[Coral-List] Chagos MPA - a new perspective

Ted Morris easy501 at zianet.com
Tue Dec 7 17:20:33 EST 2010


I would like to respond to something Mark said, and hope you will post this - it does not rely on reference to the not-to-be-named web information that the USG has banned any discussion of... ;-)

Here's the posting:

Mark states "We all know that highly effective MPAs can easily be established with people in them..."

This is the primary practical argument used to justify resettlement of the Chagos ("human rights" being the political argument, and not the subject of this posting).

I believe it would be more correct to say that "effective" inhabited MPAs are only possible when the inhabitants do not require the MPA for their economy or sustenance, and thus have as light a footprint as possible on the environment.  Unfortunately, that is not the resettlement plan for the Chagos.  Instead advocates propose to fund the return and long-term occupation of the Chagos by extracting food and economic sustenance from the environment though mechanisms such as commercial fishing, conversion of the terrestrial environment into farms of various kinds, and tourism.  Although advocates propose harvesting only what is sustainably reproduced, that will result in a managed ecosystem.

>From the first appearance of settlers in the Chagos ecosystem, they will of necessity begin to harvest everything they require to live and succeed economically.  Although someone will place regulatory limits on the take, the first "harvest" will begin an unending cycle of management, transforming this priceless wilderness into a park, at best.  In my opinion, this is not the highest and best use of the Chagos for the health of the planet.

The rationale behind the creation of the Chagos MPA has been defined variously by different politicians, groups and people.  Basically, these can be divided into those who believe the MPA should be managed to produce income sufficient to support a reestablished human population numbering in the thousands, and those, like me, who believe it should not be managed at all, but instead protected the way we idealistically attempt to treat wilderness here in the States - "take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints."

One need only look at the draft minutes of the recent Chagos Conservation Trust annual meeting to see that already, just a month after the expiration of the last commercial fishing permit, the BIOT government is bemoaning the loss of revenue needed to administer the Territory.  The seduction of money raised by licensing and permitting of extractive industry may prove to be too strong in the long run to preserve the wilderness condition of the CMPA even if the archipelago is kept uninhabited.  If resettlement occurs, there can be no doubt that compromises and concerns for the occupant's economic health will result in the conversion of the MPA from undersea wilderness into a glorified fish farm.

I'd like to point out that this does not mean that a return by the islanders should be denied entirely; there is the alternative of returning to Diego Garcia with preference in hiring on the military base, capitalizing on the existing infrastructure, observing the current environmental protections which prohibit economic exploitation of the island and surrounding waters, etc.

The bottom line is that any resettlement of the "outer islands" of the Chagos would certainly mutate the MPA into something "effective" but unnatural, when the true value of the Chagos is as an unmolested ecosystem.

I hope the readers of the List will consider this when evaluating any future postings by Mark or other resettlement advocates.

Best Regards,

Ted Morris, Jr.

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of mark at mdspalding.co.uk
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 5:17 AM
To: Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Chagos MPA - a new perspective

   Chagos is an area of reefs and reef islands that should interest us all - it
   has over 1% of the WORLD’s coral reefs and it is the world’s largest no-take
   MPA. The MPA was legally declared in April 2010 and all tuna fishing ended
   in November. In fact this latter action didn’t require MPA status and the
   site still has no regulations and no legal boundary.. Meanwhile the site’s
   declaration is being challenged in the legal system, and the expulsion of
   the Chagossians from the Chagos is due to come before the European Court of
   Human Rights soon.

   Readers may remember some earlier exchanges in which some of us suggested
   that setting up an MPA without the special involvement of key stakeholders
   (the exiled Chagossian people and the nation of Mauritius) was a mistake,
   with  a  likelihood  of  a  future backfire which might even undermine
   biodiversity security long-term.

<...expletives deleted...>

   Some  250,000  people voted in support of the Chagos MPA via the Avaaz
   network, an internet-based social activist grouping who are also strong on
   human  rights. I spoke to Avaaz at length when they first put up their
   petition as it was clear that they were ill-informed about the human rights
   angle. They assured me that Chagossian interests were fully taken into
   consideration. They were wrong, and they misled a quarter of a million

<...expletives deleted...>
   These reefs are a
   global treasure and need the most secure future possible. Many of us have
   argued  that  such  a  future  could  and should have been built up in
   collaboration with key stakeholders. We all know that highly effective MPAs
   can  easily  be  established with people in them, so it was remarkably
   short-sighted to exclude them from discussions. My only hope now is that the
   many  conservation  organisations  who  have largely stonewalled these
   stakeholders will give up on the game of politics and see if, even at this
   late stage, they can build bridges.

   A week is a long time in politics, but its scarcely a breath in trying to
   ensure long-term biodiversity conservation – MPAs on this scale need to be
   very carefully built.




   Mark D Spalding, PhD

   Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology

   University of Cambridge
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