Killing with kindness. That is the extreme view of often completely well-meaning serving up of all manner of ‘treats’ to seemingly eager marine life all too eager to gobble it up. But short term wins (for the fish) can often have longer term losses.
World Environment Day today celebrates taking care of our world, but also raising awareness of the complexities of this complex eco-system we inhabit. Some of the worse fish feeding is the breads pilfered from the resort buffet (as the pictogram above describes). But even feeding fish scraps to scavenging fish like jacks and rays can pose problems. While the food itself might be fine for its digestion, etc., the practice can provoke adverse behaviour. Not just bad for the fish, but bad for people too (eg. they can start to associate food with humans and get more aggressive with humans thinking you might have some fish scraps tucked somewhere in your swimsuit).
There are no easy answers to making the world a better place. All we can do is try to learn as much as possible and respect the understandings that we do have. Just like the deep-fried Mars bars and doughnut-bunned burgers, not all meals are really that good for sealife.
When I visited Morocco, I enjoyed a night in a Bedouin tent under the desert stars, but I must say that the highlight was the bustling, buzzing Marrakesh market square at night. An acre-sized tapestry of tiny market stalls all cooking up some specific delicacy concocted from the colour full piles of spices we saw touring the souks earlier that day. Club Med Finolhu Villas has the posh version of Jemaa el Fna with a collection of gourmet stations to cook you a variety of dishes for your meal.
You get to see the food like a buffet (instead of depending on menu descriptions), but freshly prepared to order like a la carte. We’ve all had our freshly prepared eggs and noodles dishes, but these were filet beef and sautéed fish dishes with delicate sauces. The approach was particularly helpful for people with weak English. But one of the biggest benefits was reduction of food waste. The on-demand cuisine meant that only food people were going to eat was prepared instead of large mounds of buffet offerings which (by definition) never get fully consumed (see the explanatory sign at the resort restaurant below).
Hopefully, reefscaping initiatives can help restore what humans (global warming) and nature (El Nino) have disrupted on the spectacular underwater world of the Maldives. To understand and track the severity of the current challenges, the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration features a powerful online tool with literal gauges for the impact of water temperatures on the sea life called “Coral Reef Watch” (thanks Paola):
- “The purpose of these Regional Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Gauges is to provide coral reef ecosystem managers with a comprehensive summary of current satellite-monitored and model-projected bleaching thermal stress conditions to help facilitate timely and effective management actions pertaining to mass coral bleaching.”
Everyone likes it toasty and sunny in the Maldives, but we would also like to keep the ocean cool place not just for refreshing dips, but also to keep vibrant the marine ecosystem whose foundation is the bountiful coral reefs.
Mothering Sunday today will see lots of blossoming plants given to cherished mums across the British Isles, but Shangri-La Villingili has a gift you can give Mother Earth at a very reasonable price. An eco-planter for the “earth” that makes up the vast majority of the Maldives isles.
Instead of larger wire mesh frames, Villingili’s reef regeneration uses smaller blocks of concrete. They don’t cut the coral grafts, but collect broken coral. They then affix these to small blocks with epoxy and set them in the lagoon for about 18 months after which they are moved to the outer reef.
The resort hosts coral planting 10:30 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for a mere $25 (compared to what is often hundreds of dollars for sponsoring coral frames).
The small price doesn’t mean small scale. Activity leader Yawlng Wong took me through the presentation they give to the guests about the program which illustrated how popular and expansive the results have been. I’ve shared a few of both the photos and the informative diagrams below…
- Overall objective: To develop a hard coral nursery to provide a continuous supply of cultivated corals derived from broodstock
- Coral culture in nursery from initial fragmentation of wild colonies / ‘corals of opportunity’ collected
- Ongrowing of broodstock to become the source for all fragments to be planted in rehabilitation operations
- Encourage guest participation in coral program
Earth Hour today – “The world’s largest demonstration of support for action on climate change. Last year, millions around the world across 178 countries came together to show support for action to protect our amazing planet.”
A popular celebration of Earth Hour is planting trees and other greenery to rejuvenate the Earth, sequester carbon from our atmosphere. Others will be pushing for sustainability initiatives like recycling. Six Senses Laamu offers a sustainable flower pot that combines both…
- “Make your own sustainable flower pot! Our guests joined Megan, our sustainability officer and discovered how to make art and not waste, by making their own flower pots from our recycled crushed glass! Every month, Six Senses Laamu recycles hundreds of glass bottles that are reused throughout the resort in different forms. One of our favorite ways to use this recycled glass is in different art projects. We invited our guests to join us in the Earth Lab where they learnt how to make beautiful and unique flower pots out of reused glass. What better way to start off the spring than to plant something new in your own handmade flower pot!”
