LAAMU, Maldives, 18 January 2022: The Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his administration designated six naturally unique and eco-rich areas in Laamu Atoll as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The announcement comes just two months after the atoll was
declared as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue while the  Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) was also
recognised as a global leader in marine conservation during the recent 20th
Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards.

The MUI team with Marteyne van Well, General Manager of Six Senses Laamu.

MUI, the marine biology team at Six Senses Laamu, consisting
of hosts from the resort and its three partner NGOs: The Manta Trust, Blue
Marine Foundation and The Olive Ridley Project, was named Marine and Coastal
category winner at the 2021 Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards.
Three independent sustainability experts judged 50 entrees from 26 countries,
placing MUI top in its category ahead of five other projects.

This award celebrates the team’s dedication to marine
conservation through their research, education and community outreach work.
Their research has been presented at both science symposiums and governmental
meetings to drive policy change. They have provided 199 children in Laamu with
marine conservation and environmental education and brought 566 students from
local schools on snorkelling excursions. Since 2019, they have had 26,000
moments of education with guests and certified 165 children through their
Junior Marine Biology Programme.

Six Designated Marine Protected Areas

MUI’s celebrations continued when the President of the
Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, announced six MPAs were coming to Laamu. The
team has been working towards this milestone for many years.

“Since MUI was formed, our ultimate goal has been to protect
Laamu’s marine habitats and keystone megafauna species through legislation,”
says Philippa Roe, MUI’s Head Marine Biologist. “For years, the partners within
MUI – Six Senses Laamu, the Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and the Olive
Ridley Project – have been gathering research on Laamu’s marine ecosystems and
species, much of which was used as evidence to support marine protection.”

The areas which have been designated for marine protection
include the turtle nesting beach, mangrove and seagrass area of L. Gaadhoo (a
neighbouring uninhabited island of Six Senses Laamu), the channel between Six
Senses Laamu and L. Gaadhoo, the mangrove of L. Hithadhoo (an inhabited island
on the other side of Six Senses Laamu), as well as two channels, a mangrove, a
wetland and an island in other areas of the atoll.

Now that these MPAs have been designated, the Environment
Ministry will work with stakeholders, including Atoll and Island Councils, to
develop management plans for each area. MUI and Blue Marine Foundation will
continue to engage with local community members and leaders in the atoll,
providing advice and assistance wherever needed.

Mission Blue Hope Spot

This welcome news comes just two months after the Laamu
Atoll was declared as a Hope Spot by the international marine conservation
non-profit Mission Blue. The Hope Spot announcement highlighted the importance
of marine ecosystems in the atoll and the need for further protection.