[Coral-List] The Chagos MPA - what went wrong?
RichardPDunne at aol.com
Sat Oct 18 03:43:44 EDT 2014
Many thanks to Jon Slayer for drawing our attention to this.
BUT DID THE COURT ACTUALLY CONCLUDE WHAT JON THINKS?
The quote that Jon cites is actually the English Court of Appeal (Lord
Dyson, Lady Justice Gloster & Lord Justice Vos). It was considering an
appeal from a decision of the High Court (Lord Justice Richards & Mr
The High Court had ruled that a leaked Cable from the US Embassy in
London to the US Secretary of State in Washington sent on 15 May 2009
was inadmissible as evidence under the 1961 Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations. The Cable was a record of a meeting on 12 May 2009
between British Foreign Office officials (Mr Roberts & Miss Yeadon) and
senior US Embassy staff during which Mr Roberts (amongst other things):
"asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to
resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents", and that the
UK’s “environmental lobby is far more powerful than the Chagossians’
advocates” and could therefore be used to defeat those supporting the
Unsurprisingly the British Foreign Office fought very hard both in the
High Court and the Court of Appeal to exclude this leaked Cable which
was highly prejudicial to their case.
In the High Court both Mr Roberts and Miss Yeadon were cross-examined
about their recollection of the meeting which they agreed had taken
place. They admitted that they had taken no notes at the time or
afterwards but disputed the US account.
Because of their decision that the Cable was inadmissible, the High
Court was denied the US evidence and was left solely with the testimony
of Roberts and Yeadon as to what was said at the meeting.
Just 7 days earlier, Mr Roberts had written a Confidential Internal
Memorandum to the British Foreign Secretary, saying that: "we should be
aiming to calm down the resettlement debate. Creating a reserve will not
achieve this, but it could create a context for a raft of measures
designed to weaken the [Chagossian] movement. This could include:
......... activating the environmental lobby". Part of the Memorandum
is then redacted. Some may consider that there is a similarity here with
what the US Embassy officials reported.
Ultimately the High Court decided the issue of whether the creation of
the MPA had been made for an 'improper purpose' on the basis of the
motivation of the Foreign Secretary alone. This is found in paragraph 74
of the judgment as follows:
This material makes it clear that it was the personal decision of the
Foreign Secretary to declare an MPA on 1 April 2010, against the advice
of his officials. There is no evidence that, in doing so, he was
motivated to any extent by “an intention to create an effective
long-term way to prevent Chagossians and their descendants from
resettling in the BIOT.
So they were careful to dissociate the motives of the officials (Roberts
or Yeadon) from those of the Foreign Secretary.
There was then an appeal to the Court of Appeal which decided that the
High Court had been wrong to rule that the Cable was inadmissible.
Having decided this, it then went on to say at paragraph 93 of its judgment:
"We therefore conclude that, even if the cable had been admitted in
evidence, the court would have decided that the MPA was not actuated by
the improper motive of intending to create an effective long-term way to
prevent Chagossians and their descendants from resettling in the BIOT.
In other words, the court’s ruling that the cable was not admissible had
no effect on the proceedings and is not, therefore, a ground for
allowing the appeal."
This the full context of what Jon erroneously mis-quotes. What the Court
of Appeal was doing here was endorsing what the High Court had concluded
at paragraph 74 above. Because of this it did not have to say whether it
considered that Mr Roberts (the BIOT Commissioner) was motivated to
prevent Chagossian return or whether the US Embassy account was or was
So perhaps the most credible evidence remains that of US Embassy
officials and this is a true reflection of what Roberts was thinking.
After all, what reason did US diplomats have for making this up? They
could have hardly known that their Confidential Cable would be leaked a
year later by Bradley Manning.
Having read all the evidence and seen the witnesses cross-examined I am
inclined to prefer the account written up within 3 days of a meeting to
the attempted recall from memory 4 years later of Foreign Office
officials whose reputation was in question.
THE SHEPPARD LETTER - THE MPA BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE OR BAD SCIENCE?
I have not yet seen New Scientist but the text of the letter posted on
the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) website appears to differ from that
quoted by Jon Slayer below. The first sentence reads:
"Designating the Chagos Archipelago a no-take Marine Protected Area
(MPA) was based on the best available science not ‘bad science’, as
suggested in Fred Pearce’s article (29 September 2014, New Scientist)."
So was the 'science' the best available or 'bad'. Well as far as the
merits of the MPA for pelagic fish and their bycatch are concerned, the
science relied upon by the advocates of the MPA can be found in a report
commissioned and paid for by the Pew Environment Group, written by
conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) which was
ultimately published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin whose
Editor is Charles Sheppard. It is perhaps no coincidence that all
concerned were ardent advocates for the no-take MPA, but that alone does
not make it bad or questionable science.
I would suggest that readers should make up their own minds on this by
looking at the review in Advances in Marine Biology Vol 69 - The
creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area: a fisheries perspective.
Unashamedly I admit to being an author of that review along with Nick
Polunin, Peter Sand and Magnus Johnson.
My own conclusion - it was poor and unreliable conservation-minded
science, both at the time and now.
That doesn't mean I think the idea of the MPA was wrong, just that it
was not necessary for the protection of pelagic fish. A smaller MPA
(53,270 km sq) would have adequately protected the reefs and inshore
areas. The 640,000 km sq MPA lulls us into a false sense of security
that we are achieving our global targets for protecting the oceans. We
need MPAs but they must be in the right place for the right reasons, and
based on sound science.
On 17/10/2014 19:41, Jon Slayer wrote:
A letter is published in New Scientist by Charles Sheppard as Chair of
the Chagos Conservation Trust in response to the opinion article by Fred
Pearce recently. Part of the letter responds yet again to the erroneous
claim that the conservation of Chagos, specifically the creation of the
marine reserve, was done to prevent the return of Chagossians. As many
of us know, a High Court judgement of March-April (Bancoult vs Secretary
of State, before Lady Justice Gloster and Lord Justice Vos) states,
after a detailed 93 paras, that: ".the MPA was not actuated by the
improper motive of intending to create an effective long-term way to
prevent Chagossians and their descendants from resettling in the
BIOT."The text of the letter is inserted below.'
From Charles Sheppard, Chair, Chagos Conservation Trust.
Designating the Chagos Archipelago a no-take marine protected area (MPA)
was based on the best available science. The precautionary principle was
rightly applied to ensure that lengthy deliberation did not allow
further destruction of the world's most pristine coral reefs. Policies
should, of course, be reviewed as further scientific evidence comes to
light. In the case of Chagos, new research continues to corroborate the
decision to protect this unique ecosystem.
It is misleading to claim that the no-take policy is another barrier
preventing the displaced Chagossians from returning to the islands. The
MPA declaration states that the level of protection would be reviewed –
in full consultation with the Chagossians – in the case of resettlement..
A mere 2.8 per cent of the world's ocean has any protection, with only
0.6 per cent fully protected, well below international commitments. With
the cleanest sea water in the world and a staggering diversity of marine
life, the Chagos Archipelago is a site of resilience within the heavily
overexploited west Indian Ocean. It is an underwater sanctuary that
deserves to be afforded the ultimate protection.
This email is free from viruses and malware because avast! Antivirus protection is active.
More information about the Coral-List