with Blue Prosperity Coalition at Neykurendhoo island of Haa Dhaalu Atoll.
Marine Research Institute is currently conducting researches on the Maldivian marine environment in collaboration with Blue Prosperity Coalition. President Solih expressed his gratitude to members involved in the expedition, citing that it is by far the most detailed research expedition launched to survey our oceans.
President Solih noted that tourism and fisheries are the largest economic drive forces of the country and that the expedition will gather much-needed statistics to assist policymakers in making more informed decisions.
Minister of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Zaha Waheed met the participants of the expedition aboard Carpe Diem boat and inaugurated the event last week.
The President is also currently in Neykurendhoo, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, to observe the ongoing expedition. During his time at the atoll, President Solih will also take part in a dive with the expedition team and visit Neykurendhoo, an island famous for its unique environmental aspects.
This expedition series aims to ensure that the development projects in Maldives are carried out in a sustainable manner without damaging the marine environment and ecosystems.
During the first expedition of the series, surveys will be conducted widely across the archipelago within a period of 26 days.
Research will be carried out in two phases and teams will conduct a biodiversity census at the initial phase in addition to evaluating the factors affecting the biodiversity of the ocean.
President Solih stressed that the second phase of the research will focus on deriving policies in accordance with the research outcomes. He added that the research will assist the Maldives in implementing a truly Blue Economy that will balance economic growth with the sustainability of our marine resources.
Further expeditions are planned for the future and will take place throughout the year. The results of the research will be made available to the public.
Despite the President's remarks, however, the state's trend of greenlighting projects that cause irreversible damage to the environment has not seen a notable decline.
In addition to announcing the construction of five new airports which experts have said will serve to further exasperate declining ocean life, just two days earlier, Minister of Environment Dr Hassan Rasheed Hussain approved the expansion of Maafaru International Airport's runway after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed nine reasons and expressly denied permission for further land reclamation in Maafaru, following the mandatory Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
Maldives signed the agreement to join the Blue Prosperity Coalition during a meeting held on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly. Speaking at this ceremony, President Solih highlighted that analysing the results of scientific research was paramount in following the Blue Economy model adopted by Maldives.
Under the agreement signed with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, a marine special plan will be devised to determine a Blue Economy Policy that will implement environment-friendly development strategies.
The Blue Prosperity Coalition is a global network of ocean experts working to advance ocean protection and grow Blue Economies.