Geschätzte Lesezeit: 9 Minuten

During our press trip to Kuramathi Maldives, we became aware of the project „The Muraka“. Here, corals are being cultivated and an attempt is being made to raise awareness of sustainability, the environment and water protection among holidaymakers. This prompted FrontRowSociety editor Andreas Conrad to conduct an interview with leading Marine Biologist Sara Scroglieri.

Kuramathi Maldives: Hier kann man auch Einiges zum Thema Schutz der Unterwasserwelt spürbar und nachhaltig erfahren
Kuramathi Maldives: Here you can also learn a lot about the protection of the underwater world in a tangible and sustainable way / © Editorial Team FrontRowSociety

Exclusive Interview with Sara Scroglieri, Marine Biologist – The Muraka Project at Kuramathi Maldives

Andreas Conrad: Can you provide us with an overview of your coral colonisation project and how it positively contributes to the preservation of the Maldives?

Sara Scroglieri: The Muraka Project, is a pioneering endeavour in coral propagation and reef regeneration. Led by our dedicated Eco Centre team and resident marine biologist Sara Scroglieri, the project utilises advanced techniques to propagate new coral colonies and rehabilitate damaged reefs in the resort’s surrounding waters. Building on our longstanding commitment to coral restoration since 2009, the project aims to enhance reef resilience and ecological services such as coastal protection and marine biodiversity. By engaging in coral gardening and innovative methods, we seek to contribute positively to the preservation of the Maldives‘ natural beauty and ensure sustainable tourism practises. The Muraka Project underscores Kuramathi Maldives‘ unwavering dedication to environmental stewardship and collaboration with local communities, schools, and guests in safeguarding our oceans for future generations.

Andreas Conrad: When was your project launched, and what progress has been made so far within the project?

Sara Scroglieri: The project was launched on World Ocean Day last year, marked by engaging events with local schools and the initiation of a coral adoption programme. Since then, notable progress has been made despite challenges. Initially, the coral faced some struggle due to high temperatures in July and August. However, they gradually recovered and thrived, showing continuous improvement. Unfortunately, this year, an oil spill near the jetty affected the coral’s growth, albeit not to the extent of bleaching. While it slowed their growth temporarily, they are still doing well overall. Out of approximately 150 fragments across 17 frames, only one fragment has perished so far. Remarkably, 90 of these fragments have been adopted by guests, reflecting growing community involvement. However, a new challenge has emerged with a bleaching alert, posing a potential threat to the nurseries. Despite our concerns, we remain hopeful for their survival, though we acknowledge the uncertainty of the situation. We continue to monitor closely and remain committed to the preservation of these precious marine ecosystems.

Verantwortlich für das Muraka-Projekt ist Sara Scroglieri ist renommierte Meeresbiologin mit langjähriger Erfahrung in der Erforschung und Erhaltung der Unterwasserwelt
The person responsible for the Muraka project is Sara Scroglieri, a renowned marine biologist with many years of experience in researching and conserving the underwater world / © Editorial Team

Andreas Conrad: How are corals selected and bred for the project?

Sara Scroglieri: For our project, we select corals through a process known as „fragments of opportunity.“ This involves collecting fragments that have naturally broken off from existing coral colonies. These fragments may break off due to various natural occurrences such as fish feeding, encounters with turtles, or accidental damage by snorkelers and swimmers. We salvage these fragments and utilise them in our project to help regenerate coral populations.

It’s important to note that we do not actively breed corals in the traditional sense. Corals naturally reproduce through fragmentation, where broken fragments have the ability to grow into new colonies if provided with suitable conditions. By taking healthy fragments and providing them with a substrate or structure to attach to, we facilitate their natural growth process. This allows the fragments to naturally attach and develop into thriving coral colonies without any intervention on our part to actively induce reproduction.

Andreas Conrad: What challenges have you encountered in coral colonisation in the Maldives so far, and how were they overcome?

