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Bleaching and teaching – saving corals and marine life in the face of El Niño



Biosphere Expeditions

Biosphere ExpeditionsMarine Conservation SocietyIn the Maldives, repressive politics, coral bleaching and the whale shark tourism industry are out of control. Two NGOs – Biosphere Expeditions and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) – battle on regardless. Their silver lining is civil society groups.

The two NGOs have worked in the Maldives since 1990, eventually joining forces in 2011. Today they run an annual research expedition to the Maldives, assessing coral reef fitness alongside marine health indicators such as whale sharks. “We are also very concerned by the increasingly repressive political developments,” says Dr. Matthias Hammer of Biosphere Expeditions.

El Niño devastating reefs

The recent El Niño event has severely stressed corals in the Maldives too. So much so that according to MCS’s Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt the July research trip will be “one of sadness – to see the impact of climate change. A massive bleaching event has hit the Maldives in May as a result of a strong and long El Niño. It has clearly killed many shallow water Maldives reefs. Our task is to see the extent of the damage caused and to work out which reefs are more resilient.”

Dr. Hammer adds that “Maldivian local communities are only slowly becoming more aware of human impacts on reefs and therefore the source of their livelihoods and homes. Given the very real threats to coral reefs and the rapid pace of change, communities, politicians and government must be more proactive in managing the coral reefs of the Maldives properly and sustainably.”

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Photos (left to right): Surveying the reef (c) S Hashim; Whale shark (c) Biosphere Expeditions; Colours of the reef (c) S Hashim.

Unsustainable, out of control whale shark exploitation and harassment

The two NGOs also do not mince their words in their assessment of the whale shark tourism industry in South Ari Marine Protected Area. “Although the area is a Marine Protected Area (MPA), as of yet it is merely a paper park. Despite suggestions for regulations being put forward, there is neither a proper management plan that all the stakeholders agree on, nor a governing body actively involved in enforcing these regulations. As a result, boat collisions that result in major injuries to the sharks and harassment by boats and divers / snorkellers engaged in irresponsible tourism activities are the rule, rather than the exception. Whale shark tourism is therefore far from sustainable and the MPA has a long way to go until it is no longer just a paper park.”

The silver lining: Where the officialdom fails, communities step in

But it is not all doom and gloom. Where officialdom is failing, civil society and committed Maldivians are stepping in. Ever since Biosphere Expeditions started running its annual research trip to the Maldives in 2011, it has educated and trained Maldivians in reef survey techniques as part of the Biosphere Expeditions’ placement programme. This culminated in the first-ever all-Maldivian reef survey in November 2014 and other community-based conservation initiatives since then, the latest in March 2016. Shaha Hasihim of local NGO Gemana, for example, has taken part in several expeditions and is now training her compatriots in reef survey techniques and setting up community-based conservation programmes, because, in her words, “monitoring the reef on a regular basis helps local communities identify issues that may affect the health of the reefs and take preventive measures to restore the balance and ensure reef survival.”

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Photos (left to right): A healthy reef with live coral and a thriving fish population (c) S Hashim; A local volunteer collects the all-important data along the Reef Check transect line (c) S Hashim; Coral bleaching has also devastated Maldives reefs  (c) XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

Biosphere Expeditions is also raising funds for more placements across other parts of the planet, as part of its campaign to train 15 young conservationists in 10 countries across the globe. The funding target is $7500. Donations are most welcome.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Take an immersive dive below the waves off the Welsh coast using 360 VR: Common Spider Crab (Watch Video)



A week-long series from Jake Davies…

Below the waves off the Welsh coast, there are a range of species and habitats that can be seen. However, you don’t have to venture too far from the shore to see them or don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Using 360 videos provides an immersive feeling of being below the water and encountering many species and habitats from diving one of the most important habitats and species that aren’t often seen whilst diving. For more of an experience of being below the waves, the VR videos can be viewed using a VR headset.

Take a VR dive just off the shore and explore what can be found within the shallow waters of a sandy beach. Fish can be founding cruising amongst the seaweed and numerous crustacean (Crabs, lobster, prawns, shrimps) species can be found walking around the seafloor. Common Spider Crabs (Maja brachydactyla) are one of the largest crabs species found along the coast and during the early summer, they aggregate in large numbers to moult which allows them to grow.

Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Dive Training Blogs

Join Me On My Commute To Scuba Diving Key Largo! (Watch Video)



Sunrise was so beautiful the other morning, I wanted to take a time lapse of my drive from home in South Miami to Key Largo before morning dives with Horizon Divers.

I thought you might enjoy taking the ride with me! Silly I know! But here’s 2 minutes of chill!



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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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