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

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Sun Sep 28 07:11:36 EDT 2014

Doug Fenner poses a number of comments on my post which drew people's 
attention to (1) the New Scientist piece by Fred Pearce and (2) a paper 
by myself and 3 co-authors in Advances in Marine Biology (AMB).

Rather than waste everyone's time addressing these issues here on Coral 
List I would invite him (and anyone else who is interested) to actually 
read the full AMB paper rather than just the Abstract.

He will then find some answers including that: (1) Koldewey et al (2010) 
was poor 'science', perhaps because it was hurriedly written in 2009 to 
persuade the British Government how wonderful a MPA would be for the 
fish of the Chagos, (2) that as regards the pelagic fishery Sheppard et 
al (2012) largely regurgitates Koldewey et al. We discuss both papers 
quite extensively.

Possibly the greatest damage to the fish populations of the Chagos was 
and still is due to fishing on the island of Diego Garcia by US 
servicemen and civilian contractors. Not because their lives depend on 
it but purely for pleasure. Perhaps Doug should be lobbying his 
Government to stop this pointless practice.

If there is to be an intelligent debate please could people first look 
at the evidence. There is also lots of other information about the 
Chagos on my website: 
https://sites.google.com/site/thechagosarchipelagofacts/home. I am happy 
to send anyone who requests, papers or information they require if it is 
not already available on the website to download.

Richard P Dunne

On 28/09/2014 09:14, Douglas Fenner wrote:
> Richard,
>      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? 
> <http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/09/will-lazy-fish-benefit-most-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 paper)
>     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 
> https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnx0aGVjaGFnb3NhcmNoaXBlbGFnbzJ8Z3g6Mzc5ZDI5NTcxZTJkMTlmZg
> 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 inefficiencies.
>      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/'
> (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329884.400-chagos-marine-reserve-polluted-by-politics.htm#.VCT9I_ldV16)
> 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:
> https://sites.google.com/site/thechagosarchipelago2/chagos-science/advances-in-marine-biology-2014
> --
> 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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