Six Senses Laamu is located on an island encompassed by endless clear water, richly populated by marine life of the deep blue Indian Ocean. The resort is committed to making their operation more sustainable and at the same time raise awareness to guests and the resort’s team about the importance of marine conservation. In the spirit of honoring the commitment of protecting the marine life of the Laamu Atoll, Marine Biologists Jenni Choma and Oscar Ignetik have started new projects on turtle identification and coral health and recovery.
Jenni and Oscar began identifying the turtle population of Laamu Atoll in July last year. A database of 138 unique individuals have been recorded in a span of six months. This number includes 67 Hawksbill and 71 Green turtles. Each turtle can be recognized using photo identification as the pattern of scutes on their face differs from turtle to turtle. The sightings database collected will allow the Resident Marine Biology Team at Six Senses Laamu to get an estimate of the total populations of both Green and Hawksbill turtles in Laamu. The research also plays a role in understand the movements and behaviors of these species better. To ensure the identification process and the interaction with turtles does not have a negative impact on their environment, the Resident Marine Biology Team has created the Six Senses Laamu turtle code of conduct.
Six Senses Laamu being the first resort in the Maldives to create the code of conduct for Dolphin Watching, the team is expectant that the turtle code of conduct will also have the same effect in being adopted in the Maldives, making certain that any encounter does not negatively impact the turtles, their movements and their environment.
Jenni and Oscar have also begun a dolphin sightings database to study patterns in their movements and understand the local population better. Their goal in the long term is to identify individuals and family pods.
The Resident Marine Biology Team at Six Senses Laamu has also created an intensive coral reef survey to observe the recovery rates since the El Niño bleaching event in 2016. This research allows the team to evaluate both short-term and long-term ecological impacts on the entire reef ecosystem. The recorded data will provide the team with insights that can be used in taking steps to avoid another bleaching. Steps such as planting more bleaching resistant species on the artificial reefs and in the coral nursery can be taken.
In addition to these two incentives, Six Senses Laamu continues to support the research of Manta Trust and this relationship progresses. One of the highlight of the partnership in 2016 was another first in the Maldives. A six-week detailed study was conducted with Dr. Mark Deakos, founder of HAMER (Hawaii Association of Marine Education and Research), in which nearly half of the population of 117 manta rays found around the resort were precisely sized using paired laser photogrammetry. The technique has never been used in the Maldives. It is highly praised for its non-invasive nature and how accurate it is for measuring wild free ranging manta rays effectively. The project results were submitted to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and were accepted for presentation at the country’s first ever Marine Symposium in October 2016.
Furthermore, Six Senses Laamu has also partnered with Blue Marine Foundation (BMF), to focus on the grouper fishery as the populations of groupers throughout the Maldives are suffering from mismanagement and overfishing. BMF is a charity organization dedicated to creating marine reserves and establishing sustainable models of fishing. Two members of BMF and the Marine Research Center team are on site gathering baseline data on the grouper fishery within Laamu Atoll and studying grouper spawning aggregations. The team will be the first to identify length-maturity relationships of grouper species within the Maldives, which will then be used to inform policy makers of sustainable catch size limits. They are also encouraging local support for sustainable fishing and conservation through an educational and environmental awareness (EEA) program.
The marine atmosphere and the reefs surrounding Six Senses Laamu has had an eventful year. The kindly intended hard work of the team has been acknowledged as they were honored to have been the only hotel in the world to make the shortlist for the 2017 Ocean Awards, the preeminent prizes for marine-conservation initiatives administered by Boat International and the Blue Marine Foundation. Six Senses Laamu is excited about the various marine and environmental protection projects on course and in development at the resort and the Resident Marine Biology Team looks forward to sharing more exciting news and data collected from these ongoing projects.