|Abstract: ||This report addresses the environmental concerns of the proposed mariculture project for the
culture of sea cucumbers in the northeast lagoon of Fonadhoo, Laamu Atoll. The Proponent of
the project is BluBridge Corporation, which is a company registered in the Maldives in
February 2011. BluBridge is involved in research and development of new products and
processes for the market.
This project is an investment of $41,000,000 USD over the next two decades for a
commercial scale sea cucumber hatchery, grow-out, and processing operation. Based on the
successful execution of the feasibility study, BluBridge has confidence that the scientific,
environmental, and social settings in the Maldives are conducive to the success of the
commercial operation outlined in this document. BluBridge desires to capitalize on the
growing global demand for beche-de-mer by developing a community-integrated operation in
Laamu Atoll, Maldives for the purpose of culturing, processing, and exporting sea
cucumbers (Holothuria scabra). The project will also include research and feasibility
studies for culturing, processing, and exporting the native species Holothuria fuscogilva.
This venture is created in cooperation with the Ministry of Fisheries and Maldives
Government plans for diversification. With fish stocks in decline and vast amounts of
potential lagoon space unused, the Ministry of Fisheries has made clear the desire for
diversification. BluBridge will create unparalleled opportunity for the production and export
of sea cucumbers, opening up lucrative diversified business prospects for the country.
Moreover, BluBridge will continue to train local island communities, empowering them to
execute similar ventures. BluBridge is committed to holistic community development
throughout the course of this project, where opportunities for youth and women abound.
The proposed project takes place in the northeast area of Fonadhoo, which is the capital of
Laamu Atoll connected to the neighbouring Kahdhoo domestic airport by a causeway and also
connects to the largest landmass in the country, Fonadhoo to Gan. BluBridge has researched
and surveyed a site on the Eastern side of Laamu Atoll in a lagoon (10ha) to the northeast of
Fonadhoo finding them to be ideal conditions for the culture of sea cucumbers. The site can be
used for Hapa nursery and Ranch space with little or no disturbance to Fonadhoo or current
use of its land. The ocean floor is sandy deep sediment mixture with extensive sea grass
The proposed project involves the culture of H. Scabra. The initial stage of the project which
was focussed on feasibility study and determining the suitability of the project site for
growout has been completed. This EIA covers the establishment of hatchery and grow out on
a commercial scale with a capacity of 120,000 juveniles per month output. The growout area
is proposed to be fenced using geotextile tubes. The operation outlined in this EIA is for a 5
years of development and 15 years of operation.
The operation in Laamu Atoll will utilize 10 hectares (ha) of lagoon space near Fonadhoo and
Huraa Island for nursery, grow-out, and perimeter security, and 2 ha of land space on
Fonadhoo for the hatchery complex. BluBridge staff with training from the Southeast Asian
Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) have direct management of the operation in L.
Fonadhoo and Malé-based staff are being used for marketing and administrative purposes.
Broodstock and/or juveniles will be acquired from within the Maldives.
The project will be undertaken by a $4,970,000 USD equity investment infused over the first
three years of the project. This will create a full-scale mariculture operation that will have
significant positive impacts for employees, the island of Fonadhoo, the greater Laamu region,
and all aquaculture within Maldives.
Fonadhoo has a recently installed sewerage system with treatment and the proposed project
will have its sewer lines connected to this system after pre-treatment.
Social and environmental concerns regarding the proposed project include:
Minor disturbance to seabed during installation of geotube placement and impacts of
sediment suspension and resuspension in the lagoon and associated disturbance to
ecological habitats due to such activities. This impact is not considered to be
significant, especially if the filling of the tubes is undertaken by using sand pumps.
However, there may be a slightly higher degree of impact if the works were
undertaken using excavator.
Minor impacts due to human activity in the area including littering both during
construction and operational phases.
The land areas to be developed are quite small. The possible areas have no mature
trees and felling or cutting down of mature trees can and will be avoided. Therefore,
there will be no significant impacts on terrestrial flora and fauna.
Increased nutrient loadings from faeces and uneaten food wastes, which will either
dissolve or settle on the seabed beneath the cage. Since the water is deep and adequate
currents exist, eutrophication is, however, unlikely. Also, sea cucumbers will feed on
seagrass in the area and nutrients in the seabed. Therefore, they remove nutrients and
help in cleaning the seabed sediments/nutrients.
The impact of disease transmissions on wild populations. This impact is considered to
be minor negative and depends on stocking densities and feeding, which are not
considered to be a problem. Environmental controls shall be established from the very
onset of the project to mitigate disease prevalence and ensure a healthy environment.
Loss of visual amenity of the site. Visual amenity would be a concern, especially if the
area is of aesthetic beauty or recreational (tourism) use, however, there are currently
no such activities in the area. Yet, it may be necessary to keep the structures well
integrated with the environment while ensuring safety.
The impact cages may have on wild fish populations. Although this impact is not
considered to be significant, this impact has to be studied in detail during the
The genetic or competitive effect escapees may have on wild stock. Since juveniles
that are not able to escape are used and exotic species would not be imported, this
impact is unlikely to occur.
In the case of cage culture using locally found species, genetic pollution will not be a concern
even in case of escapees and new diseases will not be introduced to the wild stock. However,
an incubation of local diseases present in the wild stock may be a potential cause for concern
in case of high stocking densities. Therefore, stocking densities shall be kept to an optimum at
all times. The likelihood for habitat modification could occur in case of imported broodstock
causing stress and related disease prevalence. However, this is a minor impact that is not
considered to be significant.
The proposed project is expected to be managed in conformity with local and international
regulations and standards of relevance, especially environmental regulations and standards.
Therefore, environmental impacts will be well managed, minimized and mitigated.
Given that the project has major socio-economic benefits and some environmental benefits, it
is recommended to allow the project to proceed as proposed. While the project is accepted by
the Council, there are certain issues, especially those related to the rent for the land, which
would be resolved before the project can proceed. The project is also a feasible economic
venture benefitting the community and in the absence of large scale aquaculture projects, it is
important to consider uncertainties and continue to monitor the project impacts and undertake
appropriate mitigation measures in consultation with the EPA and other relevant government
agencies. It is also necessary to undertake regular environmental monitoring activities.|