Maldives turns to resorts to step up efforts to achieve biosphere reserve status

Maldives has stepped up its efforts to be the world’s first country to become a biosphere reserve, inviting tourist resorts across the archipelago to sign a voluntary pledge.

Maldives announced at Rio+20 climate summit in 2012 that it would be the first country to become a marine reserve in order to protect its fisheries and marine biodiversity, making it the single largest marine reserve in the world.

A five-year plan, titled Maldives as a Biosphere Reserve: An Implementation Plan 2013-2017, was rolled out, and is to be implemented by and for different atolls in a stepwise fashion, based on their readiness to adopt the “Biosphere Approach”.

In a circular issued early this month, the tourism ministry asked the some 120 resorts in the Maldives to support the government in achieving its ambitious pledge by voluntarily participating and agreeing to designate an area of the resort’s house reef as core areas of the reserve. Resorts agreeing to sign the pledge will be officially invited for a signing ceremony to be held at a later date, it said.

The latest initiative by the government follows a similar pledge and declaration signed in September by 30 resorts. Under the pledge, the resorts agreed to designate a part of their house reefs as protected areas and preserve them.

In July 2011, Baa Atoll, which consists of 75 islands, was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, making it the country’s first and only marine reserve to date. Since then, the atoll has attracted investments in tourism and marine conversation with several resorts, including those by world renowned brands, coming up in recent years.

Marine reserve status for all 1,192 islands of the country is likely to attract international investment in pilot schemes to explore new approaches to conservation and sustainability.

Known internationally as one of the world’s best scuba diving destinations, the Maldives has an abundance of dive sites with a unique underwater beauty to explore. The islands of the Maldives have consistently warm waters with outstanding visibility throughout the year, and consist of exhilarating dive sites such as vibrant thilas, exciting channels, coral-filled overhangs and fascinating wrecks.

Maldives’ world-renowned coral reefs play a fundamental role in food production, shoreline protection, and tourism revenue, but coral bleaching has killed many shallow coral reefs. Preservation of the reefs has become more important than ever.

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