Laamu Atoll in the Maldives has today been designated a Hope Spot by Sylvia Earl’s Mission Blue. The Hope Spot designation is testament to more than five years of collaborative research and conservation work between Six Senses Laamu and the three non-governmental organisations it supports – Blue Marine Foundation, Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project.
The designation helps draws international attention to the atoll’s marine ecosystem and the globally significant populations of rare species that use it, as the Maldives prepares to designate new Marine Protected Areas later this year.
“To look back to 2011 when Six Senses Laamu began collecting information, to now as we’re celebrating the designation of the atoll as a Hope Spot – it’s truly a reason for hope” says Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue. “It’s so important that we protect the ecosystems there, especially the seagrass meadows that we now understand are so important to generating oxygen, capturing carbon and providing a home and security for so many creatures not only within the atoll but throughout the depths beyond.”
Hope Spots are special areas that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of our ocean. Mission Blue’s vision is to create a network of Hope Spots across the world to inspire policy makers and stakeholders to act and protect sites within Marine Protected Areas. Laamu Atoll was chosen because it contains spectacularly diverse coral reefs, populated with critically endangered and threatened species like Napoleon Wrasse and Hammerhead Sharks that use the atoll to spawn and feed. These coral reefs are connected to seagrasses and mangroves which store carbon, support improved fisheries productivity and protect the low-lying islands of the Atoll.
Vivienne Evans, Senior International Project Manager said: “Laamu Atoll’s coral reefs are magnificent. The use of only low-impact fishing gears like handlines and trolls by fishers combined with national policies that prevent the fishing of sharks, rays and turtles has allowed relatively healthy fish populations to persist and populations of megafauna to thrive. This designation is a timely reminder that these reefs must be protected now so they can continue to provide for Maldivian people, nature and businesses.”
Philippa Roe, Head Marine Biologist Six Senses Laamu said: “Hope Spots are also areas where stakeholders collaboratively demonstrate leadership to ensure a future for their natural resources. Laamu Atoll is a perfect example of this where the private sector, non-governmental organisations, communities and the Government have come together. Funding provided by Six Senses has helped to enable this. Our aim is to lead by example in the Maldives tourism industry.
The Hope Spot designation is expected to be followed by the designation of at least five new MPAs as part of the Government’s pledge announced in 2018 “to protect at least one island, one reef and one wetland in each atoll”. BLUE and its local partners have been working closely with other local stakeholders to secure their support for new management measures and will continue to work with them to ensure they are involved and represented in decisions about management of the sites.
Ismail Ali, Atoll Council President of Laamu Atoll said: “This Hope Spot provides us with hope that Laamu’s marine ecosystems and the livelihoods and traditions which rely on them will be safeguarded for generations to come.”