Laamu Atoll Declared a Hope Spot by Mission Blue

Laamu Atoll has been designated as a planet’s ‘Hope Spot’ by the international non-profit organization, Mission Blue, on 28th October 2021. This declaration results from an application by Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), an initiative created by Six Senses Laamu in partnership with three NGOs- the Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and the Olive Ridley Project.

Mission Blue defines Hope Spots as exceptional locations that are scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean. This designation highlights Laamu Atoll’s significant ecological, economic and cultural importance, as well as its potential to reverse damage from negative human impacts. From its rich reefs, vast seagrass meadows and culturally significant mangroves, Laamu Atoll ticked all six categories for Mission Blue as an area worthy of the highest protection.

Laamu Atoll | Image by Joel Penner

Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue said: “It’s so important that we protect the ecosystems there, especially the seagrass meadows that we now understand are vital for generating oxygen, capturing carbon and providing a home and security for so many creatures not only within the atoll but throughout the depths beyond.”

The mangroves act in a similar way to the seagrass meadows by storing carbon. They are also fundamental to local traditions such as making coir rope out of coconut husks. This craft, which has been passed down amongst Maldivian women for generations, relies on healthy mangrove systems as areas where the husks can be soaked.

Laamu’s coral reefs also provide key ecosystem benefits. “Unlike other atolls in the Maldives, Laamu has very few reef passes, leading from the outside to the inside of the atoll. These areas are home to healthy populations of critically endangered and endangered species such as napoleon wrasse, grey reef sharks, mantas and green and hawksbill turtles just to name a few,” said Philippa Roe, MUI’s Head Marine Biologist.

Image by Alex Mustard

In 2013, Mission Blue declared the entire Maldives Archipelago as a Hope Spot to highlight the nation’s rich marine biodiversity and its fragility in the face of the climate crisis. “By declaring Laamu Atoll as its own, smaller Hope Spot within the Maldives, we have the opportunity to lead and inspire the nation in the realms of local marine protection,” explains Adam Tholhat, Sustainability and Community Outreach Manager at Six Senses Laamu.

“Our mission has always been to leave a legacy in the Maldives, to leave this beautiful and unique part of the country better than how we found it,” says Marteyne van Well, the resort’s general manager. “Today we make a significant step towards achieving this goal.”

“At Six Senses, sustainability is not about sacrifice, rather it is a celebration of abundance. It ensures that future generations can enjoy this unique ecosystem with Six Senses for years to come and the Laamu Atoll Hope Spot is a realization of this vision,” adds Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses.

The Maldivian government has pledged to protect at least one reef, one mangrove and one uninhabited island from each atoll by 2022. In 2018, Laamu Atoll council pledged to protect five ecologically significant areas in the atoll. Recently, significant progress has been made on these goals and the designation of nationally protected areas within the Hope Spot is expected in the coming months.

Watch the Hope Spot launch video here.

Featured Image: Laamu Atoll mangroves | Joel Penner

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