Chagos marine reserve 1st anniversary
Thursday 14 April 2011
Just over a year ago, the Chagos Marine Reserve was declared the world’s largest ‘no-take’ reserve. ZSL played a key role, as part of the Chagos Environment Network (CEN), in providing evidence to support its designation.
Much has happened since this designation, most significantly that in October last year, all commercial fishing ceased and that the Blue Marine Foundation raised a substantial contribution from the Bertarelli Foundation to support the continued enforcement work in the region.
Studies undertaken during the past year have shown that the Chagos had greater than 10 times the biomass of fish compared to other areas in the Indian Ocean, and harbours 50% of all healthy reefs in the Indian Ocean (visit ZSL’s EDGE Coral Reefs project to learn more about the Chagos brain coral).
This clearly shows how important the reserve is and how damaged by man’s activities most other areas of the Indian Ocean are. In support of this, ZSL hosted a workshop last July that brought together conservation scientists and fisheries managers to discuss the research required to assess the changes within the newly created Chagos reserve.
Only 3% of Chagos has been fully explored, and the last expedition identified large areas of both seagrass and mangroves, neither of which was previously known.
Additionally, a ZSL research paper estimated that there are 86 seamounts within the reserve, and as only 2% of the world’s seamounts are under protection, Chagos is a globally important site.
This highlights the importance of carrying out research in this amazing part of the ocean, and although access to the marine reserve will remain limited, scientific research and conservation is increasing.
ZSL are presently developing several projects that will aim to understand and conserve the waters surrounding the Chagos, but also benefit the marine environment as a whole.