Project Manaia

The Mergui Archipelago

Project Manaia aims at surveying, understanding and ultimately protecting the Mergui Archipelago of Southern Myanmar. The Mergui Archipelago stands more than 800 pristine, largely uninhabited islands, virtually isolated and in their natural state. Extending along the coast of Myanmar south to Thailand lies a world waiting to be discovered, harbouring undisturbed marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
Project Manaia focuses on Mapping, Marine Megafauna and Monitoring and is already helping to better understand, document and push for greater protection of the Mergui islands. Baseline surveys of marine life, Coral reef health and fishing statistics are crucial to understanding the impacts of development and will inform planning to help preserve the region
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MAPPING: Project Manaia is operating and advanced sonar system to accurately map shallow island seas and coral reefs quickly and in high resolution. With only few boat passes, accurate maps and 3D models can be created highlighting sea floor cover, reef structure and size and other interesting underwater features. All observations of any kind under water and above are being recorded and pinpointed geographically, allowing for precise map production and data analysis
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MONITORING: We are constantly monitoring sightings of birds, marine life and marine megafauna as well as collecting plankton and micro-plastic samples. We are also continuously observing water quality and chemical composition. By monitoring various aspects of the islands we can create a “full picture” of the current conditions. Our full array of cameras is documenting all activities above and under water. This helps to identify marine species, assists in reef health assessments and contributes to our regularly released video reports, documenting our work and progress.
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MARINE MEGAFAUNA: Apart from our monitoring during the Expeditions we are also surveying island beaches for turtle nests, seagrass beds for feeding tracks and interview local fishermen about their daily catch. A particular emphasis is placed on sharks in the islands. Sharks are being exploited for their fins and we are conducting periodic surveys at fishing harbours and boats to better understand what species are being caught. Our underwater surveys also help to identify any shark species while we are sailing through the islands.

Proposed Marine Protected Areas (Green Overlay)

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Marine Protected Areas are the KEY to sustainable use of the Oceans in the future. They give fish stocks a safe space to recover without added pressure through fishing and other development like oil rigs etc. Therefor Project Manaia proposed around 30% of the Mergui Archipelago to be designated Marine Protected Areas. This not only gives fish stocks a chance to recover and get back to old strength in certain parts of the Archipelago but also means, that fishermen will not be able to work themselves out of business and the Andaman Sea keeps its ability to feed Myanmar and other bordering countries!

The same is true for the rest of the world and about one third of the worlds Oceans has to be a protected area of some sort in the future in order to guarantee, that the Marine Eco System will be able to keep up with more and more added pressure through more and more efficient fishing fleets around the world but also through Tourism, big resorts, adding nutrients to environments that used to be dominated by the absence of them. The Key is to leave some parts of the Oceans aside from development and give them the chance to remain the safe heaven that marine organisms need!

Boulder Island - Focus Island in Mergui

Boulder Island was focus of our work for more than 1 year already and we managed to get an amazing amount of in depth data about marine as well as terrestrial Eco Systems on the island and also the surrounding areas. This includes high detail charts and maps, a full list of wildlife as well as a full report of the current state and possible future development of the island.
With this Baseline Survey as a sample we are ready to tackle surrounding islands and expand our focus. With conversations with officials and reaching out to the owners and managers of pearl farms in the Mergui Archipelago we have strong allies on our side to keep working on the protection of this amazing area - Making sure these 800 islands will not be overrun by tourism industry and overfishing in the future!