Our Fish Lab at Landaa Giraavaru
Erin's Monthly Marine Musings
August turned out quite rainy thanks to the SW monsoon, but that didn’t stop our Reefscapers dream teams from accomplishing some serious science! Fewer trips to our House Reef to work on the coral frames meant our focus ranged from dolphin research to new eco-cable tie experiments… and everyone thrived in the dynamic conditions!
We have been so lucky to work alongside three awesome Four Seasons young apprentices on rotation for six-week periods, toiling hard for many hours both in and out of the water. Welcome to the Reefscapers family, guys!
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. — Einstein
Fish Lab & Aquaria – Life in the Maldives
Large Marine Aquarium
During August, a build-up of debris in the drain/overflow caused a minor overspill in our large marine aquarium. Thankfully, we were able to act quickly, and no specimens were lost; we later renewed the drainage system.
- Algae supply remains good, on a consistent and successful cycle.
- Artemia production is keeping up with the demand of the main tank (6g of cysts per day); issues with air flow caused a slight dip in production, but this was soon fixed.
- Rotifer population has recovered since last month and is maintaining well.
Jellyfish – Aurelia aurita
This month, our large display Kreisel jellyfish tank went through a plumbing overhaul, replacing the pump and drainage system and installing a UV steriliser. The cylinder was deep-cleaned before being restocked with 100 jellyfish. To grow them out, the remaining small jellyfish have been transferred into the closed system 30L Kreisel, with daily water changes.
Zooplankton Survey Study
As part of our Zooplankton Survey, Hannah from the Manta Trust is providing training on sample processing, and we are waiting on a new net for the long-term study. We also collected a sample of copepods to be cultured in the Fish Lab as a new food source for our smaller species.
Prototype QR Code Rollout
We have been working on a new feature to promote our work around the Resort, that involves placing signboards at strategic locations around the island, each featuring a different QR code (to link to a web page or social media post). This will allow interested guests to instantly stream relevant media content to their phones, bringing a fun and interactive experience that also increases guest awareness of our conservation work above and below the waves.
Wild Maldivian anemonefish on the reef
Ornamental Fish Breeding
- Clark’s clownfish (Amphiprion clarkii) – There were two spawning events in August, but the hatched larvae were weak and soon died.
- Maldivian clownfish (Amphiprion nigripes) – No spawning events this month, so we will return the breeding pair to the main tank.
Our shrimp breeding program is expanding! We are now hoping to breed five different families, popular in ornamental aquaria globally, each with different life histories (Thoridae, Stenopodidae, Rhynchocinetidae, Hippolytidae, Lysmatidae).
We have now rearranged our Fish Lab tanks to feature dedicated displays for both our Shrimp (tanks #11-15) and Fish (tanks #31-35) residents. So far, in three separate shrimp families, we have recorded clear morphological differences (body shape, size, eye formation, overall development) that will be studied further in the coming weeks.
- Dancing shrimp (Thor amboinensis) – The seven largest shrimp juveniles are growing well in our display tank, and are visibly active. We recorded three spawning events in August, producing a total of 755 larvae (which are currently at the early stages of development).
Following the installation of our new Kreisel tanks, we have now added a second air pump (one system supplies the larvae Kreisels, the other supplies the plankton and new copepods).
- Boxer shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) – Two egg clutches in August, fitting the schedule we had observed previously (23-28 days between spawning events). We currently have 102 larvae in the mid-stages of development.
- Camel shrimp (Rhynchocinetes durbanensis) – Newly introduced this month, the Camel shrimp is a popular aquarium species known for its bright colours (often confused with the Peppermint shrimp, Lysmata wurdemanni). Four specimens were collected, two males and two ovigerous females presenting large clutches of eggs. One female produced 105 larvae, which we hope to rear in our Lab.
- Marbled shrimp (Saron marmoratus) – Now known to be carrying eggs.
