Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Earth Hour 2015 - Coral Lines celebrates 1 year anniversary

Each year on March 28th,  between 20:30  - 21:30, the world celebrates Earth Hour by switching off lights for one hour. This highlights the imminent issue of climate change and importance of mitigation of carbon emissions. For Maldives in particular, climate change is detrimental as the country heavily relies on healthy coral reefs for its survival. Coral reefs are extremely sensitive to ocean temperature fluctuations induced by climate change, so for us, joining the Earth Hour movement was a must!

At Gili we have developed a tradition of going beyond the hour and dedicating the whole day to our planet. Last year during Earth Hour we initiated something that will last for years to come: A long term coral rehabilitation project called "Coral Lines". This year, after a lot of hard work, we wanted to share our great results: Our project became nationally recognised, and we even did an IUCN sponsored Coral Lines seminar at Maldives National University. For us Earth Hour commemorates the 1st anniversary of Coral Lines and so it was time to celebrate (link). We also produced a video that explains the project and shows you some of our progress:

We started Earth Day early in the morning by setting up our ‘coral planting station’ next to the breakfast beach. With display tanks to engage the guests and leaflets allowing our guests to donate freely to the project, we encouraged our breakfast guests to help us plant 250 corals to celebrate the Coral Lines anniversary. Later on in the day we created a Gili starfish in the shallow water using one of the Coral Lines coral transplantation methods.  This is a symbol for us as we begin transplantation of rope grown coral on to the reef- the most exciting and experimental part of the project.
Towards the evening of course we did our power down, but for 2 hours instead of 1. After all, this is our planet,  it deserves our time and attention!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making Reef Rehabilitation Science More Accessible

On Saturday 21st of March, myself and Vaidas set off into Male to make a coral revolution! We had been invited by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Maldives to present a seminar on our Coral Lines Project as part of Maldives National University marine science seminar series. Almost one year into the project, we were keen to share our findings with everyone, as well as promote data sharing throughout the Maldives.

We arrived early to set up our presentation and waited as the audience filed in. We had an excellent turn out with representatives from various resorts and companies including marine biologists, diving school staff, journalists, NGOs, and University students.

We were both a little nervous but as we began we found our stride and delivered what we hope was an interesting and inspiring talk. For those novices among us, we explained what a coral is and talked about different methods of reef restoration used around the world before delving into our project findings. We then moved on to talk about our two-step nursing approach, the inception of Coral Lines, the current status of our project and our plans for transplantation of the Coral Lines onto the reef. Having also shared some of the challenges we have faced, it was interesting to hear other biologists having similar issues in their projects and it was great to receive lots of ideas and solutions as well.

Vaidas took the opportunity to premier his Coral Lines video, filmed and edited by himself, which explains how the project was set up and how it is run- something which our audience really enjoyed!

One of the main issues surrounding reef rehabilitation in the Maldives that we wanted to address is the sharing of comprehensive data, so that we might learn from one another. Growth rates and survival rates of varying coral species, in varying conditions, using varying methods are almost impossible to find online, and in many cases are not even being recorded. We wanted to change that. With a lot of nodding and encouragement from our audience, we hope to lead the way with the Coral Lines streamlined data collection protocols and online sharing system, so that the future of reef rehabilitation in Maldives will focus further towards scientific data collection as well as the public sharing of that data! Only then can we make a positive contribution to reef rehabilitation science.

The full presentation was recorded and will be available for all to see on the IUCN website very soon, and the Coral Lines video is currently being narrated over, at which point we will make it public on YouTube and on our websites. We will inform readers when and where to find these materials once they're available.

Finally, we wanted to say thank you. First to the resort, Gili Lankanfushi, and staff for supporting us throughout the project from inception through to the operation, to the IUCN and MNU for hosting us, and to our wonderful audience for taking the time to come and listen to us, as well as offering us a great wealth of knowledge and advice!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We love “Iruvai” Season!

Stunning fusiliers. Credit to Brad Calder.
Unlike more temperate latitudes that experience four seasons in a year, the Maldives only experiences two –Southwest Monsoon (also known in the local language as “Hulhangu”) and Northeast Monsoon (“Iruvai”), and both of these have significant benefits for diving and snorkelling. 

Today we are enjoying the benefits of the “Iruvai”, which brings stronger currents and unbelievable visibility to dive-sites near Gili Lankanfushi. Nothing beats the experience of dropping in to crystal clear water that is teeming with marine life. We are happy to report that this year “Iruvai” is not a disappointment!  Brad, our very own Resort Manager, took this particular shot with beautiful fusiliers.

The forthcoming “Hulhangu” monsoon will bring milder currents and larger marine life, such as the majestic Manta Ray. With just one month of the “Iruvai” season to go, we will soon say a fond farewell to the “Iruvai” and a long anticipated greeting for the upcoming Southwest Monsoon Season – or should I say MANTA SEASON!

Jon - Dive Centre Base Leader

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gili Lankanfushi Diving Against Debris

The sun was high in the sky and the water invitingly cool on Sunday 8th February. It is a rare treat for those of us working hard in paradise to get into the water during a working day, but Sunday brought some relief as we encouraged our guests and hosts alike to join us in grabbing their SCUBA gear and donning their snorkeling sets as we did a Dive Against Debris! After an informative presentation by Vaidas, we set out to clear our lagoon of any rubbish! This months reef clean was a huge success as we collected ~50kg of trash from our lagoon between 8 hosts in just 1 hour! Our collection included some bizarre items such as an old wooden stair, part of a sun lounger and some linoleum flooring, as well as the usual plastic bags and drinks cans. 
Our team of hosts collected 5 bags full of debris!
Photo Credit: Frank Mitchell
Trash in our Oceans is fast becoming one of the biggest ecological disasters of our time, with plastics circulating in the oceans in huge currents called Gyres for hundreds of years. The most important thing we can do to fight this issue is to reduce our daily consumption of waste, especially plastics; reuse any waste that we do use; and recycle as much as possible.
For more information or to get involved by finding a Dive Against Debris near you, visit the Project Aware website, and to learn more about the impact of plastics in our Oceanic environment, visit the 5 Gyres Organisation website.