British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area (Chagos)
Marine Protected Area
IOT: Not Reported
The status of Chagos is currently unclear since the ruling by a UN tribunal in March 2015 that found that the British Government did not act legally when it established the MPA in Chagos. The ruling, which was made under the 1982 United Nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) to which the UK is a signatory, is binding. It torpedoes the status of the MPA and orders the UK and Mauritius to renegotiate. More about the court decision here.
In 2010, the UK Government designated the area around the Chagos Islands as the world’s largest no-take marine reserve. Covering 544,000 km², the Chagos Islands Marine Reserve protects the world’s largest coral reef atoll, which serves as a breeding ground for important populations of sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles.
Chagos is located in the central Indian Ocean, about 1,500 km from the southern tip of India, 3,400 km due east of Africa and 3,000 km west of Indonesia.
Chagos is an archipelago of 55 tiny islands, of which the largest is Diego Garcia, in over quarter of a million square miles of the world’s cleanest seas. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth and over 60,000 square km of shallow limestone reef and associated habitats, and about 300 seamounts and abyssal habitats. It is by far Britain’s greatest area of marine biodiversity.
Politically, Chagos is constituted as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
On 1st April 2010, the British Government announced the creation of the Chagos Marine Reserve. This designation of a fully no-take marine protected area (MPA) out to the 200 mile limit created the largest marine reserve in the world, a conservation legacy almost unrivalled in scale and significance. It will contribute greatly to a number of globally agreed targets, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity target to protect 10% of the oceans by 2020.
No other action taken by the United Kingdom makes anything like such a considerable contribution to these agreed global targets. This decision undoubtedly establishes the UK as a world leader in marine conservation for the benefit of all nations.
Few other MPAs have the same degree of protection that Chagos has been given, with the entire area designated as a fully protected no-take marine reserve.