A team of four tenacious women are coming together to kick off 'Stand Up For Our Seas' this month, an ambitious event aimed at raising awareness over a range of environmental issues in the Maldives.
The campaign is led by Dr Claire Petros, a biologist and lead veterinarian at the environmental NGO 'Olive Ridley Project' (ORP). She is joined by fellow veterinary surgeon and founder of the 'Paddle Against Plastic' campaign, Dr Cal Major, personal trainer and environmental enthusiast Dhafeena Hassan Ibrahim, and accomplished dive instructor Shaziya Saeed, on an expedition to "stand up" for the ocean on paddleboards as they explore the threats faced by turtles and other sea life, with a focus on plastic pollution, ghost fishing gear and climate change.
The first component of the two-part Maldives expedition, 'Turtle Identification and Rescue', kicked off on February 12. Conducted by the Sea Turtle Expedition Boat with Claire Petros, Cal Major and other ORP scientists aboard, they are currently exploring lesser-visited reefs to identify unknown turtle populations, and rescue entangled turtles which are transferred to the ORP rescue centre for treatment and rehabilitation.
The 'Stand Up for Our Seas' event is set to kick off on February 21. The four women from the UK and Maldives will embark on an unprecedented 100km journey around Baa Atoll on stand up paddleboards (SUP), making stops at various islands and resorts to conduct their awareness campaign.
The activities range from beach clean-ups and hosting talks at local schools, to giving presentations to resorts and their guests, in order to spread awareness. The team will also highlight the initiatives and actions already taken within local communities to combat dangers to the marine environment.
Stand Up For Our Seas is sponsored by local luxury resort brand Coco Collection.
The four ocean enthusiasts will set off from Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu at 0830 hours on February 21, returning on February 28 to conclude the expedition.
The team will be accompanied by a support group from the ORP, including the ORP Project Coordinator in Maldives, Shameel Ibrahim, and award-winning landscape and adventure photographer and filmmaker, James Appleton, to document the expedition.
The support group is also joined by the founder of Fathoms Free, Rob Thompson, who in collaboration with Palm Equipment and Odyssey Innovation created two kayaks made from recycled ghost nets, which will escort the team.