[Coral-List] The Chagos MPA

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Fri Oct 24 13:43:00 EDT 2014

I have been asked by Mr David Snoxell, former British High Commissioner 
to Mauritius 2000 - 2004, and Co-ordinator of 'The Chagos Islands 
(British Indian Ocean Territory) All-Party Parliamentary Group' (APPG) 
to send this message to Coral List on his behalf:

On 22 October Charles Sheppard posted a message to readers of Coral List 
which drew attention to a meeting that he and two other Trustees of the 
Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) had with British Parliamentarians a week 
earlier.  On behalf of, and in my capacity of Co-ordinator of the APPG I 
requested him to correct the misleading impression given in the CCT 
account of that meeting. He has declined to do so.

The documents on the CCT website incorrectly refer to the APPG as the 
"APPG on Chagossian affairs" and the "APPG concerned with Chagossian and 
resettlement affairs". The Group's correct title under which it is 
registered in Parliament is "The Chagos Islands (British Indian Ocean 
Territory) All-Party Parliamentary Group".

The website incorrectly states that "CCT was invited to address the APPG 
concerned with Chagossian and resettlement affairs". The meeting had 
been at the request of Charles Sheppard, on behalf of CCT.

The CCT account of the meeting is entitled "minutes". I doubt those 
present would agree that this is a balanced account, for example during 
the meeting Baroness Whitaker drew attention to several positive aspects 
for conservation, arising from resettlement which CCT does not record. 
CCT's account can only be described as its own one-sided account, not 
minutes of the meeting.

The CCT account contains the following sentence: "From comments and 
continued back tracking to Chagossian resettlement issue, it seemed that 
most members did not understand, or were not particularly interested in 
the environment and need for protection". This is a value judgment with 
which the APPG would not agree. During their 44 meetings, over nearly 6 
years, the Group has regularly discussed the conservation and 
environmental aspects of BIOT, even calling on the Government to seek 
UNESCO World Heritage status for the Chagos Archipelago. This is 
therefore an entirely gratuitous remark which has no place in any 
account which purports to be an accurate record.

David Snoxell

On 22/10/2014 16:33, Sheppard, Charles wrote:
> 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 towww.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, a
> mbitious, 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
> Charles
> --------------------------
> Professor Charles Sheppard OBE
> School of Life Sciences
> University of Warwick, UK
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