[Coral-List] Chagos Marine Protected Area - Update

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Sun Feb 13 05:48:31 EST 2011


Ben Fogle, writer and broadcaster, wrote yesterday (12 Feb 2011) in the 
Telegraph Newspaper:

"It [Chagos] is a story – described by some as one of the darkest days 
in British overseas policy – that has transfixed me for more than a 
decade and shaken my very principles on conservation, ecology and the 
environment movement.

..... I have been involved with the plight of the Chagos islanders for a 
decade, ever since I visited the islands, which I had to do illegally. I 
was there researching my book, The Teatime Islands, about Britain’s 
remaining Overseas Territories, and chartered a boat from the Maldives, 
500 miles to the north. It felt eerie walking through Chagos’s ghost 
towns frozen in time. Vegetation had smothered many of the buildings, 
choking the stones in the graveyard, while sunlight streaked through the 
stained-glass windows of the deserted church. I was doubly horrified to 
find dozens of international travellers living among the ruins while the 
islanders remained pariahs, exiled by their own government.

....... Last year, I visited Crawley for a day celebrating Chagossian 
culture. Hundreds of Chagossians attended with photos, paintings, 
diaries and food that represented their vanishing culture. “I have one 
dying wish,” whispered an elderly Chagossian, still traumatised by her 
forced exile. “To set foot on my island and clear my husband’s grave. 
Then I can die happy.” It seems a simple wish, but one which, in a new 
twist, has now been thwarted by the powerful environmental lobby. Last 
year, the islands were declared a marine sanctuary in which no people 
would be allowed to live, news that was greeted with delight by 
environmentalists but was condemned by human rights groups.

...... When I was originally asked to support the creation of the 
sanctuary, I was assured that the protectorate would include a clause 
that would allow the Chagossians to return home. Yet it now appears 
that, once again, the government has used environmental blackmail to get 
its own way. I was duped into supporting a scheme in violation of basic 
human rights, and I have since spoken to a number of scientists who 
agree that they too were misled.

....... By reneging on my support, I am essentially going against the 
RSPB, Greenpeace, the Shark Trust and even my old friend TV presenter 
Kate Humble, all of whom have pledged their full support for the 
sanctuary. Instead, I have agreed to become joint patron of the UK 
Chagos Support Association and will be helping the islanders in a final 
bid to go home.

....... Financing the new marine reserve is a huge concern. The area is 
patrolled by the Pacific Marlin, a vessel that costs £1.7 million a year 
to operate. Until recently, licences sold to French, Spanish, Korean and 
Taiwanese tuna-fishing vessels contributed about £1 million a year to 
the cost. A faster patrol ship will probably be necessary to prevent 
illegal fishing in the new reserve, but who will foot the bill? And all 
this at a time when the Government is selling off its own forests and 
cutting back on National Park spending. It simply doesn’t add up. [note: 
effective policing of the Chagos MPA should cost in the order of £12.8M 
- based on Balmford et al 2004 PNAS]

......... It seems to me that governments are increasingly using 
environmental causes to “greenwash” issues. I remain a passionate 
advocate for the environmental movement, but we must not allow ourselves 
to be dazzled by “green” policy, blinding us to the bigger picture.
We fight tooth and nail to avoid animals becoming extinct. Surely we owe 
the same to an island people.

For the full article see: 

Mauritius has already submitted the issue of the MPA for dispute 
settlement under provisions of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the 
Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). For a details see the article by Irini 
Papanicolopulu (Marie Curie Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford 
and a Senior Researcher in international law at the University of 
Milano-Bicocca) in the European Journal of International Law (Talk) at 

In addition, Mauritius has now announced that it proposes to initiate 
action at the United Nations General Assembly to pursue its claim for 
sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago. [The Chagos were illegally 
removed by Britain from the the former colony of Mauritius in 1965, 
contrary to UN General Assembly Declaration 1514 and General Resolution 
2066]. On 31 Jan 2011 at the 16th Summit at Addis Ababa, the 52 nations 
of the African Union gave their full support to Mauritius' proposed 
action (see http://au.int/en/summit/decisions).

Both of these actions could in due course result in the matter being 
referred to the International Court of Justice by the UN for a ruling on 
the sovereignty of the Chagos. This route was blocked by the United 
Kingdom in 2004 when Mauritius itself proposed this action.

_After enquiry, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has unofficially 
confirmed that traditional fishing rights were conferred on Mauritian 
fishing vessels in 1965 when the Chagos were detached, a position which 
Mauritius upholds. The cessation of all commercial licences (including 
to Mauritian vessels) in November last year in the MPA cannot therefore 
be declared unilaterally. This also forms part of Mauritius claim in the 
dispute settlement.

In September last year the Maldives confirmed that it considered the 
Chagos to be uninhabited (ironically the UK Government also argues that 
the islands are uninhabitable) and therefore unable to claim a 200nm EEZ 
and that it intended to lay this before the UN early this year. The 
Maldives presently claims part of the MPA in the north as its own EEZ.

The latest US DoD Base Structure Report (2010) values the replacement 
value of the base at US $3 Billion. In August last year the 23,000 ton 
submarine tender, the USS Emory S Land was deployed to Diego Garcia to 
support and repair nuclear submarines (SSN and SSGN) of the US 5th 
Fleet. The USS Emory S Land was last based at La Maddalena, Italy where 
in 2007 she was forced to leave due to protests about radioactive 
pollution. Ironically, she will now be in the lagoon at Diego Garcia 
which is a Ramsar Wetlands Site of international conservation 
importance. Diego Garcia and the 3nm territorial sea is of course 
excluded from the MPA. The US Military personnel presently remove 25 
tonnes of fish annually from these waters for recreation.

The status of the MPA remains unclear pending clarification by the UK. 
At the moment the UK's declared 200nm Environment Preservation & 
Protection Zone (claimed in 2003) does not appear to amount to a claim 
to an EEZ under UNCLOS. This leaves considerable doubt about the 
legality of a 'no take' MPA. We hope to have a clearer position shortly, 
pending further enquiry. The UK has not implemented any legislation for 
the new MPA yet and relies on its existing laws for enforcement.

Richard P Dunne

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