[Coral-List] Chagos Tribunal and Chagos conservation

Mark Spalding mark at mdspalding.co.uk
Wed Apr 1 11:29:55 EDT 2015

Some good points have been raised by all around Chagos and the recent
tribunal. I think one of the most important steps now, is to build bridges
and avoid provocative rhetoric. Strong opinions have been heard all along
around the original designation of the MPA and it probably doesn't help the
conservation and research community to re-entrench the past views that
created those feelings. We are where we are now.


Chagos remains one of the most significant large coral reef systems with
relatively low human impact (there is still recreational fishing and some
illegal fishing, and the reefs around Diego Garcia are clearly somewhat
compromised). The overall excellent condition of reefs may well be partly
related to a dubious history, but for those fighting for return (either to
live or for sovereignty) this condition doesn't diminish the value of the
reefs, it enhances it. We are where we are.


What I think the conservation and research community can do to encourage the
future safe stewardship of Chagos is to engage, within their expertise, and
build partnerships. ZSL and others have done some valuable work in outreach
to the Chagossian community - educating and training many young Chagossians,
with a select few joining research expeditions to the archipelago. I think
reaching out to Mauritian scientists and NGOs should also be encouraged.


This year there may be as many as 9 or 10 research trips to the Chagos.
These are dominated by UK, European, American and Australian researchers -
probably just a simple reflection of the dominance in our field of nations
with some of the best research and funding opportunities. I do feel however
that outreach to scientists working in Mauritius, the Maldives, Lakshadweep,
Andaman and Nicobar, Seychelles, Madagascar and beyond would be of great
value. Expedition leaders and regional scientists please take note and feel
encouraged. Doing this would further help to "ground" the findings with a
regional perspective; it will help to grow the regional science skills. And
perhaps most importantly, it and could also help to improve understanding
and collaboration. That way, whatever political changes or settlement
decisions take place, we will have a greater chance of providing continuity
in maintaining this extraordinary natural heritage.


All best






Dr Mark Spalding

Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK



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