Sara Scroglieri: One significant challenge we have encountered in coral colonisation in the Maldives is finding a balance between environmental restoration and the financial sustainability of resorts. As businesses, resorts seek to generate income or provide value to guests through coral restoration activities. To address this challenge, we have developed a coral restoration approach using spider frames, allowing us to initiate the Coral Adoption programme. In the future, we plan to incorporate guest involvement by offering guided excursions to the restoration site. However, as we are still in a pilot phase, this aspect is currently being developed.

Additionally, the Maldives faces significant challenges due to climate change, including stronger storms, rising water temperatures, and increasing water acidity. While these factors pose considerable threats to coral reefs, we strive to design our projects with resilience in mind, taking into account the impacts of climate change and planning accordingly. While we cannot control these environmental challenges, we can adapt our approaches to mitigate their effects and enhance the long-term success of coral colonisation efforts in the Maldives.

Korallenriffe sind die artenreichsten und produktivsten Meeresgebilde und bieten den perfekten Lebensraum für einen Viertel aller Pflanzen- und Tierarten im Meer
Coral reefs are the most species-rich and productive marine formations and provide the perfect habitat for a quarter of all plant and animal species in the sea / © Editorial Team

Andreas Conrad: What role do local communities and government authorities play in implementing the Muraka Project and coral colonisation?

Sara Scroglieri: The implementation of the Muraka project involves collaboration with both local communities and government authorities, highlighting the importance of legal compliance and community engagement.

Obtaining permits for coral-related activities is essential due to the protected status of corals under Maldivian law. We navigated through the permit application process, which, though time-consuming, ensured adherence to regulatory requirements. The Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Fisheries, and the Environmental Protection Agency are actively involved in the project, having reviewed and approved our proposal. Their support underscores the government’s commitment to coral reef conservation efforts.

Local communities play a significant role in the project’s success. We engage neighbouring schools, such as those in Rasdhoo, in educational initiatives that promote awareness of coral reef conservation. Students participate in learning experiences related to coral biology and restoration, fostering a sense of environmental stewardship from a young age. Moreover, community involvement extends to ongoing outreach programmes that aim to educate residents about the importance of coral reefs and their protection.

By collaborating with government authorities and involving local communities, the Muraka project strives to create a holistic approach to coral reef conservation. Together, we work towards preserving these vital ecosystems for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

Andreas Conrad: How are tourists in the Maldives made aware of your project and coral colonisation efforts?

Sara Scroglieri: Tourists can play a vital role in protecting and conserving coral reefs in the Maldives through conscious and sustainable tourism practises. By being mindful of their environmental impact, tourists can reduce their carbon footprint, minimise waste, and respect marine life and habitats.

Specifically, tourists can actively support our project through the Coral Adoption programme. By financially contributing to the project, tourists not only help fund coral restoration efforts but also become directly involved in conservation initiatives. Additionally, we are exploring options for remote donations, allowing individuals to support the project from anywhere in the world.

In the future, we plan to offer guided excursions to the restoration site, providing tourists with the opportunity to witness firsthand the importance of coral conservation and restoration efforts. These excursions will not only raise awareness but also generate additional financial support for the project. By participating in these activities, tourists can make a tangible impact on coral reef preservation while enjoying a unique and educational experience in the Maldives.

Fortschritte des Front Row Society Korallen Kuramathi Projektes...
Progress of the Front Row Society coral Kuramathi project…

Andreas Conrad: What educational and awareness-raising measures are being taken to inform tourists about the importance of coral reefs and the project?

Sara Scroglieri: At Kuramathi Maldives, we have implemented various educational and awareness-raising measures to inform tourists about coral reefs and their importance, as well as our Muraka Project. Firstly, our Eco Centre plays a central role in educating guests about coral reef ecosystems and conservation efforts. Through interactive exhibits and workshops, visitors gain valuable insights into the significance of coral reefs and the threats they face. We also conduct marine biology presentations led by our resident experts, providing guests with in-depth knowledge about reef ecology, coral biology, and marine life.

Upon cheque-in, our front office staff provide guests with information about our coral conservation initiatives, emphasising the importance of responsible tourism practises, such as refraining from stepping on the reef and minimising environmental impact during water-based activities.

Furthermore, we distribute informative materials, such as flyers and brochures, throughout the resort to raise awareness about coral reef conservation and the Muraka Project specifically.