- Skunk cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) – A single specimen, newly introduced this month; we hope to find a breeding partner in the coming weeks.
Gallery: Shimp larvae at 1-day old
Maldives Sea Turtle Rescue & Conservation
Dhondheeni (female Olive Ridley turtle, 30kg/65cm) shortly after rescue by Addu Dive Centre
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation
At the close of August, we were caring for two Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), one Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and one Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) in our Rehabilitation Centre at Landaa.
At Kuda Huraa, we continue to care for Ari, our amputee Olive Ridley patient. She has been eating a variety of different foods this month, as two large jellyfish washed up on the beach (a blue-bottle jellyfish, and a purple-crown jellyfish). She also enjoyed a sea walk on a calm day with a very low tide, and she loved eating the seagrass!
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation
On 11 August, Dhondheeni (female Olive Ridley turtle, 30kg/65cm) was transferred to Kuda Huraa by the Addu Dive Centre after she was found floating and missing both of her front flippers. The team at Maldivian Aero made sure she had a safe flight to the Rehabilitation Centre (thank you!)
She had a tough time adjusting to her injuries, with a poor appetite initially, before she stopped eating all together. Despite daily care and close monitoring, Dhon sadly died on 2 September.
On 29 August, Hawksbill juvenile Buddy (EI.074, 21g/5cm) was admitted to our Turtle Rescue Centre, after being found floating at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi.
Buddy’s carapace was found to have ectoparasites, and she was unable to dive below the water surface (buoyancy syndrome).
With daily care and a healthy diet, Buddy made a quick recovery and was successfully released on 10 September.
Buddy after arrival, with ectoparasites on his carapace
Rayyan encouraging Buddy to dive
Ari enjoying a swim and a seagrass lunch in the lagoon at Kuda Huraa
Flying Turtle Program
We have been making progress with the paperwork required to relocate our unreleasable sea turtles to a new permanent home overseas as part of our ongoing Flying Turtle efforts. Currently, we are waiting to hear back from the EPA for the protected species permits required for transportation.
📢 Our New Turtle Hotline 📞
Our new stickers have arrived, designed to raise awareness of our turtle rescue and rehabilitation facilities, and to promote the contact details for our new hotline number 9-TURTLE. Distribution of the promo materials has started around North Malé Atoll, with plans to roll-out countrywide in the coming months.
Our large ocean enclosure out in the lagoon at Landaa is used for the rehabilitation of our injured sea turtle patients. Recently, we have been repairing several small tears in the netting, and started the mammoth scrubbing task of cleaning the net free from algae and other growth. Keeping the net clean is important to extending its lifespan. Both Maw and Artemis have spent some time in the pen this month.
We are in the process of designing and printing awareness materials that will form part of a new local outreach initiative. We plan to distribute posters and stickers to classrooms and the wider community, to increase awareness of the threats to sea turtles, and to provide advice on the procedures to follow if an injured turtle is found.
Lhaviyani Turtle Festival, 27 August 2022
We were excited to participate in the 2022 Lhaviyani Turtle Festival, and wish to thank Atoll Marine Centre for hosting such a fun and informative event.
We were joined by groups of school children from nearby local islands, to learn more about turtle conservation and the threats faced by the marine environment in the Maldives. There were interactive games to raise awareness about plastic pollution and recycling, and we wove colourful bracelets from salvaged ghost netting while chatting about the importance of turtle conservation.
We also held a coral workshop and panel discussion to discuss our work, and to demonstrate the techniques required to successfully build a coral frame.
Shortly after the festival, we happily announced the winners of the photo competition, who each received their own coral frame sponsorship, namely @akiriali for BEST PHOTO 🎖 and @raajjesoru for MOST LIKED photo 💙
Maldivian Sea Turtle Identification Program
During August, from the 10 new photo sets submitted by the public this month, we were able to add 4 new individuals to our national turtle database, and confirmed resightings of 5 named turtles already in our database.
