[Coral-List] Chagos conservation

Sheppard, Charles Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk
Tue Jan 26 06:24:42 EST 2010

Richard Dunne again asks ‘why protect Chagos’ and ‘why hurry?’, and urges people to ‘vote’ no to the government’s enquiry about whether to establish greater, clearer and easier conservation.  My posting last week said the answers are in the several documents available on www.chagos-trust.org and www.protectchagos.org.

But Mr Dunne conflates issues and asks what is the urgency given that, he says, a year or two more waiting can’t hurt?  The urgency is partly the state of so much of the Indian Ocean: in a break-out session in one of the workshops on this last year, people came up with several biological reasons why more protection is merited now, but these really shouldn’t need explaining here.  Partly because of the continued damage from (legal) fishing to numerous species, particularly threatened sharks, but partly because we have the opportunity now caused by government interest in doing something, which may not re-occur if we put this opportunity off.  Partly too because the consultation deadline itself is February 12th, if you want your views to be recorded.

Mr Dunne’s desire for delaying conservation appears to be based on the bad treatment of people removed in the 1970s and because a no-fishing declaration would prohibit the only means of livelihood of anyone returning.  But as whole paragraphs say in several docs, the whole proposal is ‘without prejudice’ to the court case, and explains that if Chagossians do return then revisions would be made (I imagine changes would be needed to several other laws too).

Any implication that urging stronger conservation on the UK government now is somehow being ‘against’ Chagossians would be false.  The two issues run in parallel and are not exclusive (as several docs also explain).  There was only one group identified who would be directly disadvantaged now: blue water fishing interests.  Last week’s London Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6997414.ece) ran an article on the present fisheries interests.  It shouldn’t need noting on a scientific list like this, but the tuna fishery, with its only partly quantified but huge by-catch, is quite distinct from demersal reef fishing by some local inhabitants.

Voting against a protected area now will do nothing for the Chagossians and nothing for conservation of these islands or reefs and nothing for threatened species.  On the other hand a full no take protected area out to the 200 mile limit would do much to ensure these islands, reefs and threatened species were preserved - something much needed for the marine environment and Indian Ocean.  Should the Chagossians return, then it would be to their advantage too.

Best wishes

Professor Charles Sheppard
Dept Biological Sciences
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL,
charles.sheppard at warwick.ac.uk
tel (44) (0) 2476 524975

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