[Coral-List] The Chagos MPA - what went wrong?

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sun Sep 28 04:14:08 EDT 2014


     Perhaps the most important item in your post on Chagos is your
statement that it is "a MPA which is unlikely to confer any benefit on
Indian Ocean tuna or their conservation, and no significant additional
protection for sharks, marine turtles, or cetaceans."    Have a look at
"Will 'lazy fish benefit most from new US megareserve?"  Published by
Science magazine.  Here's the link: Will 'lazy' fish benefit most from new
U.S. marine megareserve?
  Do follow up its citations!  Happy reading!  Read also the Koldewey et al
review (you cite it!) on just how much the tuna fishing cessation WILL
provide additional benefit to ‘bycatch’.

Koldewey HJ, Curnick D, Harding S, Harrison LR, Gollock M (2010) Potential
benefits to fisheries and biodiversity of the Chagos Archipelago/British
Indian Ocean Territory as a no-take marine reserve. Mar Pollut Bull
60:1906-1915  (Google Scholar has a link to an open access source of this

    The New Scientist article you point to is labelled as an "Opinion"
piece. That is a cue to the reader that this is not a news article, and is
not held to the standards of objectivity and balance that good journalism
requires of articles.  Instead, it is on the Editorial page, it is
opinion.  It appears to present only one side of the issue.  Readers should
keep that in mind.

    For a different perspective on Chagos, take a look at the relatively
short but informative article "Protecting the Chagos Archipelago - a last
chance for Indian Ocean reefs?" at

For a more comprehensive review, see Sheppard et al. 2012.  Reefs and
islands of the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean: why it is the world's
largest no-take marine area.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater
Ecosystems 22: 232-261.  Also available through Google Scholar.

    There is a phrase, "The depopulating of the Pacific."  People move from
the tiniest islands to islands which have capital cities on them, and they
move to developed countries.  They move voluntarily, and this is a global
trend.  For example, the little island-state of Niue now has only 1500
people left, and 9000 live in New Zealand.  This process is common all over
the oceans, Indian Ocean and Caribbean as well as Pacific (I read that many
people in Puerto Rico are now moving to the US because of hard economic
times in Puerto Rico).  The reason people move is because they are moving
to places with better economic opportunities, and many other services that
they can't get on islands.  The smaller and more remote the island, the
more expensive it is to provide services.  Services like stores, jobs,
medical facilities, electricity, drinking water, telephone service, roads,
vehicles, schools, TV, etc. etc.  Atolls tend to have the smallest islands,
which are also just above sea level, and composed of sand and coral
rubble.  It is very hard to grow anything on an atoll island.  They are
subject to cyclones.  They are very distant from supply sources, there are
few trained service providers, there are almost no local economic resources
to pay for development now that coconuts are valueless (though if there is
tourism that can be a large part of the economy).  These are hard places to
live, and always have been because of the very limited resources.  But in
any case, to have services, the services have to be massively subsidized on
tiny atoll islands, by larger, more efficient economies in mother
countries.  It is very expensive, and very inefficient to have people on
tiny islands.  Tiny islands usually can't have their own medical
facilities, and evacuation can be slow and/or costly, making keeping people
on tiny islands unethical.

      The movement of people from tiny to larger islands to developed
countries is a part of a much broader movement of human populations that
has been going on for a long time, from rural areas to cities, all over the
world.  It will continue.  No government or planners can totally stop it,
and if they try, it is likely to cost in terms of subsidies and

     Also, contrary to the statement in the abstract of your new paper
advocating resuming tuna fishing in Chagos, the no-take MPA does NOT make
it impossible for resettlement.  I think you knew the British government’s
statements on that!  But, fishing or not, almost all food has to be grown
on the island or brought in.  That can be done.  It would be expensive, and
such an operation is unlikely to be economic, which gets us back to the
subsidies problem.

Also, the Chagossians were removed back when the military base was
constructed, decades before the MPA.  The MPA had nothing to do with their
removal, the MPA wasn't even dreamed of back then.

     Cheers,  Doug

Politics__and the Official Advice_
A piece by Fred Pearce in today's New Scientist: '/Chagos marine reserve
polluted by politics/'
gives an interesting account of what FCO officials were thinking and
advising at the time of the public consultation and creation of the
Chagos MPA, based on confidential internal memoranda.

_Good & Bad science_
New Scientist also refers to a paper 'in press' in Advances in Marine
Biology entitled '/The creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area: a
fisheries perspective/' which is an exhaustive overview of the fisheries
of the Chagos. It demonstrates, amongst other things, that whilst expert
advice provided by fisheries advisers, MRAG, in private to the British
Indian Ocean Territory Administration was sound, scientific 'evidence'
from the Chagos Environment Network (CEN) alliance (Pew/Chagos
Conservation Trust/Zoological Society of London) was poorly researched
and grossly overstated any negative impact of the commercial tuna
fishery in the Chagos. Bad science, intense advocacy and alarmist claims
by the CEN, and a rushed public consultation led to a MPA which is
unlikely to confer any benefit on Indian Ocean tuna or their
conservation, and no significant additional protection for sharks,
marine turtles, or cetaceans.  For further details see:

Richard P Dunne

Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

"belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."

belief in evolution is optional, use of antibiotics that bacteria have not
evolved resistance to is recommended.

website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner

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