Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Sea Star Plague - Interview

During this year's easter vacation on Moofushi, I had the great opportunity to interview some experts (Enzo Spine, Miles Crookers and Olivier de Guardia) regarding the current sea star plague which has already damaged some major parts of the Great Barrier Reef and now arrives the Maldives too. Please enjoy, a post with more detailed information about the Crown of Thrones will follow soon.

1. Since I have been here last year in order to start my project, a lot has changed here on Moofushi and on the Maldives in general. Does this change have the same background as the current problem in the Great Barrier Reef - the sea star plague?

The problem of the Crown of Thorns has been present in the Maldives for over 10 years, but in the last 2 to 3 years to problems has escalated exponentially.

2. To what extend and which parts of the Maldives are fighting with this problem? How does it affect Moofushi?

The Problem seems to be arriving from the East part of the Maldives, However Moofushi is unaffected for the moment.

3. What is the reason for this sudden increase of the population? Does El Niño as well as the general climate change add to this?

The El nino is not the causes, some say there have been high spikes in the crown of thorns population due to chemical fertilisers running into coastal areas, or where waist pipes throw sewage into the oceans.

4. Does this type of sea star have any natural enemies?

The crown of thorns has few predators, The giant Triton shell is it main natural enemy, however these shells are sometimes used for tourist souvenirs, which of course is natures natural form of elimination, once removed from its habitat of course it can no longer eat its favourite food, the Crown of Thorns.
5. How are you dealing with this issue?

We are currently monitoring our local dive and snorkel sites for the existence of the crown of thorns, (fortunately the dives sites in and around Moofushi have not been compromised). Once we have located an area in which the starfish are present, we inject them with 20 mpg of normal household vinegar which ( we have to say unfortunately ) kills the Crown of Thorns.

6. Wouldn’t it be enough to resettle them?

As they leave millions of eggs at any one time, if not eliminated eventually they could eat all the local reefs. leaving nothing but empty coral heads and dead reefs behind them.

7. Who decided how to deal with the sea stars this why?

Maldivian Government

8. What happens with the dead see stars?

When they die, many different kinds of reef fish feed of them.

Miles Crookers - PADI Course Director & Manager, Bluetribe

Miles Crookes comes from Sheffield and has turned his passion for the sea and diving into a profession for over twenty years and is a PADI Course Director since 1999. His competence and dedication to all diver and Instructor training, helps the team to prepare divers at all levels, recreational and technical up to the highest degree.

For further information feel free to check out this web side:  Bluetribe

Enzo Spina - Diving & Excursion Manager, Bluetribe

As some of you may already know, Enzo Spina is an extremely experienced diving Instructor with several Scuba Diving Certification Organizations: Padi, Dan, Naui, Uisp, Has (Handicapp Scuba Association) and had already over 7000 dives in Maldives. He arrived in the Maldives for the first time twenty years ago and is very passionate about the sea, diving and of cause the Maldives. Furthermore he is an expert in tidal currents and has published the illustrated guide TuttoMaldive. 

For further information feel free to check out this web side:  Bluetribe 

The New Team

Since Mr Kai Hoffmeister unfortunately left Moofushi, here is the new team I am currently working with:

Enzo Spina (Diving & Excursion Manager), Janina Sauer, Olivier de Guardia (General Manager - Constance Moofushi), Miles Crookers (PADI Course Director & Manager) 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The Reef Manta Ray

The reef manta rays are one of the largest and the most graceful inhabitants of the Maldivian coral reefs. As a incredibly graceful swimmer, the reef manta ray almost seems to fly through the water, however it is also capable of extreme speed and sometimes they even leap of the water, landing with a loud slap (see video on my facebook page). Those jumps may be an attempt to remove parasites, escape a predator, communicate with others or simply in order to play. Event though, they are massive in size, they feed on plankton only, which they filter out of the water using their gill rakers. The reef manta rays can often be seen in groups while feeding and are generally known as 'group-traveler'. Throughout those journeys they tend to be occupied by smaller fish called remoras, which attach to rays body's and consume particles of food that fall form the ray's mouth. 

Furthermore, the reef manta rays regularly visit the so-called 'cleaning stations' where several types of fish pick parasites of their bodies. 

Behavior during courtship: During courtship, one or more male reef manta rays chase a female around the reef. The male reef manta rays see this as a competition in order to prove who is the strongest and who has the right to mate. 

