This is in response to the growing concern about the declining condition of the world’s coral reefs, including those found in the Maldives, due to coral bleaching, invasive species and rubbish dumped in the ocean.
There are 26 atolls in the Maldives, formed by reefs, and some 1,190 coral islands. Scuba diving and snorkelling are the most popular pastimes of visitors to the country’s 120 island resorts, hotels and over 400 village island guesthouses.
Recognising the importance of reefs not only for the health of the ocean but also as one of the attractions of the Maldives, the Marine Centre Team at Baros has actively run a Coral Rehabilitation Programme for the past 10 years. Guests become part of this project by creating their own coral ‘frame’, with help from one of the Centre’s marine biologists.
Broken but living coral fragments are collected from the house reef and attached to a frame. Complete frames are brought to the island’s lagoon nursery where the Marine Centre Team carefully monitors and maintains them. Every six months, sponsors are sent photo updates by email showing how the coral is developing on their frame. After two years the frame is moved to deeper water inspiring regeneration of the natural reef by becoming a new part of it.
Due to a combination of factors, including the decline of the top predator Giant Triton Snail and the coral bleaching in 2016, the Marine Centre Team observed an invasion by coral-eating species: a sea snail known as Drupella, and a voracious starfish, known as Crown of Thorns. These species can cause serious harm to the reefs if their infestation is not regularly controlled. A routine of regular reef monitoring was introduced at Baros to ensure that if 10 Crown of Thorns starfish are encountered during one hour of snorkelling or diving, they are removed.
An increasing threat to the fragility of the reefs of the Maldives is the presence of plastic in the ocean. This can be lethal to marine flora and fauna, and to the ecosystem as a whole. Brought by the currents, carelessly discarded plastic bottles, plastic bags, cans, flip-flops, glass bottles and other rubbish have a negative impact on the marine environment. At Baros, the Marine Centre Team aided by resort staff regularly carry out reef-cleaning events.
Another threat to reefs is “Ghost Nets.” These are fishing nets that have been wantonly discarded or damaged and lost during trawling. These can float on to coral reefs and become entangled within the coral structure. They can also affect larger marine life such as turtles, sharks and fish, which can become trapped by a floating ghost net.
At Baros, the Marine Centre Team regularly patrols underwater to monitor the reefs. If ghost nets are encountered, they are removed carefully to reduce the damage to the reef and to try and save as much living coral as possible. Information is recorded about mesh size, rope thickness and colour to share with a local society in order to help them increase their ghost net database.
The increasing attention given to the Baros House Reef and surrounding reefs to help care for and regenerate them is part of the resort’s policy of conserving the natural environment that makes the Maldives so attractive to visitors, and enhances the charm of Baros as the world’s top luxury resort.