Our current database now has uniquely identified totals of: 1364 Hawksbills, 287 Greens and 96 Olive Ridleys (from 5400+ separate sightings, across 17 different atolls of the Maldives).
Photos of individual turtles that are not recognised using our I3S software are now being added to the Citizen Science Wildbook ‘Internet of Turtles’ to search the wider network for a match. We continue to compare recognition success rates (I3S verses IoT) for turtles with multiple sightings. The eventual goal is to combine our efforts with other centres, to establish a single database for the whole of the Maldives’ turtle population.
Spotted a turtle? Share your photos
Submissions consist of close-up photographs of the turtle facial profile, enabling us to outline the unique pattern of scales (scutes) that act like a human fingerprint.
REEFSCAPERS Coral Propagation & Reef Restoration in the Maldives
The uniquely beautiful natural reef, in the lagoon of local island Fulhadhoo (Baa Atoll) Maldives
At Landaa during August, we transplanted 19 new coral frames (9 guest-sponsored, 10 Resort-sponsored). We also monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) 108 coral frames at various sites around the island. We continue to build our generous guest sponsorship (50 large frames), adding a further 13 frames to Mudikaashi Reef.
At Kuda Huraa this month, we transplanted 5 new coral frames, retransplanted three existing frames, and monitored (cleaned, repaired, photographed) a total of 81 frames around the island. In addition, our apprentices and intern worked arduously to identify and remove any old frames in the Channel.
We started a new experiment to study sustainable alternatives to plastic cable ties – follow our research updates over at Reefscapers.
Read our Reefscapers Diaries for further details and photographs of our ongoing coral propagation efforts and reef regeneration experiments, both in the Lab and out in the lagoon, updated each month. You may also be interested in our ongoing research and photography, studying coral spawning.
Maldives Marine Research Symposium (MMRS) 2022
On 13-14 August, we presented our coral research at the annual Marine Research Symposium held at the Maldives National University in Malé, as reported in the local news. See our Coral Spawning Research for more information.
- Simon presented our work entitled:
“Methodology for the use of coral larval settlement ex-situ, for upscaling restoration of declining Acropora species”.
- Kate presented our infographic poster (deconstructed here) to portray “An observational insight into coral spawning patterns on two Maldivian reef ecosystems”.
- We won the ‘Best Poster’ award at the event!
50 Years of Tourism Festival – Fulhadhoo
On 26-27 August, our team travelled to the local island of Fulhadhoo (Baa Atoll) to attend a festival to mark the 50th Anniversary of Tourism in the Maldives. The event was live-streamed by local broadcaster PSM News, and attended by representatives from government, nearby resorts, Baa Atoll marine rangers, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, groups of children from different Baa Atoll schools had been invited to Fulhadhoo, where they were informed about our coral propagation program, the tourism industry in the Maldives, and threats to the environment.
Following the presentations, a total of 10 small coral frames were built, involving the school kids in the process, from attaching the fragments to placing them out on the reef. A total of 380 fragments were attached to the frames, which were collected from a local reef abundant with Acropora species. (Fragments of Montipora foliosa were also harvested, and brought back to Landaa Giraavaru for propagation to increase coral genetic diversity). Following the frame building process, we assisted in guiding groups of kids around the local reef, including the site where the coral frames were finally placed.
Thanks to PSM for their excellent media coverage 📸 PSM
Further News & Updates
You might also be interested in:
– our ongoing Dolphin ID Project,
– our unique Sea Turtle Lagoon Enclosure, and
– our Zooplankton Monitoring Project (launched in 2021).
Looking for details of our Reefscapers coral propagation and reef restoration program ? Then head over to our Reefscapers Diaries for all the latest updates.
You can sponsor your own frame and see photographs (updated every 6 months) in our Coral Frame Collection.
Junior Marine Savers activities: (1) Reefscapers corals, (2) turtle care.
Shark! 📸 Matt Gledhill
Whaleshark 📸 Matt Gledhill