Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Largest Coral Atoll in the world is British

No sillies, don't go looking for it on the coastline anywhere around Bognor, you'll be well and truely disappointed!!

Way out in the Indian Ocean there's a UK territory (not sure whether to be proud or ashamed that there's still some good ole British empiricism kicking about) called Chagos, and ZSL (who most of you will know I was volunteer with until very recently) is central to the current campaign to turn it into a protected marine reserve.

Chagos is one of the worlds most pristine coral reefs, and with global warming these are becoming few and far between. The discussion about the effect of global warming on coral reefs worldwide is a major part of the fight to lower carbon emissions. The marine reserve would encompass 544,000 sq km, an area larger than the great barrier reef.

The problem is that we have only until 12th February (the end of the official consultation period) to convince the UK Government that Chagos should become a protected no-take marine reserve. Not many people have heard of Chagos, or the campaign, so there's the risk that the application will be rejected due to simple lack of response.

So ladies and gents, if you can spare the time, please do me a favour and visit www.protectchagos.org and support the campaign, ZSL need all the help they can get!!

If you'd like more info on the devastating effect that global warming and coral harvesting (for commercial purposes) are having on the reefs then all you really have to do is google it! But here are a couple of useful links :)


  1. In answer to your question about whether or not to be ashamed about British colonialism, I'm afraid that it really is no laughing matter. The Chagos archipelago used to be home to over 1,000 indigenous people - the Chagossians - until they were illegally (and inhumanely) expelled from the islands in the 1960s and 1970s. They have been campaigning for the right to return ever since.

    The Chagossians are committed to the conservation of the Chagos environment but, if a limited resettlement has any hope of succeeding, then the complete no-take fishing ban (which protectchagos.org calls for) would be disastrous to their cause.

    Leading conservationists like Dr David Bellamy have made it clear that environmental protection *can* go hand-in-hand with the Chagossians' right of resettlement. All that's required is the political will. So it's really, REALLY important that their cause is not forgotten - by politicians or the general public.

    I'm not saying that the plan to protect Chagos is a bad thing; just that it should not come at the cost of harming the Chagossians.

    If you wish to respond to the FCO's consultation, you can do so via the details posted on the UK Chagos Support Association blog. I'd really encourage you to remember the Chagossians when you do so.


  2. Wow. This is awful - how to make the correct choice and what cause to support? Since sparing a mere thought for the Chagossians may not be enough for appropriate action to be taken for them. But on the other hand it is so important that we protect our rare, unspoilt lands as there are not many left!

  3. Oh, by the by - your link to www.protectchagos.org doesn't appear to be working...

  4. Writing from another British island that remains a colony because of the wishes of the majority of the people, and where we are neither oppressed by the British nor recipients of foreign aid, I wish to support the words of Peter, above.

    Many of us have commented further on the Foreign Secretary's blog:

    Bob Conrich
    British West Indies

  5. thatisthewhy said...
    "Wow. This is awful - how to make the correct choice and what cause to support?"

    Good question. I support both the resettlement of the Chagossians and strong environmental protection of their homeland. I do not believe God will fall out of his throne if they are allowed to catch a few passing tuna well outside their atolls, for local consumption. This would have no effect on the reefs or the species that inhabit them.

    I believe it is thus irrational to consider the future of the Chagos environment without considering the future of those it rightfully belongs to at the same time.

    Bob Conrich