The Maldives. Famed for its crystal clear seas, white sands, and spectacular diving opportunities is facing a crisis.
At just 1.5 metres above sea level in most parts of the country – the highest point is 2.4m – it is officially the flattest country in the world making it highly vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change.
Despite being one of the world’s smallest polluters – contributing a mere 0.003 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions – experts from NASA have warned that over three quarters of the archipelago, which is made up of over 1,100 islands, could be uninhabitable by 2050. More than 90 per cent of the Maldives have severe erosion, and 97 per cent of the country no longer has fresh groundwater.
But the Maldives has a line of defence. Over 2,500 coral reefs that provide both an ecosystem and a natural sea defence to the islands. Research has proven that a healthy coral reef can absorb 97 per cent of wave energy, dramatically reducing erosion. Without coral reefs, the islands are wide open to rising waters.
But they are also critically vulnerable to rising sea temperatures. An increase of as little as 2 degrees Celsius can have corals drive out symbiotic algae turning it white and known as coral bleaching. More than 60 per cent of coral on the Maldives has been bleached.
Pollution also plays a big role in the demise of coral. About 270,000 tonnes of plastic is floating on the surface of our oceans. Their impact on marine life is well documented. Every year, plastics kill 1.5 million animals. However, analysis of plastic debris in the oceans has shown that it can carry many bacteria, including some pathogens that cause coral disease.
Saving coral is a crucial protective measure for the island nation and both locals and the famed luxury resorts are doing their bit.
Coral Propagation Programmes
Nestled among the pristine turquoise Indian Ocean waters lies the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, a resort that runs numerous sustainability initiatives including an ‘Adopt A Coral’ program that gives guests the opportunity to get involved in a coral propagation project.
In 2020, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa teamed up with Reefscapers – a marine consultation company that aims to restore coral reefs in the Maldives and worldwide – to start the program. The concept works by attaching small fragments of corals onto a metal frame, allowing corals to grow and mature into new colonies in the resort’s lagoon. This improves the marine habitat and increases the number of species of fish and marine life in the surrounding areas.
Katelyn Hegarty-Kelly, one of the biologists at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa has shared the following tips on how to help and promote the conservation of our beautiful oceans while on your next beach holiday so you can ensure your actions are not harming this beautiful ecosystem.
Ditch Single Use
Embracing single-use alternatives is an essential step in reducing plastic usage and its detrimental impact on the environment. While it may initially seem challenging, making the conscious choice to seek out single-use alternatives can have a significant effect. For instance, over 500 billion single-use coffee cups are discarded worldwide each year. By switching to a reusable coffee cup, you can personally contribute to reducing this staggering waste. Small changes in our daily habits can add up to create a substantial positive environmental impact, showing our dedication to preserving the oceans and marine life for future generations.
Attend Beach Clean Ups
Get involved in a local beach clean such as on International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 16th. Alternatively, you can show your support by contributing online. Many organisations share their cleanup events online, allowing anyone to raise awareness or contribute through donations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reports that a staggering 14 million tons of plastic enter the ocean annually. Often, we adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality, but it’s crucial that we change this perspective. The ocean is greatly affected by the massive amount of plastic it receives, impacting the marine life that call it home. By participating in a simple beach clean, everyone can make a meaningful contribution toward addressing this issue.
Avoid Ocean Harming Products
When purchasing jewellery or healthcare products such as sun cream, it’s essential to be mindful of their impact on our reefs and oceans. Take a moment to check the labels and ensure they are reef-safe or ocean-friendly. Some products contain harmful ingredients that can adversely affect our environment, so reading those labels can significantly help in making eco-conscious choices.
Be mindful of the running tap while brushing your teeth. Did you know that by simply turning off the tap when not in use, you can save up to 4 gallons of water with each brushing session? It’s a small but impactful way to reduce your water usage and contribute to water conservation efforts.
Reduce Travel Pollution
Opting for alternative transportation methods such as walking, cycling, or carpooling can have a significant impact on reducing fuel usage. By making this simple yet powerful choice, you actively contribute to lowering CO2 emissions, which not only benefits the environment but also enhances public health and addresses the challenges of climate change. Your small actions can lead to a big positive change for our planet and future generations.
Give a Little
Supporting conservation organisations through donations is an impactful way to contribute to research aimed at preserving our marine ecosystems. By making a contribution to your chosen conservation organisation, you can directly contribute to their valuable work in understanding, protecting, and advocating for the welfare of marine life and their habitats.
Adopt Coral At Sheraton Maldives
Guests can visit the Maldives and stay at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, to participate in the Adopt A Coral program. Guests can take part in the coral-fragment plantation activity to promote reef habitats and generate new coral, alongside the talented marine biologist.
In the spirit of staying informed and connected with the ongoing efforts to protect and restore the precious Maldivian coral reefs, you can follow the official social media accounts of Reefscapers @reefscapersmaldives and Sheraton Maldives @sheratonmaldives.
Through these platforms, you can stay up to date with the latest developments in coral restoration work and the significant strides being made to safeguard these natural wonders.
Katelyn Hegarty-Kelly is a biologist at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa.