Protected Marine Areas

To the first of July 2019 there were 61 Protected Marine Areas (PMA's) in the Maldives. PMA's were first established in the Maldives on World Enivironmental Day, June 5, 1995, when the Government announced the establishment of 15 Protected Marine Areas within the major tourist atolls.

PMA's have been selected in recognition of their biodiversity and importance for protecting marine species and their habitat. One of the largest PMA's is PMA South Ari Atoll, a globally significant aggregation site for whale sharks with an area 5595 ha, while one of the smallest is a mangrove ecosystem on the island of Huraa in North Male Atoll with an area of 6 ha. Another land-based PMA is Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll. It has an area of 803 ha and contains a large fresh/brackish water pond and mangrove forest. The PMA's include two bird breeding and turtle nesting islands and their lagoons (Olugiri in Baa Atoll and Hithadhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll), and one island of geomorphic interest for coral reef formation and endemic vegetation (Hurasdhoo in Alifu Dhaalu Atoll). On June 28, 2011 a World Biosphere Reserve was declared in Baa Atoll by UNESCO (Baa Atoll PMA, area of 121,521 ha).

Protection for these significant areas includes a ban on all intrusive activities, including fishing, collection of marine inveretebrates, removal vegetation, feeding of animals, dumping of rubbish and anchoring.

We should also mention five Grouper Protected Areas declared in 2014. In the early 1990s, high demand and prices for grouper led to a targeted export grouper fishery in the Maldives. Of the 32 species commonly seen by divers, 17 species are caught for export. These include high-value export speceies: Flower Grouper Epinephelus fuscoguttatus, Squaretail Coral Grouper Plectropomus areolatus, Black-saddle Coral Grouper Plectropomus laevis and Indian Coral Grouper Plectropomus pessuliferus. Larger fish have been overfished and lack of management has resulted in a continual decline in size and numbers by targeting spawning aggregation sites and by catching large quantities of small sizes. Management response has been the protection of 5 gouper protected areas, although most fisherman are aware of many more spawning sites.

Dive Maldives
Copyright © Tim Godfrey, Atoll Editions 2018

Protected Areas of Maldives Date: 1 July 2019 (format .pdf, 480 kB)


Protected Areas of Maldives List 2019 (format .pdf, 736 kB)


Marine Protected Areas of Maldives Map (format .pdf, 1.8 MB)

source: various sources including ReefBase, BOBLME (2011) and EPA (2013) by WorldFish up to October 2013