In May of 2016, Conservation Diver Trainers Pau Urgell and Kait Harris were invited by the Island Livelihood Institute to come and help with marine conservation projects and education in the Maldives. The team spent several weeks in the Maldives sharing their knowledge of coral reef ecology and coral restoration. The project could not have happened at a more salient time, as coral reef bleaching was very severe during the period.
The first stop for the team was the island of Fainu. Here the team was involved in training local islanders, children, in the techniques of coral reef education and action of Conservation Diver, and also strengthening ties with a local conservation group, Corals Blue. They spent some time teaching children of grades 8-10 about the reefs, and detailing some of the local and global threats facing the reefs the islanders depend upon. The following day they put theory into practice by taking the students on a beach clean-up, and having a competition to see who could collect the most rubbish. In all, over 70 bags of plastic bottles, rope, wrappers and Styrofoam were collected over the space of an hour. After the clean-up, the students learnt a little bit about the Coral Blue gardening project, and why it is so important as a restoration method. For demonstration purposes, they practiced the proper attachment technique using dead coral fragments found on the beach and attaching them to the domes.
Following the work with local students, the CD Trainers then spent the next several days teaching the Coral’s Blue team how to perform the Ecological Monitoring Program Surveys to assess and monitoring coral reef condition around their island.
After the work on Fainu, the team then relocated to the nearby island of Kudafari to continue work with the Coral’s Blue Project. Unfortunately, the weather prevented most of the in-water actives that were planned, but the hospitality and enthusiasm of the local team and villagers more than made up for the bad weather. The team held several workshops, again for instructing both children and adults, and also built a few large coral nurseries, that were to be deployed once conditions improved.
To end the trip, the team returned to Fainu for a few days, and managed to construct and deploy several bottle nursery units around the artificial reefs already constructed by the local teams. Luckily the work managed to finish before the monsoon weather struck, and corals will be transplanted to the units after the bleaching subsides.
This was a great experience for the Conservation Diver trainers involved, and they are very thankful to the local teams from the Island Livelihoods Institute and Corals Blue. We wish them all the best on their efforts, and hope to return in the future to see how things are coming along and collaborate on more projects together. Keep up the great work!