Protecting Chagos: the world’s largest marine reserve

FFI is delighted that the combined efforts of a range of organisations – under the banner of  the Protect Chagos campaign – is now paying dividends, with the establishment of the 544,000 sq km Chagos marine reserve in the Indian Ocean- now the world’s largest ‘no take’ fishing zone.

“The protection of Chagos is one of the most important marine conservation decisions taken by any country in the world; it is a vast and important area for marine biodiversity in the region. The establishment of the Chagos marine reserve will ensure a pristine and ecologically important ocean ecosystem can be maintained,” said Dr Abigail Entwistle, FFI Director of Science.

The waters around the Chagos are the home to many endangered species, including over 220 species of coral and over 1,000 species of fish. The Chagos islands support over half the healthy reefs remaining in the Indian Ocean, and is one of the least chemically polluted marine environments in the world.

One year ago, the UK government first declared the area as a reserve – comprising the 55 islands and the surrounding waters of the archipelago—one of the most remote and unspoiled marine areas in the world.

Since then the funding needed to underpin the implementation of the reserve has been secured by the efforts of the Blue Marine Foundation (which FFI has been supporting over the last year). This funding has ensured the reserve could proceed, given the context of the recent UK government spending review.

The ‘no take’ zone means that tuna fishing licences have not been renewed this year. In addition, ongoing patrols of the waters will help to exclude illegal fishing.

The Chagos Marine Reserve has been selected to join the Big Ocean network. The group, which held its first meeting in late 2010, aims to help managers of large-scale marine reserves share experience and discuss how to solve common challenges, such as enforcement.

For more information see the Protect Chagos website: www.protectchagos.org

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