[Coral-List] New (old) way to murder a coral reef

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Mon Apr 27 07:56:59 EDT 2015

It is worth knowing the facts.

FUTURE OF US BASE: It is valued at 3 billion US dollars. We already know 
that the US considers that the agreement (called an Exchange of Notes) 
should 'roll over' for a further 20 years to 2036. It is NOT a lease and 
there is no requirement for renewal (it rolls over automatically unless 
one side withdraws) and the US pays nothing. The UK is unlikely to 
revoke the treaty but it may seek to vary the terms; it has until 
December 2016 to do so. The UK Government policy on this awaits the 
result of the General Election in 2 weeks time which will elect a new 

DESTRUCTION OF BROADLEAF WOODLAND: Doug says that "By the way, the 
airport runway was not built on virgin forest, it was built on the old 
plantation, where almost nothing of the original forest was left". The 
map in Atoll Research Bulletin [No 149 - Stoddart et al 1971 - Fig 31] 
shows extensive areas of "Broadleaf Woodland" on the western arm which 
must have been bulldozed to create the airport and the tank storage 
areas. Stoddart's description of this woodland type can be found on page 

THE REEFS: it is a case of shifting baselines. Doug saw what it was like 
in 2014 not what the reefs were before the US started construction. 
Since there was no comprehensive underwater survey prior to construction 
we will never know the extent of the changes. The 'borrow pits' which 
were mined from the coral rock on the western seaward side can still be 
seen on Google Earth. In the lagoon there has been extensive dredging to 
create deepwater ship channels and land reclamation for a port facility. 
About 10 very large military transport ships are anchored in the 
northern lagoon - their anchor chains are know to cause damage to areas 
of coral growth.

POLLUTION: It is odd that the UK and BIOT Government have refused to 
release the records that are referred to in the Sheppard 2012 paper, 
claiming that Freedom of Information is not something that applies in 
the Chagos. Charles has the information but has never offered to release 
it. The UK paid many tens of thousands of pounds to legal teams to 
protect these records from disclosure. On 6 March 2014 the UK Government 
was forced to make a public statement concerning sewage pollution from 
ships in the lagoon, not because it wanted to but because it had been 
ordered to release the information by the UK Information Commissioner. 
Prior to that the Government had refused to release this - see: 

