The Maldives is a party to the Biodiversity Convention, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Under these treaties the Maldives has obligations to ensure the conservation and protection of habitats and species in both national and international context.It is believed to be‘one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate.’ Divers might have known the bay very recently. However, the fishermen of Baa Dhonfanu and other nearby inhabited islands had known the place for centuries, not as a dive spot, but as a whale shark fishing point; whale sharks, caught for their liver oil and/or fins, used to be an important source of livelihood for them.
It is a sad irony that the Fisheries Ministry, which is empowered by the Fisheries Law to establish special sanctuaries, has recently leased Hanifaru to a private party on a long term basis, to be developed for industrial purposes. Furthermore, the island was not put on tender, and no Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) was done.