Indian Ocean Now Home to World’s Largest Marine Reserve

Written by on April 22, 2010 in Policy & Ocean Law

 Just recently the United Kingdom established the world’s largest marine reserve.  The reserve is a 210,000 square mile area (545,000 square kilometers) in the Indian Ocean encompassing the Chagos Islands.  British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that this reserve “doubles the global coverage of the world’s oceans under protection,” and says that its creation is “a major step forward for protecting the oceans.”  The new reserve exceeds the previous record held by the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by 70,000 square miles (180,000 square kilometers).

Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean

Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean

The Chagos Island archipelago is a group of seven atolls (islands of coral encompassing a lagoon) comprising a total of more than 50 islands.  The area includes the Great Chagos Bank which is the world’s largest coral atoll.  It is home to 220 species of coral, 784 species of fish and attracts some of the most diverse tropical birds.  It has nursery areas for hawksbill turtles and hosts the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod–the coconut crab.

William Marsden, chairman of the Chagos Conservation Trust, said the reserve would “protect a treasure trove of tropical, marine wildlife for posterity and create a safe haven for breeding fish stocks for the benefit of people in the region.”

Alistair Gammell of the Pew Environment Group stated that, “In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, the UK has secured a conservation legacy which is unrivaled in scale and significance, demonstrating to the world that it is a leader in conserving the world’s marine resources for the benefit of future generations.”

However, not everyone shares this enthusiasm.  There is still dispute over the archipelago’s sovereignty.  Mauritius claims that there is no legitimacy “…without the issue of sovereignty and resettlement being addressed to the satisfaction of the government of Mauritius,” said the High Commissioner in London.

Coconut Crab on Chagos Archipelago

Coconut Crab on Chagos Archipelago

Ctenella--one of the coral species now protected by the reserve

Ctenella--one of the coral species now protected by the reserve

Copyright ©  2010 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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