Monthly Marine Report, Sheraton Maldives

coral frames Reefscapers Sheraton Maldives

1. Coral Propagation Project – December 2020

1.1. New Coral Frame

In December, 7 small frames were adopted by guests and transplanted in the lagoon. 4 frames were part of the Exploring Paradise Package and 3 frames adopted by guests directly. Future coral frames will be placed by the water villa. Frames in the lagoon will be monitored and maintained regularly as the upcoming water temperature of March will potentially impact them.

1.2. Monitoring

A fish identification spreadsheet was created to identify and record marine life present in the area. This is updated regularly every time a new species is spotted in the different locations.

Water villas – The 50 frames by the Water Villas and the spa were monitored in November and will only be monitored again in February with the intern Sarah Hight.

Lagoon – All of the new frames were monitored and uploaded on the website. New frames were placed next to the Acropora and Pocillopora that were relocated there in May and June creating two different locations in the lagoon.

1.3. Maintenance

Water villas – The 50 frames by the Water Villas and the spa were maintained on a weekly basis – except during the 12 days’ quarantine the marine biologist had to do. Corals are slowly growing on the frames, attaching well and more and more species of fish are observed. Pocillopora species that were re-transplanted in November seem to be taking longer to attach than Acropora species. Algae were growing really fast in November but the current got stronger in December with less algae deposit in December.
Some frames are still sinking in the sand sometimes but due to regular maintenance, this is not an issue and corals don’t get covered by sand.

Lagoon – Coral frames are also maintained on a weekly basis in the lagoon, with less algae than the previous month. So far, corals seem to attach well to the frames. Fragments are slowly beginning to encrust over the cable ties and more species of fish are seen in the new location of the lagoon. Pocillopora species are taking longer to encrust to the frames than Acropora.

1.4. Map with the coral frames location

Watersports are in the process of updating the map they displayed at their office. The different locations of the coral frames present around the resort will be added on this map so guests can see where the frames are present and easily go snorkelling there.

coral fragments healthy Reefscapers Sheraton Maldives

Healthy coral fragment encrusting over the cable-tie

coral fragments growing Reefscapers Sheraton Maldives

Healthy coral fragment encrusting to the bar of the coral frame

2. Coral colonies relocated from Gulhi Falhu

2.1. Coral colonies – dive center

Corals are maintained on a regular basis. The coral fragments that were transplanted on empty spaces on the bar in November are slowly attaching to the frame, especially Acropora species. Table corals are still growing horizontally. The coral colonies that were “hanging” were re-attached to the frame tightly and will hopefully slowly attach to it.

2.2. Coral colonies – lagoon

Coral colonies in the lagoon were maintained in December and all the empty space on the bars were also replaced with small coral fragments. Corals in the lagoon are very healthy with very few coral colonies that bleached. The water temperature is also high and they will have to be monitored closely with the warm season coming soon.
The sand transport that occurred for the New Year firework display has not impacted the corals and coral colonies were not covered by sand during that time.

2.3. Acropora and Pocillopora in the lagoon

Acropora and Pocillopora that were placed in the lagoon in May-June are growing well on the rock and bringing more and more species of fish. New frames were also placed next to these corals, being also very near the coral frames pyramid in the depression of the lagoon.

2.4. Massive coral colonies – water villas

Overall, massive coral colonies by the water villas are healthy however some of them keep rolling over as the current was strong in December. They are maintained regularly so that they don’t stay upside down for too long when they do roll.

2.5. Monitoring

Due to the quarantine of the marine biologist and the busy festive season, the monitoring has not been done for the pyramids frames, neither the one in front of the diving centre or the ones in the lagoon. This will be done in January.
A new webpage will be created on Reefscapers website exclusively for the coral colonies present on the frames. Each pyramid is built up with 7 frames so a total of 84 frames are going to be monitored with 3 or 4 photos of each side of the frame depending if the frame is at the top or the bottom of the pyramid. There will be 56 frames monitored in front of the dive centre and 28 in the lagoon.
Fish identification spreadsheet was also created for the coral colonies relocated from Gulhi Falhu to identify marine life present in the area. A spreadsheet for coral ID will also be created for future reference and for the training of future new intern.

3. Marine Biology

Sarah Hight, the new Reefscapers intern, arrived on the 29th of December and is in quarantine for 10 days. She will assist the marine biologist on site with marine biology and coral restoration work as well as helping Reefscapers communication by taking underwater photography and assisting in social media presence.

The brochure of the coral restoration programme at the Sheraton was uploaded on the Sheraton QR code that is present in each room so that people can learn about the programme. Guests are now more aware of the programme.

Due to the quarantine of the marine biologist, megafauna and dolphin sightings were not recorded for half of the month.

3.1. Megafauna Sightings – Snorkelling excursions

In December, a total of 23 sharks, 3 turtles and 70 rays were sighted during snorkelling or diving excursions. However, as the snorkelling activities are busy and some guests need more help than other with, for example, a buoy, some marine life could have been missed.

3.2. Dolphin Cruise

Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are the most common species sighted in the surroundings of Sheraton Resort and they were seen on most of Dolphin cruise this month. Spinner dolphin calves were sighted during 2 trips this month. Bottlenose dolphin were also spotted by Watersports on the 25th of December. The most common behaviour was spinning followed by bow riding.

3.3. Marine activities in the resort

Marine Presentation – Marine presentation at Anchorage are still on hold and will start in 2021.

Kids club – Kids club activities will be implemented in 2021 when all the material necessary for a coral reef and turtle activity will be ready.

3.4. Manta ray

When possible, Watersports and sometimes the marine biologist take photos or videos of manta ray during dive at Lanka Beyru. Photos of manta belly were sent to Manta Trust for identification. This is for research purpose of manta ray but also to get a better idea of when manta ray can be present around the Sheraton for future advertisement for guests diving with manta.
So far, 4 individuals have been ID by Manta Trust and more photos have been sent to them early January for identification.

4. Objectives for January 2020

4.1. Coral Propagation Project
– Train the new intern about corals ID and transplantation
– Train the new intern on coral frame building with guests
– Train the new intern about the communication of Reefscapers
– Create the video for the Marriott APAC “Travel for Good”
– Find a new location for the coral frame – along the water villa

4.2. Coral Fortress
– Implement a monitoring system for the coral pyramids – in progress.
– Map the coral frames of the pyramids for future reference
– Keep updating coral and fish ID present around the coral frames.
– Create a spreadsheet for coral ID will also be created for future reference.

4.3. Marine Biology
– Train the new intern on marine life in the Maldives, coral identification and dolphin behaviour, anatomy etc for the dolphin cruise sunset.
– Train the new intern on the marine life presentation that will be displayed at Anchorage.
– Keep identifying and describing all of snorkelling and dive sites – this has been done for
Kurumba and Stingray point so far.
– Explore other snorkelling point around Sheraton – as Kurumba is a reef relatively damaged, it can be good to find other location even further away where guests can go snorkelling with other megafauna such as turtles or manta.

4.4. Some objectives for 2021
– Find a way to track dolphin from the boat and create dolphin ID system.
– Marine life and coral frames training sessions for Sheraton resort staff
– Monthly or trimestral green committee with one person from each department to try and reduce waste around the resort.

Corals eaten by titan triggerfish Reefscapers Sheraton Maldives

Corals on a Reefscapers frame, eaten by a hungry titan triggerfish