[Coral-List] Chagos Conservation

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Tue Feb 2 08:28:42 EST 2010

Dear Listers

Jim Hendee's post (below) is interesting and touches on considerations 
which have not been discussed. As has already been pointed out in 
earlier posts, it would appear that the intention of the UK and US 
Governments is to exclude Diego Garcia from the proposed MPA in the 
British Indian Ocean Territory, notwithstanding that it is the largest 
area of land.

There is a recently published article: Diego Garcia: British-American 
Legal Black Hole in the Indian Ocean? by Peter Sand of the Institute of 
International Law, University of Munich - Journal of Environmental Law 
doi:10.1093/jel/eqn034. It is Open Access at 

In particular the article highlights that:
1. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has consistently pursued a 
'legal black hole' strategy for Diego Garcia with regard international 
environmental agreements, which continues into the forseeable future.
2. Until the 1980s the FCO tried to supress "any mention of Chagos in 
scientific reports" (Prof Charles Sheppard - BIOT Scientific Advisor).
3. FCO has vetoed an extension of the Biodiversity Convention to BIOT.
4. To avoid disputes on claims by the Mauritius Government, the BIOT 
fishing area map annexed to the 2006 Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries 
Agreement (SIOFA) simply excludes the entire 200 miles zone around the 
Chagos - unfortunate in view of the growing threat of illegal fishing 
and the need for regional co-operation.

Of the Diego Garcia environment it highlights that:
1. Military construction work over the last 38 years has eliminated much 
of the tree vegetation (have a look on Google Earth or Google Maps).
2.  Coral blasting has removed an estimated 5 million cubic yards (4.5 
million cubic metres) by 1983. The scars on the reef can be seen from 
Google Maps.
3. Dredging in the lagoon has taken place over 30.8 square kilometres.
4. Approximately 100 acres was landfilled.
5. A total of more than 150,000 cubic yards of concrete has been poured 
for the construction of the airport, roads and other facilities.
6. When it was found that further coral mining could not meet the 
requirements, limestone, sand were imported from Malaysia and West Africa.
7. There are 1.34 million barrels of jet and diesel fuel stored on the 
island. A spill of approx 1 million gallons of jet fuel occured as a 
result of a pipeline fracture in 1983. By the time the underground 
leakage had been found it had filled and replaced the entire freshwater 
lens below the base. All the spills exceed the reported spills from 
other US military bases in Panama, Puerto Rico and the Phillipines. The 
Chagos Conservation Trust itself noted in 2004 that the US Air Force had 
still not cleared up its oil spills.

Peter Sand describes the 'downtown area' of the base as more reminiscent 
of the Florida Keys than that of the Indian Ocean, with all the 
facilities of a small town.

One serious side effect of the importing of construction materials has 
been the introduction of invasive alien plant species, including 
Leucaene leucocephala. A botanical survey of Diego in 2005 noted that 
"if uncontrolled, this species can completely overtake all other species 
creating monotypic scrub".

Its is a pretty dismal account of the lack of adequate protection and 
the transformation of the atoll.

Not only is there a complete mess as regards involving those who 
actually lived in these islands from participating in the proposed MPA 
discussions, there is also a mess as regards the environmental 
protection of one of the main islands. If this is a sound strategy for 
implementing a MPA of global importance then it leaves a lot to be desired.

Richard P Dunne

On 27/01/2010 13:13, Jim Hendee wrote:
> Greetings,
>      I have a new sparkler to throw into the Chagos fireworks.  The U.S.
> Department of Defense (through the Secretary of Defense) is charged  by
> Executive Order #13089 to be participating member of the U.S. Coral Reef
> Task Force.  To wit, see Sec.4.:
> ~~~~~~~~~~
>   Sec. 4. Coral Reef Task Force. The Secretary of the Interior and the
> Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic
> and Atmospheric Administration, shall co-chair a U.S. Coral Reef Task
> Force (``Task Force''), whose members shall include, but not be limited
> to, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the
> Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of
> Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Defense, the
> Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, the Director of the
> National Science Foundation, the Administrator of the Agency for
> International Development, and the Administrator of the National
> Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Task Force shall oversee
> implementation of the policy and Federal agency responsibilities set
> forth in this order, and shall guide and support activities under the
> U.S. Coral Reef Initiative (``CRI''). All Federal agencies whose actions
> may affect U.S. coral reef ecosystems shall review their participation
> in the CRI and the strategies developed under it, including strategies
> and plans of State, territorial, common-wealth, and local governments,
> and, to the extent feasible, shall enhance Federal participation and
> support of such strategies and plans. The Task Force shall work in
> cooperation with State, territorial, commonwealth, and local government
> agencies, nongovernmental organizations, the scientific community, and
> commercial interests.
> ~~~~~~~~~~
> Although this EO was designed with U.S. territories in mind, clearly
> coral reef areas know know no international boundaries; and in fact
> NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (www.coralreef.noaa.gov) provides
> for international programs and partnerships.
> The DoD was also charged with helping coral reefs in the U.S. Commission
> on Ocean Policy.
> I'm almost clueless on DoD coral reef activities, yet I see here...
> http://www.stormingmedia.us/39/3977/A397794.html
> that they have made progress.  Perhaps now is a great chance for them to
> both help their quiet image on the coral reef conservation front, and
> also to help come to a solution regarding the Chagos conservation area.
> If Diego Garcia is a "hands-off" area, but which is of concern in being
> included into a proposed new conservation area, then might I propose
> that DoD offers to the international research community a plan for
> conservation that is reviewed by peers, and which would allow periodic
> site review by those who would likely not be shot as spies?  I think it
> is worth considering that this subject be put before the next U.S. Coral
> Reef Task Force meeting to be held February 23-24, Washington, DC.
> Here's more on the USCRTF, http://coralreef.gov/ .  Note this statemtent
> on that site:
> "The advance public comment period for the February 2010 CRTF Meeting is
> open through Friday, January 29. Advance public comments may be
> submitted to Sarah Bobbe via email at Sarah_Bobbe at ios.doi.gov or via
> mail at 1305 East-West Highway, NOS/OCRM/CCD 10th Floor, Silver Spring,
> MD 20910."
> In other words, by this Friday, two days from now.
> I know this suggestion in itself does nothing, or little, with regard to
> the Chagosians themselves.  However, maybe this is a great opportunity
> for the U.S. (to include the Department of State) to look like one of
> the good guys.
>    Cheers,
>      Jim
>   ----------------------------------------------------
>   James C. Hendee, Ph.D.
>   Coral Health and Monitoring Program
>   Ocean Chemistry Division
>   Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
>   National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
>   U.S. Department of Commerce
>   4301 Rickenbacker Causeway
>   Miami, FL  33149-1026
>   Voice:  (305) 361-4396
>   Fax:    (305) 361-4447
>   Email:  jim.hendee at noaa.gov
>   Web:    http://www.coral.noaa.gov
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