[Coral-List] Chagos conservation

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Tue Jan 26 10:56:23 EST 2010

Dear Listers

Charles Sheppard (the BIOT Scientific Advisor to the FCO) replies to my 
questions of "Why the haste?"

_His Reply_: /"Partly because of the continued damage from (legal) 
fishing to numerous species, particularly threatened sharks"/
_My Comment:_ The present position is that under Fishery Limits 
Ordinance there is a 200-mile Fishery Management Conservation Zone which 
was established on 1 October 1991 and a fisheries regime covering all 
BIOT fishing waters was established on the same day by the Fisheries 
(Conservation and Management) Ordinance 1991. Commercial fishing within 
this zone is only allowed under licence. Tuna fishing is prohibited 
within 12 nautical miles of land. Inshore fishing for demersal species 
is only permitted from 1 April to 31 October, by hook and line, and not 
within lagoons. Effort controls are further implemented in both 
fisheries by limited licensing, based on the best scientific information 
and adopting the precautionary approach. Hunting of green turtle 
/Chelonia mydas/ has been completely banned since 1968.
_Response:_ Why is the current legislation ineffective? Surely it is a 
matter of management and the BIOT Commissioner already has the powers to 
reduce the legal fishing if there is evidence of damage as alleged. 
Likewise to sharks?

_His Reply:_ /"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."
/_Response:_ The framework for any further conservation measures is 
already in place by virtue of the work done by the Chagos Environmental 
Network and other persons. The consultation will indicate whether the 
scientific and conservation aims have support. _All that is required is 
final legislation which does not require input from the UK Parliament 
since it can be enacted under the powers of the BIOT Commissioner_ (as 
the FCO consultation makes clear to all). Indeed as the FCO points out, 
because of the peculair nature of BIOT there is actually NO LEGAL 
REQUIREMENT for any consultation at all. In all these circumstances it 
is something that is not driven by any one political party nor by the 
incumbent government other than on issues of administrative cost to the 
UK Treasury.

Neither of Charles' replies are therefore sustainable without further 
justification. Furthermore I am accused of conflating (blending together 
or mixing up) the issues. Not so, I say that on science and conservation 
grounds alone the idea of an MPA should go ahead. The issue of the 
rights of the Chagossians is separate and remains unresolved. If the 
scientific and conservation grounds for proceeding to enact further 
legislation were overwhelming then I acknowledge that the rights of the 
Chagossians may well have to be subjugated (temporarily or permanently). 
Has the CEN or Dr Sheppard made this case? I think not.

Delaying the implementation of the MPA pending the European Court of 
Human Rights case is both the morally correct path to follow and the 
logically correct one. Logically it allows the legislation to be 
correctly drafted from the outset with full consultation with those with 
a right of abode so that it is workable. Indeed the Chagossians 
themselves could be entrusted, employed and paid to enforce it - what 
better solution than this to the difficulties of management and the 
sustainability of their island life?

Here are the essential and additional facts that you may all wish to 
have before reaching your decision which proposal you should support:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office consultation question is:
/If yes - 3 broad options for a possible framework:
(i) Declare a full no-take marine reserve for the whole of the 
territorial waters and Environmental Preservation and Protection Zone 
(EPPZ)/Fisheries Conservation and Management Zone (FCMZ); or
(ii) Declare a no-take marine reserve for the whole of the territorial 
waters and EPPZ/FCMZ with exceptions for certain forms of pelagic 
fishery (e.g., tuna) in certain zones at certain times of the year.
(iii)Declare a no-take marine reserve for the vulnerable reef systems only./

1. The formal UK Government position is that "there is no right of abode 
in the Territory", it follows that there can be no de- facto 
consultation with the Chagossians and can be no provisions for them 
within the legislation. To consult or legislate would mean an 
acknowledgement of rights.
2. The UK Government recognises that there is an ongoing legal dispute 
concerning the right of abode by the Chagossians in the BIOT and on 
Diego Garcia in particular and that should the Chagossians succeed with 
their case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) then "all 
the options for a marine protected area may need to be reconsidered".
3. Additionally, neither the UK Government nor the US would want the 
creation of a marine protected area to have any impact on the 
operational capability of the military base on Diego Garcia. For this 
reason, it may be necessary to consider the exclusion of Diego Garcia 
and its 3 mile territorial waters from any marine protected area.
4. BIOT has already been declared an Environmental (Preservation and 
Protection) Zone with legislation in place to protect the natural 
resources which include strict controls over fishing, pollution (air, 
land and water), damage to the environment, and the killing, harming or 
collecting of animals. Some of the most important land and sea areas 
have already been set aside for additional protection. Most of the 
lagoon areas and a large part of the land area of Diego Garcia are 
protected as Restricted Areas, four Special Conservation Areas and a 
Nature Reserve. Strict Nature Reserves cover the land and surrounding 
reefs and waters of the islands of the Great Chagos Bank and a large 
part of Peros Banhos Atoll. The Territory is also subject to further 
levels of internationally binding legal protection. This includes the 
designation of part of Diego Garcia as a Wetland of International 
Importance under the Ramsar Convention; the Whaling Convention 
(including an Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary); the Law of the Sea 
Convention (with provisions to protect fish stocks); the Indian Ocean 
Tuna Commission; CITES (regulating trade in wildlife, including corals); 
and the Bonn Convention (with provisions to protect marine turtles and 

