The first scientific expedition to survey coral reef habitats, fish populations and water quality across the Maldives oceans, by the Maldives government in cooperation with the Blue Prosperity Coalition, has concluded.
The 26-day expedition was carried out in northern and southern atolls, specifically from Haa Alif to Laamu atolls.
As part of the survey, 16 atolls were surveyed, 978 scientific dives were conducted, 48 3D images of coral reefs were created and 690 hours of BRUV video footage were collected. Further, the survey saw the observation of 330 species of fish including 80 species that are included in the Red List of Threatened Species.
In addition, 274,004 individual fish were counted and 524 e-DNA samples were collected in order to detect fish and microbes in the water.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Parliament Speaker and Former President Mohamed Nasheed and Minister of Fisheries Marine Resources and Agriculture, Zaha Waheed also joined the expedition along the way, near Neykurendhoo Island in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.
Joining scientists underwater to observe the reefs of Keylakunu, an island declared a protected reserve during 2018, the president, speaker and minister observed how 3D images of coral reefs are captured.
It has also been revealed that the government will begin a second expedition in Huvadhoo, Fuvahmulah and Addu Atolls in March 2020.
Future expeditions have also been planned over the next few years which will help the government direct its development plans towards sustainable utilization of local resources.
Part of a larger partnership between Maldives and the Blue Prosperity Coalition, the survey represents scientists from Maldives and eight different countries who worked round-the-clock to process diverse sampling techniques like 3D coral imaging, e-DNA sampling, fish and invertebrate counts, baited remote under water video systems (BRUVS), and water quality sampling. It was led by the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), the Waitt Institute and Scripps Institution Oceanography’s 100 Island Challenge.
Members of the coalition include National Geographic Pristine Seas, Waitt Institute and the Nekton Mission who joined to sustainably utilize and protect ocean resources through a programme fanned out through five years. The programme in question involves local ministries, NGOs, community stakeholders, and both local and foreign scientists.
Further, scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, Small Island Research Center, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Maldives, and the Maldives Coral Institute also took part in the initiative.