During snorkeling and diving excursions, guests are briefed on the importance of reef protection and conservation, ensuring that they understand how to interact with the marine environment respectfully.

By implementing these educational measures, we aim to empower tourists to become advocates for coral reef preservation and active participants in our conservation efforts.

Korallen sind Lebewesen, die meisten Besucher haben's nicht gewusst. Sie gehören – wie Quallen – zur Gattung der Nesseltiere
Maldives Discovery Center: Corals are living creatures, most visitors didn’t realise it. Like jellyfish, they belong to the genus of cnidarians / © Editorial Team

Andreas Conrad: Can you provide us with insights into the long-term goals of the project and coral colonisation in the Maldives?

Sara Scroglieri: The long-term goals of coral colonisation projects in the Maldives are critical for the preservation of these fragile ecosystems in the face of climate change. Strategically placing restoration efforts, both geographically and financially, can mitigate the impact of reef degradation and ensure the survival of coral reefs for future generations. By focusing on strategic locations and leveraging resources efficiently, we aim to create resilient reefs that continue to provide essential ecological services, such as coastal protection, marine biodiversity, and sustainable livelihoods for local communities. Initiatives like the Maldives Ocean Alliance play a pivotal role in coordinating efforts and maximising the effectiveness of coral restoration projects, ultimately safeguarding the Maldives‘ marine environment and supporting its tourism industry. Through collaborative action and innovative solutions, we can work towards a future where healthy coral reefs thrive amidst the challenges of climate change.

Andreas Conrad: What innovative technologies or approaches are being used in the project to promote and monitor coral colonisation?

Sara Scroglieri: In our coral restoration project, we employ innovative technologies and techniques to promote and monitor coral colonisation, continually evolving as we learn and adapt.

One of our primary approaches involves the use of spider frames, also known as Reef Stars. These frames, pioneered by renowned companies like Mars, provide an effective substrate for coral attachment and growth. While we primarily utilise Reef Stars due to their proven success, we also explore other restoration methods. For instance, we experiment with directly transplanting coral fragments onto the reef using specialised formulations of cement and epoxy.

As coral restoration is still a relatively new field, we actively seek updates and advancements from the broader scientific community. By staying informed and collaborating with experts, we continuously refine our methodologies to maximise effectiveness and sustainability.

In terms of monitoring, we have integrated drone technology into our efforts. Drones allow us to assess the condition of shallow reef areas efficiently and non-invasively. As our coral colonies mature, we plan to utilise drones to monitor our frames without the need for direct water entry, streamlining our monitoring process and reducing disturbance to the marine environment.

Through a combination of innovative techniques and ongoing learning, we strive to enhance the success of our coral restoration project and contribute to the long-term health of coral reefs in the Maldives.

Sara Scroglieri ist renommierte Meeresbiologin mit langjähriger Erfahrung in der Erforschung und Erhaltung der Unterwasserwelt
Sara Scroglieri is a renowned marine biologist with many years of experience in researching and conserving the underwater world / © Editorial Team

Andreas Conrad: How can tourists actively participate in the protection and conservation of coral reefs in the Maldives and support the project?

Sara Scroglieri: Tourists can actively participate in coral reef protection and conservation in the Maldives through conscious and sustainable tourism practises. By reducing their environmental footprint and supporting initiatives like the Coral Adoption programme, visitors can directly contribute to coral restoration efforts. We are exploring options for remote donations, allowing individuals to support the project from anywhere in the world. Additionally, we plan to offer guided excursions to the restoration site in the future, providing guests with a firsthand experience of our conservation efforts while generating financial support and raising awareness. Through these initiatives, tourists can play a crucial role in safeguarding the Maldives‘ coral reefs for future generations.

Here you will find our article about The Muraka Project.

Andreas Conrad, Herausgeber des Magazins FrontRowSociety ist Advokat von Prevented Ocean PlasticFrontRowSociety editor Andreas Conrad conducted the interview with with leading Marine Biologist Sara Scroglieri of Kuramathi Maldives, in Mai 2024. These are the original, unedited answers.

Here you can find the interview in German.

Kuramathi Maldives
Rasdhoo Atoll

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