Quarter of a million call for world’s largest marine reserve
Wednesday 10 March 2010
More than 275,000 people and leading scientific and conservation organisations from the UK and around the world have called on the UK government to establish a protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is comprised of the Chagos islands and its surrounding waters.
If established, the Chagos Protected Area would be the largest marine reserve in the world and play a vital role in fulfilling the UK’s global international conservation commitments.
The support for a marine reserve comes as the UK government has just closed its three-month public consultation period on future management of the islands.
Rachel Jones, Deputy Team Leader of ZSL London Zoo’s aquarium said “ The campaign led by ZSL produced a fantastic result with various websites and petitions collectively gaining over 275,000 ‘votes’ for the creation of the world’s largest Marine Protected Area in the Chagos.
“As well as a huge groundswell of public support, numerous conservation organisations and reef and fisheries scientists contributed their opinions to the government’s consultation process and were overwhelmingly in favour of the move.”
The government will now consider the creation of a Chagos Protected Area, a designation that would safeguard the rich marine biodiversity of the islands and their surrounding waters by prohibiting extractive activities, such as fishing. A final decision is expected sometime this spring.
“Britain has an historic opportunity to protect this very special and rare place, which is comparable in importance to the Galapagos Islands or the Great Barrier Reef,” said William Marsden, chairman of the Chagos Conservation Trust and a member of the Chagos Environment Network.
“The public and the scientific community have spoken, and now it is up to the government to secure the UK’s ocean legacy.”
The Chagos form an archipelago comprising 55 islands spread over 210,000 square miles – an area twice the size of the UK’s land surface.
Due to their remoteness, the islands have some of the cleanest seas in the world and contain as much as half of the Indian Ocean’s remaining healthy coral reefs, making it one of the most ecologically sound reef systems on the planet.
If the marine protection proposal is accepted, the Chagos Islands would provide an important global reference site for research in crucial areas such as ocean acidification, coral reef resilience, sea level rise, fish stock decline and climate change.