The position of a growing number of influential figures, coral reef 
scientists and others (399 as I write) is to _"fully support the UK 
Government’s efforts to protect the Chagos archipelago through the 
declaration of a Marine Protected Area within the territorial waters and 
Environmental Preservation and Protection Zone/Fisheries Conservation 
and Management Zone."_ BUT _"We do not support any of the three broad 
options proposed in the consultation documents, however, because full 
no-take protection of reef areas would provide no means for resettled 
islanders to utilise their marine resources for subsistence or income 
generation. Communities and Marine Protected Areas coexist across the 
world, and there is no reason why the islanders could not be successful 
stewards of their coral reef environment."_ AND _"We urge you to work 
with the Chagos islanders and the Government of Mauritius to devise an 
MPA solution that makes provision for resettlement and that protects 
Mauritius’ legitimate interests. This could be achieved through, for 
example, zonation that permits the sustainable use of marine resources 
in specific reef, lagoon and open ocean areas."_

You can find this petition at the Marine Education Trust website at 

amongst the signatories are:
David Snoxall - a former Deputy Commissioner of BIOT and the former 
British High Commissioner to Mauritius
John Howell - former Director, Overseas Development Institute
Graham Watson - Member of the European Parliament for South West England
Marius Wanders - Secretary General of Caritas in Europe
SCIENTISTS: Prof David Simon, Dr Judith Lang, Dr Bill Burnett, Dr Mark 
Spalding, Dr Sidney Holt, Dr Deborah Potts, Dr Tom Spencer, Dr Anthony 
Lemon, Dr Tracy Harvey, Prof Barbara Brown, Dr Tom Goreau, Dr Ben-Tzvi, 
Dr Martin Little, Prof Chris Perry, Dr Elizabeth Gladfelter, Prof John 
Ogden, Dr Elizabeth Andrew, Dr Martina Burtscher,
ATTORNEYS/ LAWYERS: Durkje Gilfillan, Richard Dunne, Hans A. De Savornin 
Lohman, Maite Mompo, James McGowan

In a letter to the Times (London) Newspaper, today 26 January 2010 
signed by eminent UK Parliamentarians:
Don’t forget the role of Chagos Islanders - *The Chagos Islanders want 
to be involved with the conservation and environmental protection of the 

Sir, Your report (Jan 22) on the proposed Chagos Islands Marine 
Protected Area (MPA) stated that 2,000 Chagos Islanders were “relocated” 
to Britain and Mauritius to make room for a US base on Diego Garcia. In 
fact, about 1,500 Chagossians, of whom some 700 survive, were moved 
against their will to Mauritius and Seychelles in the early 1970s.
How many would wish to return, and the nature of a resettlement on two 
atolls, 150 miles north of the US base, is impossible to determine at 
this stage. The Chagos Islanders want to be involved with the 
conservation and environmental protection of the islands. Careful 
management and planning can, at modest cost, avoid degradation of the 
The All Party Parliamentary Group has urged the FCO to commission a 
rapid independent study of the numbers who would wish to resettle and 
the practicalities of resettlement. Many Chagossians will not want to 
live permanently in the islands but they all want the right to visit 
their homeland at will. The way forward is to make provision in the 
proposed marine protected area for Chagossian interests (such as local 
fishing) and those of Mauritius. Conservation and human rights must go 
hand in hand. We urge the Government, before the election, to lift the 
ban imposed in 2004 on the return of the Chagos Islanders and so end 
this tragedy that has dogged the UK’s reputation for respect for human 
rights and its international obligations.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Chair, Chagos Islands APPG
Baroness Whitaker
Lord Luce
Lord Ramsbotham
Lord Steel of Aikwood
Lord Wallace of Saltaire
Andrew Rosindell, MP

The solution that I propose is to delay consideration of the Chagos MPA 
pending the outcome of the ECtHR case. This pragmatic approach 
recognises that until the issue of right of abode is resolved the UK 
Government cannot liaise with the Chagossians concerning the MPA 
legislation, furthermore any legislation that may have been enacted 
without such consultation and without the right of abode having been 
finally determined may well be deemed illegal, and at the very least may 
need to be repealed or amended as the FCO itself recognises.

Consider also this question: If the right of abode had been recognised 
by the House of Lords judgment and the UK Government was instituting the 
ECtHR case to overturn this decision, then would they be pursuing MPA 
legislation which would have to recognise the Chagossian's rights? I 
think not - they would stay the matter. Why then should we rush to 
implement in the present circumstances? It is morally unjust, nor is it 

Richard P Dunne

On 26/01/2010 11:24, Sheppard, Charles wrote:
> 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
> Charles
> --------------
> Professor Charles Sheppard
> Dept Biological Sciences
> University of Warwick
> Coventry, CV4 7AL,
> UK
> charles.sheppard at warwick.ac.uk
> tel (44) (0) 2476 524975
> _______________________________________________

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