On 25 and 26 October 2015, the Government of the Maldives partnered with the Pew Charitable Trusts to host a ministerial symposium on shark and ray conservation in the Indian Ocean.

Representatives from the Governments of the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Seychelles gathered at Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Expert speakers from around the world shared their knowledge of global shark and ray populations, and the reasons why these species are in crisis. With 100 million sharks killed annually around the world, top of the agenda was the urgent steps needed to safeguard these iconic species in the Indian Ocean.

The Government of the Maldives showcased its global leadership in shark and ray management, and the way these species are drawing valuable ecotourism resources to the country. Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru is at the epicentre of this sustainable shark and ray ecotourism, and the symposium delegates were able to witness first-hand why tourists travel from all over the world to see the manta rays, reef and pelagic sharks, and whale sharks that are abundant in the protected Maldivian waters.

The representatives were given a tour of Landaa’s Marine Discovery Centre and enjoyed several conservation presentations covering our conservation programmes –

  • Sea Turtle Rehabilitation – caring for injured turtles from across the Maldives.
  • Reefscapers – one of the most successful reef propagation projects in the world, designed to boost existing reef habitats and generate new ones.
  • Fish Lab – our ornamental fish hatchery, a pioneering aquaculture facility in the Maldives, made to spread local awareness and reduce the capture of wild fish for the aquarium trade.
  • Manta Trust – the world’s leading manta ray charity. Started at Landaa Giraavaru in 2005 (as the ‘Maldivian Manta Ray Project’), the Trust has now documented more than 30,000 sightings of over 3,700 Maldivian reef mantas, making it the most intensely studied population anywhere in the world.

A commemorative Reefscapers coral frame was made for the occasion (LG2331), and the delegates enjoyed a Manta Safari to the famous Hanifaru Bay.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the ministers agreed on a declaration stating their joint aim to protect the Indian Ocean’s sharks and rays, both in their own waters and through collective, international action. This declaration included further leadership from the Maldives, which committed to support the Sri Lankan thresher shark proposal, and also take decisive action themselves by proposing that the silky shark is also offered protection under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

“With huge quantities of sharks still killed in the region annually, the commitments made in this declaration, and the follow-up actions that need to happen in the coming months and years will be crucial if sharks are to survive and recover in the Indian Ocean,” said Minister Shainee (Maldives Fisheries & Agriculture). “The Maldives has already taken a lead in regional shark management through the creation of a shark and ray sanctuary, so these species are protected in our waters. We now are reaping the benefits of a thriving ecotourism sector. We now want the world to join us in protecting sharks and rays, starting with the adoption of these CITES proposals next year”.

“As noted in the declaration, the Maldives will be proposing that silky sharks are protected through a CITES Appendix II listing. These are key sharks that keep our tuna fisheries healthy, and we want to see them protected and sustainably managed globally,” added Minister Thoriq (Maldives Environment & Energy).

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