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Maldives-focused research offers solutions to reduce ‘ghost nets’ that trap sea turtles

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Action to prevent thousands of turtles being trapped by abandoned fishing nets in the Indian Ocean is needed urgently, a University of Derby study has concluded.

Researchers are recommending that manufacturers and fishing authorities improve the traceability of nets and other fishing gear to reduce turtle deaths caused by the so-called “ghost nets”, which break off or are discarded.

The study, published under the title ‘Untangling the origin of ghost gear within the Maldivian archipelago and its impact on olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) populations’ in the open access journal Endangered Species Research, examined information about “ghost nets” found around the Maldives in the Indian Ocean over a period of 51 months.

The information was collated by the UK-based Olive Ridley Project charity, which was set up by University of Derby researcher Martin Stelfox in response to the large number of Olive Ridley sea turtles he found entangled in nets while on research trips to the Indian Ocean.

Over that time period, a total of 752 abandoned nets were found and 131 turtles entangled in netting. Around 97 per cent of the turtles found entangled were Olive Ridley turtles.

However, it has been estimated that this number of “ghost nets” could actually have entangled between 3,400 and 12,200 turtles in that time.

The study found that nets with a larger mesh size, nets which were blue in colour, and fragments of net which did not have floats attached to them were more likely to cause entanglement.

Martin said: “What this research gives us is an opportunity to look at the feasibility of making fishing gear, including nets, more traceable to the individuals, companies and communities using it.

“That will require better co-ordination and information-sharing between manufacturers and the authorities which regulate sea fishing around the world.”

One possible solution is to use blockchain data storage technology, which is already being trialled in the Pacific, to improve traceability and accountability in the fishing industry.

The impact of seasonality, particularly the north-east monsoons, and the migration patterns of Olive Ridley turtles to identify where they overlap with fishing activity, should also be the subject of urgent future research, the study advocates.

The report states: “Temporary closures in these overlapping areas during high turtle activity may reduce the likelihood of turtle entanglement as a result of gear loss caused by operational damage or general discard.

“Moreover, establishing free, port side or landing site recycling facilities would discourage small and large-scale fishers from dumping damaged or end of life gear at sea.”

Martin said: “While our solutions must be realistic and workable, they could, if implemented, reduce the amount of fishing equipment which is lost in the ocean and could help encourage better reporting of gear which is lost.

“That could, in turn, lead to fewer turtles dying after becoming entangled in ghost nets in the ocean.”

Every year, it is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of ghost nets are discarded at sea, which amounts to 10 per cent of the world’s total marine debris. Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea.

Every year, they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. Ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments.

Between July 2013 and July 2018, there were 601 turtle entanglements recorded in discarded fishing nets in the Maldives alone.

The Maldives is home to five species of sea turtles, the most frequently spotted out of these five are the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and Olive Ridley turtles are the rarer species. Although all species of turtles have been protected by law in the Maldives since 1995, the major threats to these animals continue to be egg and meat poaching and entanglement in marine debris.

All seven of the world’s species of sea turtles are on IUCN’s Red List with the Hawksbill turtle being listed as the most critically endangered out of the seven.

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InterContinental Maldives invites guests to third Manta Retreat in March 2024

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After the successful launch of the Manta Retreat in 2022, the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort is gearing up for its third Manta Retreat, scheduled to take place from March 9th to 12th, 2024. This unique experience offers guests an opportunity to delve into the world of manta rays, their natural habitat, and the conservation efforts led by the Manta Trust.

The Manta Retreat, designed for travelers seeking an extra dimension to their vacations, encourages participants to explore and understand these majestic creatures while contributing to ocean conservation. The retreat will be led by Meral Hafeez, the Manta Trust base leader at InterContinental Maldives, who will guide participants through an immersive experience.

The focus of the third Manta Retreat will be on meeting the manta rays that inhabit the surrounding waters of the island, emphasizing their protection and ocean conservation. Meral Hafeez expressed her enthusiasm for sharing the wonders of Maldivian marine life, stating, “I can’t wait for everyone to experience their first manta ray and the wonders of the deep!”

This year’s retreat coincides with the Maamunagau Manta Season in March, where young manta rays gather in the resort’s lagoon, offering a unique opportunity for up-close encounters. The Maamunagau Lagoon serves as a crucial research ground for the Manta Trust team, allowing guests to actively participate in the identification and naming of manta rays through the Manta ID workshop.

The Manta Retreat package, priced at USD 1490 per guest, includes two manta ray snorkeling trips, a guided house reef snorkeling experience, the chance to name and adopt a manta ray, and various workshops covering manta rays, plankton, and coral restoration.

For certified divers, dedicated dive spots around the resort provide opportunities to observe the natural manta ray ‘spa’ at cleaning stations, showcasing the fascinating symbiosis of marine life in the Maldives.

The purpose of the Manta Retreat goes beyond education and exploration; it also serves as a fundraiser to support the valuable work of the Manta Trust. Guests staying at InterContinental Maldives can enjoy the resort’s luxurious facilities and accommodations while those not participating in the retreat have plenty of entertainment options.

To book the Manta Retreat or for more information, visit InterContinental Maldives Sustainability or contact the reservations team at reservations.icmaldives@ihg.com or on WhatsApp at +960 730 9300.

