Building upon the success of Laamu’s first ever inter-island Turtle Festival in 2016, the entire community recently came together for the second Laamu Turtle Festival. The event took place on the local island of Gan, and was jointly organized by the Gan Island Council, Laamu Atoll Police Department and Six Senses Laamu. This year’s theme was once again Turtles in Laamu – Safe and Protected, aiming to raise awareness about the importance of sea turtles and providing a platform for community engagement about greater marine conservation.
The festival brought together one resort, two NGOs, three local businesses, four government agencies, 10 island councils, 12 schools, and upwards of 1,000 people to pledge Turtles in Laamu – Safe and Protected. All seven species of sea turtles are on the endangered species list, mostly due to human pressures such as harmful fishing practices and plastic pollution. Laamu Atoll is lucky to have large populations of both Green and Hawksbill turtles, however, poaching of turtles and their nests still occurs and it was agreed that everyone in the community needs to stop this practice from happening.
President of the Gan Island Council Shiyam Ahmed, and Laamu Atoll Police Commander Sultan Bishar welcomed everyone to the festival and introduced the day’s activities. There were educational stalls and games aiming to raise awareness about these marine animals and why it is critical that people do not harm them, as well as cultural performances, contests and prizes, food, music, ensuring everyone had lots of fun!
The guest of honor, Abdul Gafoor Ali , known as Gabbe, was the first Maldivian to sail around the entire country in a catamaran, in efforts to raise awareness for the conservation of the marine environment. He emphasized the necessity of improved waste management when he said, “If we want to protect turtles, the first thing we need to do is protect their habitat. When I sailed across the Maldives I saw a lot of trash in our beautiful ocean. In Kureli Kandu, the channel between Laamu and Meemu Atolls, I capsized my catamaran and had to be in the water for four hours. There were so many plastic bags, bottles and caps in the sea, I almost cried. It is our duty to reduce our waste to protect our marine habitats and save our marine life.”
To ensure the festival’s important messages are conveyed every day of the year, the Blue Marine Foundation team painted their fourth wall mural in Laamu, and called on all attendees to pledge their protection of turtles by signing it and recording a video pledge. Now, every time someone passes by the festival site, they’ll see the wall full of reminders that Turtles in Laamu are Safe and Protected.”
Marteyne van Well, general manager of Six Senses Laamu added, “Last year in Maavah, the festival was such a great success that it wasn’t a question of whether we could hold another one, but more of a question of when we could hold it. Our aim is to, year on year, increase our positive impact in Laamu and maintain efforts as a community to protect turtles. Last year, students from five schools in Laamu attended the event and today we have students from 12 of the 13 schools, so clearly we have achieved our goal.”