[Coral-List] submission on Chagos

Clive Wilkinson clive.wilkinson at rrrc.org.au
Mon Nov 3 19:45:08 EST 2014

To the List

There have been many messages on Chagos - I hesitate to add another. But I have some concern that a process is developing that may initiate another dependent, or even a mendicant, small island developing state (SIDS).

The situation appears to break down into 5 positions and aspects:

1.       The original removal of the Chagossians to assist in the establishment of a US military base was an immoral act with very questionable legality (but that was long ago);

2.       The claims by the Chagossians that they can establish a viable fishing industry for tuna and other fishery resources do not match the experience of other SIDS. There are very few effective and economically viable similar fishing ventures amongst these island states. I have seen many tuna fishing boats quietly rusting away tied up to wharves in the Pacific; plus the major trading parties (Japan, Korea, China, Russia, USA etc.) do not readily assist new players into this marketplace. SIDS rarely have the manpower, financial resources, management expertise, access to markets, transport connections, and willpower to implement a fishing venture;

3.       The nonsense about lack of evidence of effectiveness of MPAs in conserving fish stocks and biodiversity demonstrates significant scientific ignorance. Establishing an MPA is not a 'scientific experiment' but an attempt to introduce a 'control' into a disastrous 'unscientific experiment'.   The hypothesis is 'does fishing and extraction of fishery resources' reduce fish stocks and damage ecosystems'; to which the answer is obviously YES. And most exploitation in excessive and uncontrolled. There are many MPAs that are not managed or not well managed, but that does not negate the need to attempt the establishment of more;

4.       The future for many SIDS on low lying coral islands is very tenuous and most are looking for an escape route as climate change and sea level rise continues; and

5.       Allowing the Chagossians to return and re-establish their own 'country' will not guarantee a successful state; the government of the UK will be obliged to ensure the long-term financial sustainability with the possibility of serious socioeconomic problems in such a remote location. Examples like Pitcairn should serve as a point for contemplation.

Efforts by those who have been advocating allowing these peoples to return to Chagos may be better occupied in helping those people in Mauritius, the UK or wherever with the development of sustainable livelihoods and weaning them off a dream which could turn into a nightmare.

Clive Wilkinson

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