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Football legend Lukas Podolski lights up Heritance Aarah with friendly match against Maldivian youth

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In a heartwarming display of football’s unifying spirit, German legend Lukas Podolski traded the grand stadiums for the sun-kissed shores of Heritance Aarah, Maldives, to play a friendly match with a team of eager young players from Meedhu Island. The event saw Podolski donning a custom Heritance Aarah jersey and taking to the pitch alongside the spirited Maldivian children.

More than just a friendly kickabout, the match was a platform for learning and inspiration. The young athletes showcased their skills and learned new tricks from the seasoned pro. The air crackled with a distinctive camaraderie as Podolski’s guidance and encouragement blended seamlessly with the children’s infectious joy.

As a memento of this extraordinary encounter, each participant received a personally signed jersey from Podolski, adding a priceless touch to the occasion. The football star’s presence transformed the friendly match into an unforgettable experience, etching itself indelibly into the memories of the young players and their families.

Podolski later took to his Facebook, sharing photos from the event with the caption, “Football is our global game. A pleasure to meet you all thanks @oneluxury.de & @heritanceaarah #LP10 #football #strassenkicker #enjoy #love.” The post resonated with fans worldwide, celebrating the power of sports to connect people across cultures and backgrounds.

Heritance Aarah, a Premium All-Inclusive resort, offers an idyllic setting for the ultimate getaway, presenting a diverse range of experiences. From the culinary delights crafted by award-winning chefs to the exploration of the captivating over and underwater wonders of the Raa Atoll, the resort sets a remarkable tone for luxury and adventure. With five restaurants included in the Premium All-Inclusive package, exclusive bars, and access to Hatha and Baani with supplement charges, Heritance Aarah offers a holistic experience. The spa and wellness facilities, featuring a hot tub and a fitness center, further enhance the overall well-being of guests, who can also enjoy various activities.

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Game, set, Makarova: Former world #1 launches new tennis academy at Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa this festive season

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In partnership with the world-class sports management organisation RTC (Royal, Timeless & Challenging) Sport, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa is launching its new Tennis Academy this festive season: a stellar coaching school boasting a line-up of some of the sport’s most celebrated figures, starting with former World #1 and four-time Grand Slam Champion Ekaterina Makarova.  

Train with Legends, Play Like a Champion

The exhilarating new Tennis Academy program offers guests the rare opportunity to master their serve, perfect their backhand and elevate their on-court strategy with elite coaching from four world-class tennis coaches throughout the coming year.  Each of these iconic figures brings their own legacy of championship victories and a deep well of on-court expertise to guests of Kuda Huraa.

“Our partnership with RTC is a true game-changer,” says Didier Jardin, General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa. “It’s an excellent opportunity for our many tennis-loving guests to take their skills to the next level by learning from true tennis royalty.”

A Champion’s Pedigree

Serving up her award-winning take on the game for the Tennis Academy’s 2023 festive season from December 19-26, 2023 is former World #1 and four-time Grand Slam champion Ekaterina Makarova. Makarova dominated world tennis doubles for many years, winning the 2012 US Open with Bruno Soares and the 2013 French Open, 2014 US Open and 2017 Wimbledon Championships with Elena Vesnina. In 2016, together with Vesnina, she soared to Olympic gold. Ekaterina was officially proclaimed World Doubles #1 on June 11, 2018 and claimed 15 titles on the WTA Tour. She also shone as the World #8 in singles, winning three WTA titles, and was a cornerstone of Russia’s victorious 2008 Fed Cup team.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my knowledge with the guests at Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa,” says Makarova. “I hope to inspire tennis-loving individuals to enhance their skills and on-court strategy with unique training techniques honed through my years of professional experience, while sharing my deep-seated passion for the game.”

Play in Paradise

The Tennis Academy is set in the award-winning serenity of Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, a breath-taking oceanfront village setting awarded a third-consecutive Forbes Five-Star rating in 2023. Guests will sail by traditional Maldivian dhoni across crystal-clear waters to reach the Resort’s scenic court, discreetly screened by lush greenery.

There will be tailored sessions for singles, couples and groups, adults and juniors, beginners and experienced players alike, all under the glorious Maldivian sun. Shaded seating, refreshments and towels keep guests cool while enjoying all the thrills of the game.

Throughout the year, the Tennis Academy will be overseen by Dmitrii Studitskii, Director of Tennis at Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa.

Dmitrii Studitskii is a formidable blend of seasonedprofessional tennis player and dedicated private coach. Fluent in English, Russian and Spanish, he has extensive experience in both the technical skills of the game and the psychology required to win. His talent for creating training plans tailored to each player’s skill level, from beginner to advanced, ensures that everyone experiences on-court success and grows their love of the game.

Interactive Q&As

A highlight of Kuda Huraa’s Tennis Academy will be an interactive Q&A session with Ekaterina Makarova, which all guests will be invited to join. The event will be an opportunity to ask the former world #1 about her journeys to championship point, the strategies that kept her at the top of her game and her advice for aspiring tennis legends.

Further tennis masters to grace the Tennis Academy will be announced over the coming weeks.

To be part of this Tennis Academy and take skills to the next level,email: reservations.mal@fourseasons.com or call the central reservations department of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives at tel: (960) 66 00 888.

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