Dolphin spotting Landaa Marine Savers Maldives

Fish Lab & Aquaria – Marine Life in the Maldives

This month we added a sabertooth blenny (Plagiotremus azaleus) to a small display tank, to accompany our bicolour blenny and cardinal fish.

Plankton Production – Our plankton and algae cultures are used as the main food source for the residents of our Fish Lab.

– Algae – we experienced some problems with our 2L flask culture this month, but numbers were stable overall with 800L produced this month to feed our juvenile fish and shrimps
– Rotifers – population has increased significantly to 490 individuals/mL
– Artemia – maintained to 6g of cysts a day to accommodate our growing population of moon jellyfish, shrimps and larger fish (yellow boxfish, saddleback pufferfish, clownfish).

Jellyfish – Aurelia aurita

We cleaned our large Kreisel tank this month, and added a further 30 grown-out jellyfish.

Jellyfish Kreisel cylinder Maldives

Photo1: Our dedicated jellyfish Kreisel cylinder at Landaa Giraavaru.

Photo2: Specialised food chain, behind the scenes in our Fish Lab

Fish Lab Food chain

Groupers

Most of our groupers are feeding well and growing in size, although we did lose four individuals, and two others are showing signs of a mild skin condition.

Sea Urchins – New Project 2024

Sea urchins are herbivores that are found in many different marine habitats, and the gonads of select species are consumed as a delicacy in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines (called ‘uni’ in Japan). In some parts of the world, due to the over-harvesting of sea urchins from the wild, algae are seen to over-grow on corals and substrate, creating an unbalanced ecosystem.

Sea urchin aquaculture, known as ‘echinoculture,’ is practised in several countries, but has not yet begun here in the Maldives. Consequently, we are launching a new breeding project to investigate its potential and viability. Of the many urchin species native to the Maldives, we have decided to focus on the collector urchin (Tripneustes gratilla) due to its small spines making for easy handling.

So far, we have found one female urchin (spotted on our turtle enclosure netting), currently housed in a regular tank in our Fish Lab. We are experimenting with various herbivorous foods, including seaweeds and algae, but also some lettuce and slices of carrot.

Ornamental Fish & Shrimp Breeding

Dancing shrimp (Thor amboinensis) – we have been relocating our juveniles into display tanks, including ten from our November batch and 25 younger individuals. We also collected 200 new larvae this month, and started raising them on our live rotifers

Boxer shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) – a new batch on 14 January yielded 400 juveniles, and we have one female laden with eggs and due to hatch.

Maldivian clownfish (Amphiprion nigripes) – one clutch of eggs was laid in the main tank, but we will not be growing these out.

Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) – our breeding pair laid three times this month, yielding 300 hatchlings per batch. Overall, we have around 120 individuals growing. [Lifecycle graphic]

Fish Lab Shrimp breeding cycle

Megafauna and Marine Life

At Kuda Huraa during January, we held 23 guided snorkelling excursions to seven different sites, and spotted thirteen different species of megafauna. Sightings included nurse sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus), pink whiprays (Himantura fai), and blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus).

At Landaa this month, our most frequently recorded species included blacktips, hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), and spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari). Back on dry land, we welcomed 139 guests to our Marine Discovery Centre tour, eager to learn about our conservation projects.

Marine life Maldives
Nurse shark resting Maldives
Manta sightings at Kuda Huraa Maldives
Marine life Maldives turtle

Maldives Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation

THIANDU stranded Olive Ridley turtle Maldives

Ghost Net Removal and the Rescue of Thiandu

Emergency turtle rescue operations were required regularly throughout January. Mid-month, following an alert by our Resort colleagues, we deployed our aerial drone to the Channel site, to inspect a large ghost net caught on the reef. From our remote footage, we were able to spot an Olive Ridely sea turtle entangled in the netting, and quicky despatched our rescue team to bring Thiandu back to our Turtle Rescue Centre.

Sea turtle rehabilitation and care Maldives
Sea turtle rescue and treatments Maldives

Noonu’s Journey

Noonu was released on 21 October. We have been following her progress to the southern tip of Sri Lanka, before heading back towards the Maldives. This complete change in direction is likely the result of her being caught in the prevailing currents moving along the continental shelf and sweeping her out into deeper water. These strong currents are also likely the reason behind her speed; in January alone, she has travelled 1,500 km at an average of 55km per day. The total distance of Noonu’s track now stands at a whopping 4,550 km!

Noonu’s SPLASH10 tag has a battery life of 242 days, so the transmissions might continue until May, assuming no other factors cause the tag to fail. It will be interesting to see if her travel patterns continue to reflect the prevailing ocean currents.

See our interactive Satellite Map for more details!

Maldivian Sea Turtle Identification Program

During January, our ID project is currently on hold as we have been busy with our rescued turtle patients (eight new admissions, and two turtle release events).

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.

Turtle ID Maldives - unique facial scales

REEFSCAPERS Coral Propagation & Reef Restoration in the Maldives

Reefscapers coral maintenance Maldives
Reefscapers coral propagation Maldives

Monthly Update Summary

At Kuda Huraa during January, we transplanted six new coral frames, and monitored a further 80 mature frames at various sites around the island.

Gamete Development & Coral Spawning

During January, we conducted a total of 10 hours of spawning monitoring across five days. At the start of the month, we observed spawning in two Acropora species, and spotted coral slick (floating spawn) on the west side of Kuda Huraa (stretching over 150m) likely from the Channel site.

Soft Coral Propagation

Our soft coral propagation project has extended from Sarcophyton species to also include Sinularia (less compressible, so easier to attach). We have also started to utilise the more common pieces of coral rubble substrate (more unstable), and will assess health and long-term growth.

Reefscapers soft coral propagation expts
Reefscapers soft coral propagation expts

Preparing for the Coral Bleaching Season

Here in the Maldives, we are fast approaching the ‘summer’ hot season (February-April). The extra hours of sunshine combined with elevated sea surface temperatures (SSTs) cause increased stresses on the coral reefs (April-June), which can lead to temporary paling, or even permanent coral bleaching and death. This year in particular, global climatologists are forecasting to be exceptionally hot, due to a combination of the cyclical El Niño event and the ever-increasing effects of anthropogenic climate change. We are following developments very closely on our Reefscapers Climate Change page, curating the latest resources and news by climate experts and marine scientists from Florida (USA), The Great Barrier Reef (Australia), and worldwide.

To help minimise the impacts of the elevated ocean temperatures, our Kuda Huraa Team will take full advantage of the portability of our artificial reefs thanks to the compact coral frame design. Over the coming months, we plan to relocate our shallow frames to deeper locations on the house reef, and have started to identify our most “at risk” frames and assess new sites offering greater resilience.

Reefscapers marine life
Reefscapers corals night snorkel Maldives
Junior Marine Savers activities

Further News & Updates

You might also be interested in:
– our ongoing Dolphin ID Project, our specialised Sea Turtle Lagoon Enclosure, and our Zooplankton Monitoring Project.

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.

Junior Marine Savers children turtle care Maldives