[Coral-List] Chagos Tribunal and Chagos conservation

Paul Muir paul.muir at qm.qld.gov.au
Wed Apr 1 23:52:32 EDT 2015

I was lucky enough to participate in the recent Catlin Seaview Survey expedition to Chagos- it is a "must do" for reef researchers & managers to see what a coral reef is really supposed to look like. I've worked on MPAs in many places and come from the GBR where a large proportion of reefs are no-take, but Chagos was such an eye opener - we literally had to push the coral trout out the way just to work on the corals. The number of large fish and their total lack of fear was like nothing I have ever seen. I do hope we can keep this Eden as an example of a true reef and perhaps even create a few more.  

Dr. Paul Muir
Acting Curator, Corals

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-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Sheppard, Charles
Sent: Wednesday, 25 March 2015 1:13 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Chagos Tribunal and Chagos conservation

People might like to recall that it was a coalition of several of the UK's largest and most respected science societies and NGOs that advised the government to declare the Chagos MPA, not just the Chagos Conservation Trust and Pew!  There is very good reason for this of course and a visit to the chagos-trust.org can explain why they did, as can the 250+ papers written so far by a couple of hundred scientists. 

The Tribunal also declined to find any improper motive for the declaration, as has been often repeated, as have various earlier judgments too.  It is all for conservation of a very large set of largely undamaged reefs, the largest such tract left in the world.   Scientists operate within governmental constraints of course - as in most places.  Here the government listened to scientists, and this is not liked by those opposing the MPA
no-take rules.

So the Tribunal ruled that Mauritius holds legally binding rights to fish in the waters surrounding the Chagos Archipelago.  Whether this is a set-back to marine conservation or whether it is a new beginning for Chagos conservation will depend on the action of Mauritius in its reaction to this court ruling.  On the one hand it could say that having had these rights legally recognized, it did not want to exercise them, but rather to have its scientists and conservationists join the international conservation efforts to maintain a world-class fully protected marine reserve for the huge benefit of millions of people in Indian Ocean States.  That would indeed be a new beginning for Chagos conservation and one which we and others concerned with marine conservation would wholeheartedly welcome.  Or they could seek to exercise those rights, which would be a set-back to marine conservation and science, though how big a setback would of course depend on the scale, locale and enforcement of the fishing.  With power comes responsibility.  We hope and would wholeheartedly welcome Mauritius joining conservation efforts and we have several times offered to fund Mauritian scientists  (using UK government
 funds) to join in with the conservation work - without success so far, but we hope this will change. 

Our intent is to do whatever is possible under government framework to protect that large tract of reefs and prevent or hugely delay any slide into the condition seen in most other reefs of that ocean.

Best wishes

Professor Charles Sheppard
Chair, Chagos Conservation Trust
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Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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