The Environment Ministry has issued an official notice in the state gazette, introducing protocols for interacting with protected animals, specifically turtles and rays. This development is the 6th amendment to the Regulations for the Protection of Natural or Indigenous Wildlife.
Before this amendment, guidelines were in place for certain protected species, emphasising responsible behaviour in their natural environments. The new policy focuses on four protected species: turtles, Maldivian Black Turtles, all species of rays, and protected bird species.
The policy sets out the minimum distances for swimming or diving near these species. For turtles, a distance of six feet is required. Maldivian Black Turtles should be approached no closer than one meter, and for rays, a minimum distance of three meters is specified.
In the Maldives, interacting with these animals is a common practice for tourism purposes.
The policy also addresses encounters with protected bird species, requiring a minimum distance of two meters to be maintained.
Procedures for encountering these animals while using different types of vessels are outlined. Additionally, the policy guides appropriate behaviour in the presence of these creatures and outlines procedures for handling them in case of injury or distress.