24 March 2005

Coral reefs in Maldives escape tsunami damage

The world famous coral reefs of the Maldives were not seriously damaged by the December 26 Indian Ocean tsunamis, an Australian report released on Wednesday found.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australian experts spent 17 days studying the reefs, which attract divers from around the globe, and were surprised by how little they had been damaged.

"With over 50 per cent of Maldivian GDP derived from coral reef and island-based tourism and a further 12 per cent derived from fisheries ... the report is good news for the Maldives, indicating the tsunami had minimal impact on the country's coral reefs and baitfish populations," Downer said in a statement.

Eighty-seven of the Maldives's 199 inhabited islands house tourist resorts, 19 of which were shut down following the tsunamis.

Downer said hotel occupancy rates, normally 100 per cent at this time of year, were running at about 40 per cent because tourists were concerned about damage to the reefs.

"This report puts those concerns to rest and tourists can rest assured that the tsunami has had minimal impact on the coral reefs in the Maldives," he said.


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