Marine Biodiversity and Maldives

Husen Iyad, Haveeru Online
May 22, 2012 - 11:21
  • A new coral frame underwater: PHOTO/ BEACH HOUSE

Today is globally marked as the international day for biological diversity. Biological diversity simply referring to the different types of life forms on earth; which is also referred to as biodiversity.

The United Nations (UN) proclaimed 22nd of May as the International Day for Biodiversity (IDB). Biological Diversity day has been marked with a theme every year since 2002. The theme for the year 2012 is Marine Biodiversity.

Biodiversity day brings to focus the issues related to the diversity of the organisms which thrive in various habitats. Our marine ecosystem consists of a large variety of organisms which is beneficial to the natural balance of the ecosystem. Each and every organism in the ecosystem plays a vital role in the balance of food chains and also the predator-prey relationship.

Biodiversity day is marked to increase the understanding of the issues relating to biodiversity, identifying the threats to our ecosystem and to create awareness on how to deal with the negative effects it may have on our planet. This year’s theme, Marine Biodiversity is very much related to the Maldives as 99 percentage of Maldives consists of the sea.

Maldives consist of roughly 1,190 coral islands scattered over the Indian Ocean, just a few meters above sea level. This makes our marine ecosystems an important part of our lifestyle. Maldivians had long been involved in fisheries and it is still one of the largest industries in the country. Various types of products are prepared from the fish catch and a large portion of our total fish catch is being exported to other countries after being processed.

Besides the fish catch from our seas, other species are cultivated and exported abroad. Some of these are species destined for delicious cuisines. Some seafood species are harvested and some others are just exported. Sea cucumbers and oysters are cultured within lagoon areas while lobsters are exported. Small aquarium fishes are also exported on a wide scale for its economic value. Our economy acquires a large percentage through export goods, while most of our exports come from the little natural resources such as fish.

With the introduction of tourism in the late 70s, other means of exploiting the natural resources at hand had become a priority. Tourists visit Maldives for its pristine white sandy beaches and underwater natural beauty. Diving has become a popular event ever since the introduction of tourism. Tourists are amazed by the variety of color spectrum visible at our coral reefs. Maldives lying at the equator has a tropical climate with lush vegetation and lots of sunlight. Sunlight helps many photosynthesizing plants above and beneath the sea to grow well.

Corals reefs which are abundant in the Maldivian waters are home to wide variety of organisms. All these organisms are a delicate group which requires distinct conditions for its very survival. Underwater organisms are distributed horizontally and vertically throughout the water column according to the conditions most suitable for its survival. Littering in the sea and dumping garbage to coastal areas can harm the coral reefs as well as the organisms living in the coral reef habitat. Environmental and climate changes can also have a lasting impact on our coral reefs. The 1998 and 2010 El Niño-events showed just how vulnerable the underwater ecosystem is. The coral bleaching events observed throughout the Maldivian waters on both of these two separate occasions took several years to restore back to normal.

As of now, Maldives need to adopt strategies to prevent over exploitation of marine species. Some preventive measures like the ban on seines and some nets have helped to recover the fish stock within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Other measures like drafting regulations and implementing strict penalties for violations of the law can help Maldives save our marine ecosystem. Government authorities also need to be actively involved in the monitoring process of the changes to the marine environment.

Community participation and awareness programs can help the society put more effort in to saving the vulnerable marine ecosystem. Long term targets of sustainable development can be attained by promoting informed decisions to facilitate the process through proposed action plans. Youth and community empowerment can also speed the process and help the community to promote a sustainable lifestyle.

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