A popular dive site in Maldives for whale shark spotting, called Vandhumaafaru adi is to be leased fordeveloping into an industrial site. TheMaldives is a party to the Biodiversity Convention, Cartagena Protocol onBiosafety and UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Culturaland Natural Heritage. Under these treaties the Maldives has obligations toensure the conservation and protection of habitats and species in both nationaland international context.
Local Maldiviansare outraged by the Maldives Fisheries Ministry, as they have recently leasedHanifaru to a private party on a long term basis, to be developed forindustrial purposes. The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, which isempowered by the Fisheries Law to establish special marine sanctuaries, and whoalso in June 1995 imposed a ban on allfishing, capturing or the taking of whale sharks under the Fisheries Law, isnow the party responsible for allowing such industrial activity to take place. TheWhale shark is also listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union forConservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). According to a Maldivian blogspot, the island was notput on tender, and no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was done.
The Maldivians feel that any industrial activity on Hanifaru will upset thefragile ecosystem of Vandhumaafaru Adi. This ecosystem, vital for theaggregations of whale sharks for mating, is a unique natural habitat and one ofthe very few such places in the world. It is imperative that this bay isprotected from human encroachment and declared as a whale shark sanctuary. Hanifaru in Baa Atoll, is an uninhabitedisland with a natural underwater bay -locally known as ‘Vandhumaafaru Adi’-famous for whale sharks. The bay, known to divers as ‘Aquarium’ is home to alarge numbers of whale sharks, grey sharks, manta rays and sting rays, is alsoa nursery for these species.
The fisherfolks of Baa Dhonfanu and other nearby inhabited islands have knownthis place for centuries, not as a dive spot, but as a whale shark fishingpoint; whale sharks, caught for their liver oil and/or fins, used to be animportant source of livelihood for them.
Maldiviansare looking for international support and more information can be found at http://www.bluepeacemaldives.org/blog/.