After all, glass is just sand and that’s pretty much most of the “earth” in the Maldives. In honor of the day, I have added the tag “Recycling” to the blog.
Happy Australia Day, mate! While being only 12th in term of numbers of visitors to the Maldives, Australia is the 4th highest country in the fashionista database. Despite all its own sunshine and beach and even spectacular reefs (Great Barrier), the Maldives is still a distinctive beauty backdrop for the glitterati down under. Or maybe the depiction below of Australia’s own local offerings explains a bit of the exodus.
In honor of Australia Day today, I bring you something special from “down under”. In this case, under the sea with another reef regeneration initiative. Gili Lankanfushi’s coral lines project…
- “At Gili Lankanfushi resort in the Maldives, we are rehabilitating the coral reef by nursing coral on ropes (lines) (Levy et al., 2010) and later transplanting them onto degraded reef areas (Lindahl, 2003). Every rope is initially planted with 50 small, living coral fragments. We nurse the corals in the lagoon for 1 year and later transplant the ropes to the One Palm Island reef. Overtime we expect the corals get stronger, grow bigger and improve the health of the One Palm Island Reef. Our project is a research study on the subject of coral reef rehabilitation science, and 75% of the proceeds from every Coral Line donated will go to our Gili SEAS (Social & Environmental Awareness and Sustainability) fund, allowing our property to do more for the locals and more for the environment.”
Australia’s own reefs are suffering the stresses of the rise in ocean temperatures with extensive reports of bleaching. I expect Australia and the Maldives will eco-allies in preserving their distinctive ecological heritages with initiatives like Gili’s
Welcome to the future!
Maldives has been introducing a range of eco-sustainable initiatives, but Club Med Finolhu Villas actually introduces you to their resort with an imposing eco-investment – a solar panel jetty.
In a part of the world with so little real estate but so much sunshine, the pressing question is ‘where do you find the space to put solar cells.’ Well, resorts face the same question for their villas and the answer has been, something the Maldives has plenty of, over the water. So their welcome jetty and their water villa jetties are rooved with large solar arrays. It’s not only eco-friendly, but it’s a great way to provide a shaded walkway (no more burning your toes on hot timber) and has a stylish design flair to boot.
The resort describes the initiatives as…
“First ever 100 percent solar-powered high-end resort, developed by Global Pvt Ltd. Nearly 6,500 square meters of the resort, which will be operated by Club Med, feature solar panels capable of producing up to 1100 Kilowatts at power peak when the island really only needs around 600 Kilowatts at peak load.”
One of the things that I have decided to add to the Resort Profiles after this tour is a picture of the “Welcome Jetty”. It is a feature that does vary dramatically from resort to resort. I don’t think that prospective guests will choose their resort on it, but I think it is one of those details that provides a glimpse into the style and character of the property. Club Med Finolhu Villas certainly stands out in this regard with a greeting of style and innovation.
Two global events this week nourish the appreciation of food itself especially in the Maldives. I’m not talking about savouring fine gourmet delectables, but simply appreciating the very basics we consume every day. World Environment Day this past weekend promotes a healthy planet which sustains our food supply. Too many food industry practices – from clear cutting rain forests for grazing land to indiscriminate marine life casualties of fishing practices like drift nets – spoil the very Earth that sustains us. And coincidentally, the month of Ramadan starts this week. Where cutting back on food all day (building one’s appreciation for it) it central to the celebration.
