On 17-19 June 2019, GOBI stalwarts David Johnson, Piers Dunstan and Vikki Gunn travelled to Dhiffushi island in the Maldives to deliver a capacity building workshop on behalf of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI). Working in collaboration with colleagues at The Maldives Ministry of Environment, the three-day workshop delivered a programme that centred around examining The Maldives’ ocean estate for areas that might meet the EBSA criteria, while also covering aspects relating to uses of and threats to marine biodiversity, and how the results from the exercise could support marine spatial planning. Workshop participants represented a broad spectrum of stakeholder communities, including the Ministries of Environment, Tourism, Economics, Fisheries, Planning and Defence, as well as scientific research centres, NGOs and local conservation groups.
The Maldives EEZ spans some 90,000 km2, of which only 1% is land in the form of coral reef atolls. In addition to its corals, the area is important for a range of species, including cetaceans, elasmobranchs (manta and mobula rays, hammerhead sharks and whale sharks) and mangroves. These charismatic species are a huge draw for tourists, which are an important contributor to the local economy. During the workshop, participants considered how protection of areas of ecological or biological importance could be balanced with economic and social drivers, and what role planning strategies could play in achieving this. The Government of The Maldives hopes to build on the results of this workshop to help meet Aichi Targets and NBSAP commitments.