The Creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area: A Fisheries Perspective
From a fisheries perspective, the declaration of a 640,000 km2 “no-take” Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Chagos Archipelago in 2010 was preceded by inadequate consideration of the scientific rationale for protection. The entire area was already a highly regulated zone which had been subject to a well-managed fisheries licensing system. The island of Diego Garcia, the only area where there is evidence of overfishing has, because of its military base, been excluded from the MPA. The no-take mandate removes the primary source of sustenance and economic sustainability of any inhabitants, thus effectively preventing the return of the original residents who were removed for political reasons in the 1960s and 1970s. The principles of natural resource conservation and use have been further distorted by forcing offshore fishing effort to other less well-managed areas where it will have a greater negative impact on the well-being of the species that were claimed to be one of the primary beneficiaries of the declaration. A failure to engage stakeholders has resulted in challenges in both the English courts and before an international tribunal.