One of the biggest environmental issues with food is waste. It affects both the production (making more than we need) and the consumption (disposing of the waste we don’t use). And the resort who is actively addressing this big issue in sustainable food consumption is Soneva Fushi. Soneva recently conducted a comprehensive food audit to underpin changes in their operations to minimise food waste…
- “Soneva Fushi, the multi award-winning luxury resort in the Maldives, has recently joined hands with LightBlue Environmental Consulting to implement a food waste audit, to understand and address the problem of food wastage that affects the entire hospitality industry and to reinforce its position as global leader in sustainability. The United Nations recently highlighted that food wastage was one of their most urgent priorities and countries all over the world are beginning to realise the true negative impact of food waste. The United States has announced plans to cut its food wastage by 50 percent by 2030; and while the European Union has set itself the same target, it hopes to do it by 2020…A detailed Food Waste Monitoring System was implemented by LightBlue across the Soneva Fushi operations for seven days, and included hands-on training as well as raising awareness among kitchen employees, stewards and service staff. Employees sorted, weighed, defined and recorded waste for every shift (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to establish a food waste baseline (grams of food waste per cover) and understand where they could focus their efforts on. The detailed audit helped answer crucial questions related to food waste: How much (in kilogrammes), where (in four categories: spoilage, preparation, buffet and customer plate waste), when, why, and what food is discarded. The assessment also reviewed how much it cost, and how much could be saved through the implementation of strategic recommendations along the food chain, mainly during purchasing, receiving, storage, prep, communication, buffet, and service…Gordon Jackson, the Waste to Wealth Manager at Soneva Fushi. ‘There was quite a dramatic reduction to the organic material being sent to out composting site. So we are down by about 50 percent already,’ Gordon said.”
Waste not, want not.
Hatchling scampers to a new live at sea during our 2015 Velaa visit.
Q: What is the best way increase the odds of sea turtle hatchlings surviving?
A: Put them in nurseries to help them grow stronger?
Q: Buzzzzzz! Nope. The fairly common practice of collecting hatchlings and protecting them by nurturing them in special nursery pools turns out to cause long term problems for the turtles.
World Turtle Day today is the opportunity “to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive”. Most people know about the dangers of plastic refuse to turtles (they get caught in six-pack rings and mistake plastic bags for jelly fish which they try to eat). But even those keen to help the critters are less aware of the issues with well-intended turtle nurseries.
The nursery misconception stems from the “numbers game”. As Marine Biologists Tess Moriarty and Dee Bello (who kindly provided most of the research for this piece) from Velaa resort (THE Turtle resort – “Velaa” means “Turtle” in Dhivehi) describes, “For turtles it is always a numbers game, they have many threats to their survival and it is commonly known that many do not make it to adulthood.” The concept of nurseries is to allow the hatchlings to grow to a more significant size where much fewer predators would be able to manage eating them.
Unfortunately, turtle nurseries have a number of problems for the turtles they are trying to help…
- Predator Dangers – Turtles may evade predators when small, but then don’t learn to and how to avoid them later in life which keeps them vulnerable.
- Diet – Nursery turtles don’t get to eat the staples of the normal ocean diet like jellyfish or sargassum.
- Orientation – One of the miracles of turtle procreation is how they instinctively head to the water’s edge on birth, but then also they come back to where they were born to nest s adults. Studies show that taking hatchlings on birth into nurseries disorients them and they don’t return to nest.
So what CAN be done to help these endangered little tykes? Dee offers up the following…
- Hatcheries: This technique is when the nests are relocated from where the female lays the eggs on the beach to a different location. This is used on beaches that have severe erosion or flooding problems and thus the nests would not survive, nests that are too close to the shore line and would get inundated and mostly on beaches where human poaching of eggs for food is abundant. This method actively saves many eggs and ensured they can develop and hatch, thus increasing the number of hatchlings making it to the sea.
- Fencing the nests: Shielding both the hatchery and on the beach deters humans from poaching eggs from the nests as they are under surveillance. It also ensures that there must be someone present to release the hatchlings into the sea when they emerge from the nest and thus predation from crabs and birds is greatly reduced.
- Protection laws: Creating laws that prohibit the killing or possessing turtle products it directly influences their populations. The protection of adult females laying eggs, poaching of the eggs on the beaches and the capturing of turtles in the sea, increases the amount of turtles and nests on the beaches.
Of course, all these measures are focused on the young turtles. But even when they get all grown up, they still could use our help in surviving (especially since human actions cause many of the adult hazards)…
- Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). Turtles need to breath air in order to survive and unfortunately when they get trapped in nets they are unable to do so. This can be avoided using TED’s where turtles can escape the nets intended for fishing other fish.
- Research: Understanding where turtles migrate to (using advanced tools like satellite tracking), at what times and their feeding and breading patterns can help aim protection to make it more successful and increase awareness.
- Awareness: By spreading the word about the turtle population’s vulnerability, more people understand their situation and need to protect them. This awareness leads to leads to less poaching and donations that support more conservation projects.