[Coral-List] The Chagos MPA

Sheppard, Charles Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk
Wed Oct 22 11:33:14 EDT 2014

There have been several posts lately under the title "The Chagos MPA - what went wrong?”

As Chair of Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) I would like to note that as far as conservation and research there is concerned, the answer to that question is “Nothing went wrong”.  There will be several government funded and private Foundation funded science expeditions to the area in the coming year.  

Concerns have mostly focussed on the Chagossian issue, often conflated with the initiatives to conserve one of the best and last remaining, rich reef sites in the world.  The Chagossian issues are certainly important, and CCT has had a meeting with the All Party Parliamentary Group interested in this.  We have posted two docs to www.chagos-trust.org : both the briefing asked of us beforehand, and our notes post-meeting, prepared and posted for our members.  Note that these documents explain only part of the total work done by CCT and its numerous partners and collaborators.  

I have also had some private correspondence concerning Chagossians and hope the work we do regarding this (outlined in the documents) is understood.  I would note that CCT is not the government and we do not speak for it, though we DO strongly support the government’s decision to create strict protection around this set of coral reefs and atolls including closure to the industrial tuna fleets (another opponent of the tuna fishing ban).   Over 100 scientists now have researched there, with double that number engaged without visiting yet - a large number of us in other words.  Conservation decisions by BIOT were and are based on the scores of published papers produced as a result of this, many by CCT members and many more not.  For summaries, see the five chapters in the UK Overseas Territories volume published in the Coral Reefs of the World series by Springer (series eds. Riegl and Dodge). The BIOT Government recently also produced an interim management plan, which is encouraging, ambitious, and relies firmly on science.  More and more, scientists are ‘using’ Chagos reefs as a reference site to learn what reefs did, could and one day might again look like.

I am sure all readers of this list are well aware of the dire and declining state of reefs globally.  Recent postings to this list concern why we are not managing to do much in arresting declines.  I hope many are aware now too of the exceptional condition of Chagos atolls.  However, climate change and related factors may mean that global factors will catch up even with these most isolated atolls.  (We are watching with great concern the current warming trend especially).  It seems to me that, with the seemingly remorseless global decline of reef and ocean biota, the need for conservation is increasingly self-evident – for the sake of people.  

Now, an invitation: if within reach of London, do come to our annual scientific meeting at the Zoological Society of London on Friday 5 December (link 1 below) to hear about many more sets of results obtained this year.  I look forward to seeing some of you there!  It is timed to occur the day before Reef Conservation UKs annual meeting in the same place (link 2), which also is always a great day of information.

1.  http://chagos-trust.org/news/chagos-conservation-2014-annual-conference-0
2.   http://www.zsl.org/conservation/whats-on/reef-conservation-uk-2014

Best wishes



Professor Charles Sheppard OBE

School of Life Sciences

University of Warwick, UK

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