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Guystevens

Member Since 12 Nov 2010
Offline Last Active Nov 13 2010 11:20 PM
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Posts I've Made

In Topic: Mantas at Hanifaru: Protection from tourists?

13 November 2010 - 11:20 PM

You are absolutely right Shaff, the Maldivian Government has to make the decisions regarding the immediate management and policing of Hanifaru. And like you, I also believe that itís the local communities of Baa Atoll which need to benefit most from any funds which are generated from this, and Baa Atollís other MPAís in the future. My motivation here is, and has always been, to ensure that the manta rays and whale sharks which depend upon Hanifaru will continue to be able to do so for many thousands of years to come, while at the same time also benefiting the local communities. Unfortunately however, in todayís world the bottom line is that money talks; therefore this reality dictates that to ensure the real protection of Hanifaru it must earn ($$$) its protection! And it will only earn its protection by benefiting those who have the most vested interests in ensuring its continued economic protection for the future. Right now those people are the local stakeholders, like the resorts and the dive liveaboard boats, but they should, and NEED to be the local communities as well. If there is not the will from the local communities to protect these sites, then no matter how many laws and regulations are written down on a piece of paper, or how much we try to police these sites with boats and wardens, the reality is that these MPAís are doomed to fail, just as all the current MPAís in this country have become nothing more than paper parks to date. There has to be a sense of pride and ownership within the Baa Atoll community for these sites and they have to have the desire to take onboard these responsibilities. I have lived in Baa Atoll for the last 5 years and I know that the desire is here, and people like you are great examples of this positivity, but unless there are more financial rewards and incentives to drive this process then it will not happen.

For the last three years I have been working closely with the Ministry of the Environment in the Maldives to provide them with the solid scientific data (both on tourism numbers and site usage, as well as the continued monitoring of the manta rays and whale sharks themselves) with which they can use to make the necessary informed decisions to ensure the sustainable management of this extremely important site. As well as my scientific consultation the government has also spent a lot of time speaking with the local communities of Baa Atoll and the stakeholders (resorts, dive centres and the liveaboard companies) to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions. In the end I hope that, as Environment Minister Aslam has suggested, Hanifaru and all of Baa Atolls MPAís will be managed by a co-operative, which gives the power to police and manage these sites to the very people who have the most interest in protecting them. This I believe will be the only effective way to ensure that these sites become truly protected.

Baa Atoll is soon to be declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and this will give the perfect framework under which to implement these management plans. I therefore am confident that together we can make Hanifaru an example of how the Maldives marine resources can truly be protected for the benefit of all, for the future, forever. And not just for the short term gains of a few selfish businesses and individuals.

Guy Stevens
Maldivian Manta Ray Project
Save Our Seas Foundation