[Coral-List] Chagos Tribunal and Chagos conservation

David Evans davidjevans1818 at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 24 13:02:01 EDT 2015

Further regarding the UN Tribunal's recent finding at Chagos, it seems (rather ironically now) that the local fishery undertaken by the US, UK, and the foreign national work force at Diego Garcia over these past forty-plus years has been an illegal one. 
Given that the marine resource rights have belonged to Mauritius, the extraction and use of marine species has been illegal (if un-intentionally so) - even if it has been a somewhat managed fishery within these later ten or so years. It may seem contradictory, but it is accurate since the owners (Mauritius) of the marine resources have not been involved in the management of the fishing activity at Diego Garcia. 
Also, ironically, it seems that Mauritius may have the rights to manage and license the scientific and survey work previously, currently, and up-coming in the Chagos EEZ (or FMZ).
Regardless of reasoning behind the rush to create the MPA, it seems these details might have been looked into a little deeper and more carefully to ensure the smooth governance of such a large and important MPA.
Again, I do hope attention is being paid and lessons being learned. Because it's the example as much as the conservation that is at the heart of Chagos.
And, above all, I do very much believe that this can still turn out for the best... 
David J. EvansMarine Biologist


Message: 1
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:13:25 +0000
From: "Sheppard, Charles" <Charles.Sheppard at warwick.ac.uk>
Subject: [Coral-List] Chagos Tribunal and Chagos conservation
To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
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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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