Just days after Australia proclaimed the creation of the world’s largest marine park, the President of the Maldives announced that the whole of the Maldives would become a marine reserve by 2017.

The commitment would see the Maldives become the first country in the world to become a marine reserve.

Baa Atoll, one of the 20 atolls that make up the Maldives and which comprises 75 islands, is already a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. These are sites established by countries and recognised under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.

President Waheed, who made the commitment while addressing the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, said, “I take this opportunity to announce my Government’s commitment to make the entire Maldives, by 2017, the first country in the world to become, as a nation as a whole, a marine reserve.”

The President went on to say, “This commitment reflects our respect for our unique natural environment. We have taken these measures to protect our coral reefs, lagoons, coral islands and coral sand beaches. The Maldives will take any action necessary to ensure our future.”

The Maldives economy is built primarily on tourism and fisheries. The marine reserve will allow only sustainable and eco-friendly fishing. It will exclude destructive techniques. Trade in sharks, turtles and many species of fish in the Indian Ocean is already illegal in the Maldives.