Richard Dunne

On 27/04/2015 02:41, Douglas Fenner wrote:
> Magnus,
>       In my own personal opinion, I very much doubt the US is going to walk
> away from the Diego Garcia military base.  They have spent billions on it,
> suggesting to me that they consider it important.  I would think that it is
> considered a geopolitically strategic military base, and given the
> instability of the Middle East, I'd be amazed if they left.  My guess is
> that the US and UK both want the base to remain.  That's just a guess,
> maybe when the base lease comes up for renewal, they will say they don't
> want or need it anymore.  But I personally think that is extremely
> unlikely, and wishful thinking.  I certainly wish for peace, but I don't
> think that's a realistic likelihood anytime in the near future.
>        I got to do some diving at Diego Garcia as part of an expedition last
> year.  I saw reefs that looked pretty healthy to me.  The reefs there are
> certainly not all trashed or murdered.  There is a picture on the cover of
> the new Reef Encounter, taken at Diego Garcia, in case anyone would like to
> see what they look like.  Open access.  That photo shows much less coral
> than much of the reefs there have, I saw lots of healthy looking tables 10
> feet or more in diameter.  The reefs throughout Chagos including Diego
> Garcia were hit hard by the mass coral bleaching in 1998, and a lot of
> coral was killed.  But coral has increased dramatically since then,
> particularly table corals which have grown fast.  This is as much true on
> Diego Garcia as other parts of Chagos, and I saw lots of big table corals
> in Diego Garcia on some of the knolls in the lagoon.  Figure 5 in Sheppard
> et al. 2012 shows just as high coral cover on Diego Garcia as on the other
> atolls, as of 2006.  On page 248, there is a review of the studies of
> chemical contamination on Diego Garcia and the rest of the archipelago.
> That section begins with, and I quote, "Extensive pollution monitoring
> takes place in Diego Garcia. ‘Final Governing Standards’ and routine procedures
> require regular analyses in US laboratories of over 100 metals and organic
> substances according to US operating procedures. Almost all analyses report
> levels below detectable or reporting limits."  The last sentence says, "In
> summary, from a chemical contaminant perspective, the marine
> environment  surrounding
> the Chagos Archipelago can be considered to be near pristine and in
> chemical pollution terms, Diego Garcia is likely to be the cleanest
> inhabited atoll in the world."
>        By the way, the airport runway was not built on virgin forest, it was
> built on the old plantation, where almost nothing of the original forest
> was left.
>        Cheers,  Doug
> Sheppard, C.R.C. and 39 co-authors.  2012.  Reefs and islands of the Chagos
> Archipelago, Indian Ocean: why it is the world's largest no-take marine
> protected area.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 22:
> 232-261.    (check Google Scholar)
> On Sat, Apr 11, 2015 at 4:51 AM, Magnus Johnson <m.johnson at hull.ac.uk>
> wrote:
>> I absolutely agree - The situation with Mauritius is quite tense.  The US
>> should leave Diego Garcia now unless the Chagossians choose to keep them
>> there.  The UK should transport Chagossians back to their homeland and pay
>> them significant compensation.  The Chagossians should determine the
>> conservation of their waters.  The world should support them and the
>> sustained conservation of Chagos and surrounding waters on a legitimate
>> footing.
>> http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-chagossians-the-indian-ocean-islanders-exiled-from-their-home-and-struggling-to-make-ends-meet-in-britain-10169107.html
>> Coral reef conservation cannot be sustainable in a political, moral and
>> legal vacuum.  We cannot pretend to hold the moral high ground and
>> encourage or demand better behaviour when our behaviours and inabilities to
>> conserve our own back yards are and have been at times is just as bad as
>> that of China.
>> "How is it that supposed experts and "guardians of nature" come here after
>> having failed to conserve trees and wildlife in their places of origin?"
>> (Maasai community leader; from Dowie 2011, Conservation Refugees)
>>   ________________________________________
>> From: Phil Dustan [dustanp at cofc.edu]
>> Sent: 10 April 2015 15:23
>> To: Magnus  Johnson
>> Cc: Coral List
>> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] New (old) way to murder a coral reef
>> Magnus,
>>    So Just because a bunch of reefs have been murdered by military powers
>> over time there is no reason to take the destruction to new and higher
>> levels on purpose, especially when it is in violation of international law
>> and aggravates an already tense political problem (
>> http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/10/us-china-southchinasea-reach-idUSKBN0N10YJ20150410
>> ).
>> On Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 12:29 PM, Magnus Johnson <m.johnson at hull.ac.uk
>> <mailto:m.johnson at hull.ac.uk>> wrote:
>> People in glass houses . . . .
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__www.google.co.uk_maps_place_Diego-2BGarcia-2BMilitary-2BBase_-40-2D7.3914155-2C72.4053261-2C61220m_data-3D-213m1-211e3-214m2-213m1-211s0x2492724c04a8a721-3A0xbce8b282922bb016&d=AwIFAg&c=7MSSWy9Bs2yocjNQzurxOQ&r=mxnjGj1-K1cYCH-JH1g-7Q&m=yzWpp1zsQBYO6fwtFB7R0j7PJl0TyzMzAGigu1jlOKQ&s=jcitp4LPn5shs-8B1hkgtlb__jTC49lsUbNoFcYYJcM&e=
>> (UK & US: disputed territory, damage to reefs and wildlife, unlicensed
>> fishing, riding roughshod over international conventions)
>> ________________________________________
>> ________________________________________

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