When finally reproduced, the eggs of a reef manta
ray develop in the females body for about a year. As the eggs hatch internally, the pups are abel to be born alive. The birth usually takes place in 
shallow water during night, the seasonal time may vary though - birth during winter as well as summer has already been observed. The exact lifespan of the reef manta ray is unfortunately still unknown, however, it is estimated to be at least 40 years or more. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Green Seaturtle

Today I would like to introduce the green sea turtle to you guys. The green sea turtle can be considered one of the largest sea turtles and is known as the only herbivore among the different species. As often mistaken, green sea turtles are actually named for the greenish color of their cartilage and fat, not their shells. They are found mainly in tropical and subtropical water. Sadly those beautiful and peaceful animals are classified as endangered, since they are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites. However, green sea turtles are extremely important in order to maintain our most important ecosystem. While grazing on seagrasses and algae they help maintaining the seagrass beds which makes them more productive. Moreover, the by green sea turtles consumed and quickly digested seagrass becomes available as recycled nutrients to many species that live in the sea grass ecosystem. Furthermore, seagrass beds are extremely important to human food security as they function as nurseries for several species of invertebrates and fish. Unfortunately, the green sea turtle is threatened in many different ways, including fisheries bycatch, habit loss, overharvesting as well as illegal trade. Due to this, it is extremely important to rescue turtles and release them back to their natural habitat as quick as possible, just like the Marine Savers are doing it. They currently have one Olive Ridley turtle and five Green sea turtles (
Chelonia mydas) in rehabilitation at Kuda Huraa. The Green turtles will remain in the facility until they reach the straight carapace length (SCL) of 30cm, following the same protocols as with the Head Start Programme to increase their chances of survival after release.

Coming back to their increasing threats:
  • Bycatch: Worldwide, incredibly many sea turtles a year caught in shrimp trawl nets, on longline hooks and in fishing gillnets by accident. Once caught, many of them drown, since sea turtles need to reach the surface to breathe. As fishing activity expands, this threat is more of a problem.
  • Habit loss: Uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities destroy or disturb sea turtle nesting beaches which they are dependent on.
  • Overhavesting & Illegal trade: Worldwide, the green sea turtles are being hunted and their eggs harvested. A significant part of this is for human consumption, however the trade of turtle parts remains a profitable business as well. In West Africa for example, sea turtles are being killed for use in medicine and some traditional ceremonies.

Newsletter - Strothoff International School

Im Januar Newsletter der Strothoff International School
Vielen Dank für den tollen Bericht! Ich hoffe, dass jetzt noch einmal kräftig gespendet wird, damit ich mein Spendenziel von 1000€ bis zum Abgabetermin des Projektes gemeinsam mit euch erreichen darf!

In the January Newsletter of Strothoff International School
Thank you so much for such great report! I really hope, that there are gonna be a couple of further donations so that I will be able to achieve my goal of 1000€ until the deadline of my project.

10. Klasse geht in Projektarbeit

In vier Wochen startet das Schuljahr 2015/2016 in die zweite Hälfte. Für die zehnte Klasse beginnt damit eine besonders spannende Zeit. Denn sie schließen das Schuljahr mit einem Projekt aus einem frei gewählten Fachgebiet ab. Für Janina steht das Projektthema bereits fest: „Ich habe verschiedene Korallen-Workshops besucht, die von einer Meeresbiologin geleitet wurden. Hier kam mir die Idee, mich mit der Renaturierung der Korallenriffe auf den Malediven zu beschäftigen.“ Die 16jährige interessiert sich schon länger für das Thema und möchte ihr Wissen mit anderen Schülern teilen. Zusätzlich will sie mit einer Spendenaktion die Aufforstung der Korallen, die an der Korallenbleiche leiden, unterstützen. Für diesen Zweck hat Janina ein Spendenkonto eingerichtet:

Betreff: „Reconstruction of the Maldivian Coral Reefs“
Kontoinhaber: Bettina Otto - Strothoff International School (Verwaltungsleiterin)
IBAN: DE44 5053 0000 0002 8888 15
BIC: GENODE51CRO (Cronbank AG, Dreieich)

Den Projektfortschritt können Sie auf Janinas Blog http://coral-reef-moofushi.blogspot.de/ verfolgen.

Im März 2016 werden Janina und ihre Mitschüler dann ihre Projekte detailliert einem Gremium aus Lehrern, Eltern und Schulförderern präsentieren.

Grade 10 starts project work.

The second semster of the 2015/2016 school year starts in four weeks. This marks an exciting time for our grade 10 students because they will work towards the completion of a personal project on a subject they have chosen themselves. One of the students, Janina, has chosen to focus on coral reefs. ‘I visited several workshops concerning corals which were guided by a marine biologist. Within those workshops I decided to investigate the restoration of the coral reefs in the Maldives’. The 16 year old student is keen to raise awareness of this topic and would like to share her knowledge with other students and interested families. Janina organised a fund-raising project to support the reforestation of corals that have been exposed to coral bleaching. A fundraising account has been established and donations can be made at:

Subject: „Reconstruction of the Maldivian Coral Reefs“
Account holder: Bettina Otto - Strothoff International School (Head of Administration)
IBAN: DE44 5053 0000 0002 8888 15
BIC: GENODE51CRO (Cronbank AG, Dreieich)

To follow Janina’s progress, please feel free to visit her blog: http://coral-reef-moofushi.blogspot.de/.

All MYP 5 personal projects will be presented in March 2016 to an audience of teachers, parents and school supporters.