Laamu Atoll’s ecologically significant habitats support a diverse array of marine life from endangered charismatic megafauna like manta rays and sea turtles to commercially important fish like grouper, snapper, and bait fish. The Atoll’s marine and coastal environment supports its relatively isolated community of 18,000 residents by providing them with jobs and food through fisheries and tourism as well as numerous other ecosystem services, most importantly coastal protection.

Laamu MPA 1

MMR and Blue Marine Foundation have been working with the Laamu Atoll Council, Six Senses Laamu, and the wider community since 2016 to identify critical areas that need protection. In 2017, we identified the grouper spawning aggregation sites on the atoll and in 2019, conducted baseline biodiversity surveys of 20 coral reefs, three seagrass meadows, and two mangroves. Based on these and collating the research of MUI by Six Senses and its NGO partners, we put forward a proposal to the Maldives government to protect the most critical habitats of Laamu Atoll. Thanks to these efforts, Laamu Atoll was declared a Hope Spot by Mission Blue and the Government of Maldives designated six new Protected Areas on the atoll.

Laamu MPA 2

MRR has conducted socio-economic research to understand marine resource use and willingness to pay among visitors in order to support the management planning process for these protect areas. Through our ‘Laamaseelu Farudhun’ (meaning exemplary citizens in Dhivehi) citizen science programme, we are teaching young people in the atoll to understand and monitor their coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows. Work is also underway to establish a sustainable tourism coalition on the atoll.

Laamu MPA 3

In 2022, MRR started working with Laamu Hithadhoo Council to support the management planning process for the atoll’s first Community Conserved Area (CCA). Establishing CCAs will bring huge conservation benefit (in this case to a critical grouper spawning area) alongside supporting local communities to develop sustainable eco-tourism models creating employment and generating income for the island.

Laamu MPA 4

Alongside Marine Protected Areas, there is also a clear need to manage fish populations outside of marine reserves. To this end, MRR are supporting atoll-based fisheries co-management on Laamu Atoll. Through our ‘Laamaseelu Masveriyaa’ (meaning exemplary fisher in Dhivehi) resort reef fishery programme at Six Senses Laamu, we are providing a lucrative marketplace for sustainably caught fish while facilitating fisher participation in the decision-making process. We are also supporting the Laamu Atoll Council to convene fisheries stakeholder committees for reef fishing. We are collecting fish landing information across seven fishing islands on the atoll to understand the biomass of fish being removed from Laamu’s reefs. Alongside this we are conducting coral reef surveys at 26 sites to understand the biomass of fish on the reefs, data which will help inform sustainable levels of fishing that can occur across the Atoll.

Laamu MPA 5

“This Hope Spot provides us with hope that our Laamu marine ecosystems, livelihoods and traditions which may rely on them will be safeguarded for generations to come”

Ismail Ali, Laamu Atoll Council President