[Coral-List] 1. Chagos Islands (Peter Mandara)

David Evans davidjevans1818 at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 19 15:06:17 EST 2010

Dear All,

I write to comment on a recent post about the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. I hope the comment is taken as civil and professional and not just contentious, as the subject can tend to get (and I don't think is helpful for anyone). What I am saying, Jim, is that I don't mean to be stirring any pots. 

I'll phrase my comment as two points. 

First, I think it is disingenuous to present the creation of an extensive conservation zone out of a magnificent region of islands and ocean (which is indeed magnificent), without mentioning its background and darker side. The former inhabitants of the archipelago, the Chagossians, were removed in the late 1960's by the UK and US when the US Naval Support Facility at Deigo Garcia was planned and established. Without going into detail, the removal planning and its process did not live up to the human rights tenets of either of our two nations by a wide margin. That much has been stated by the legal system in the UK within the last decade. The Chagos Islanders have been struggling for their right to return to their homes. The Chagos Islanders are in fact in favor of creating a conservation zone in the region. They have, however, no representation in the process. They want to be incorporated into the conservation zone and involved in its management. To
 summarize my first point, creation of this conservation zone is not a simple matter of: "here's a magnificent marine region, let's conserve it..." 

My second point I pose as a question. What is the role of scientists and conservationists when the subject of study and conservation comes up against social considerations? I know it's not a new situation and has come up many times in the past and present and, with an increasingly more populated world, will continue to increase in occurrence. In dealing with business and industry, it seems to me that adjusting profits and practices is not too big of a sacrifice to make (such as with logging industries or fisheries). When dealing with health, adjusting also seems the logical thing to do (such as with mining operations). When dealing with traditional ways of life and generational homelands it can be a difficult decision to sacrifice for the sake of the environment and conservation, but in the long run worth it for the sake of preserving ecosystem services and protecting species populations (such as with farming, ranching, and fisheries). But when Human
 Rights are involved (that is: treating each other badly) what is the role of the scientists and conservationists wanting to capitalize on preserving the habitat involved?

My personal view with this situation of the Chagos Islands and the Chagossians that want to return there is that given the circumstances, creating the wholly exclusionary conservation zone is not the best thing to do for the sake of conservation. My opinion is that creating the conservation zone at the Chagos would be an excellent opportunity to create a community that is geared toward living with its environment. And my understanding is that that is what the Chagossians are interested in as well. With growing human populations and lagging solutions to environmental problems (theory as well as action), might not the Chagossians present an excellent example to the world? My concern (besides that for the Chagossians' plight) is that an exclusionary conservation zone set aside as a jewel in a degraded world, with ever increasing human populations, will eventually be overtaken anyway through encroachment of human activities and abandonment of conservation
 laws by future governments. Whereas, having an established community with a vested interest toward conservation would create a stronger and longer lasting presence in the Chagos islands to ward against encroachment. Treating local communities badly does not serve the cause of conservation around the world now and in the future. 

I understand that in the past governments have often acted this way, treating peoples poorly for the sake of their own agendas. I personally, don't want the practice to continue into my generation and beyond. I don't want the legacy of a magnificent conservation zone to be tarnished by it history, when positive alternative solutions are available.

I ask any that have read and have been interested to consider these points sincerely.

I have posted photos and commentary about the atoll of Diego Garcia in the Chagos, both above and below the waves, in the past few years. Please be welcome to view the island and its reefs:
(scroll through my lists of posts over several pages to find those for Diego Garcia)
My Posts

Photo Log: Diego Garcia II - Chagos, Indian Ocean - 'Footprint of a People'

Photo Log: Diego Garcia, Chagos, Indian Ocean

Photo Log - Marine Life: Diego Garcia, Chagos, Indian Ocean I

(let me know if links don't work - you can try www.djem18.gather.com and look for "Posts")

Deslarzes, KJP, DJ Evans, and SH Smith. 2005. Marine Biological Suvey at United States Navy Support Facility, Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, July/August 2004. Cont. No. N62470-02-D-9997, Task No. 0044. Geo-Marine, Inc., Plano, TX; Naval Facilites Engineering Command, Pearl Harbor, HI; Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program, Proj. No. 03-183

Best Regards,

David J. Evans
Marine Biologist/Photographer

davidjevans1818 at yahoo.com

Message: 1
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 16:53:48 +0000
From: Peter Mandara <pm at coralcay.org>
Subject: [Coral-List] Chagos Islands
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Message-ID: <4B4F4C1C.3020803 at coralcay.org>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

Dear Coral-List Editor,

Would you please review the following entry:

Re: The UK government's three-month public consultation on extending 
conservation protections for the Chagos Islands and its surrounding 

Now is the time to consider the future of the world's largest coral 
atoll -- the Chagos Islands as the government has issued a consultation 
on the issue. 

This archipelago in the Indian Ocean has been compared to the Galapagos 
or Great Barrier Reef in terms of its importance as one of the greatest 
marine environments on the planet. It is one of the most pristine 
tropical marine environments on Earth; home to 17 species of breeding 
seabirds, about 1000 species of fish, around 220 species of coral and 2 
species of endangered turtles the area needs to be protected. Its 
protection is supported by the leading UK scientific societies and NGOs.

To find out more about this unique and special place and the proposition 
to declare it as the world's largest marine reserve please visit - 

Coral Cay Conservation


Peter Mandara MSc

PR and Communications Manager

Coral Cay Conservation

Elizabeth House

39 York Road



United Kingdom


Tel: +44 (0)20 7921 0463

Fax: +44 (0)20 7921 0469      

Email: pm at coralcay.org <mailto:pm at coralcay.org>

Skype Name: Peter Mandara


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