Talks are at an advanced stage between the Foreign Office, the Bertarelli Foundation and the Blue Marine Foundation about funding the creation of the largest marine reserve in the world around the British Indian Ocean Territory.
Watch a video of the Chagos here:
The Bertarelli Foundation, presided over by Ernesto Bertarelli, whose team twice won the America’s Cup, has agreed to provide £3.5 million in funding to cover the policing of the new Marine Protected Area, the creation of which was one of the last acts of the outgoing Labour administration.
The coalition has been faced with finding ways of making good the shortfall caused by ending lucrative tuna fishing licences which were providing £750,000 a year in revenue so a no-take reserve could be established in what has been described as Britain’s Galapagos or Great Barrier Reef.
No contracts have yet been signed between the Bertarelli Foundation, Blue and the Government but they are in the process of being drawn up and the Foreign Secretary and the Bertarelli Foundation approved the deal in principle last week.
Since the announcement of the creation of the reserve by David Miliband, when Foreign Secretary, there has been the discovery by scientists from the Zoological Society for London of a significant concentration of sea mounts within the 200 mile limit of the BIOT, many of which are expected to be hotspots for biodiversity.
Alex D Rogers of ZSL said: “Our modelling of the global distribution of seamounts indicates that there are up to 86 large seamounts and over 200 smaller knolls in the Chagos area. Seamounts are often important hotspots of biological activity in the oceans and may host diverse communities of animals in coral gardens or cold-water coral reefs. Furthermore, our modelling of the suitability of deep-sea habitat for octocorals (sea fans and gorgonians), indicates that the Chagos area is also highly favourable for these animals. This raises the exciting prospect that through closing the Chagos Archipelago and surrounding waters to fishing, significant deep-water habitats may have been protected within the Indian Ocean, a region subject to widespread and potentially increasing exploitation of deep-water resources.”
Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for the Overseas Territories at the Foreign Office, said “This Government is committed to the Marine Protected Area in the British Indian Ocean Territory. As the world’s largest marine reserve, the MPA will bring huge environmental benefits to the Indian Ocean and to the world. “It will double the global coverage of the world’s oceans benefiting from full protection. We hope that the UK’s example encourages others to do the same in other vulnerable areas. We are very grateful to the Bertarelli family, their foundation and to the Blue Marine Foundation for their interest and we look forward to working with them. This Government wants to form innovative partnerships with the private sector to deliver ambitious objectives.This is a great example of how this could work in practice.”
Charles Clover, founding trustee of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Towards the end of last year I was beginning to doubt whether a marine protected area around the Chagos archipelago, which includes half the remaining unspoiled coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, would ever come into being, even if one was declared. I was worried that in a time of austerity no incoming government could sign up to the public spending involved. I told George Duffield and Chris Gorell Barnes, two of the producers on our film, The End of the Line, that this amazing breakthrough in the protection of the oceans might now not happen because of what is to a government a relatively small amount of money.”
Charles continues “I said surely there has to be someone, perhaps even a single individual, who takes the plight of the oceans seriously enough and has the money to fund this? George went out and found Ernesto Bertarelli and his foundation who have the vision and the pockets to match. Hats off to them. The Indian Ocean, its fisheries and coral reefs are not in good shape and the protection of such a fabulous and still largely unspoiled area in the middle of the ocean will help to protect its biodiversity and give its fisheries some respite against attrition. We hope other nations around the Ocean follow suit.”
The Blue Marine Foundation was set up as a result of The End of the Line and before the Chagos funding crisis came along to look at private sector solutions in the oceans which could create reserves or improve the sustainability of fisheries. It will be trying to put together other deals and to persuade more boats to fly its flag in the future.
The Blue Marine Foundation was founded by Charles Clover, George Duffield & Chris Gorell Barnes in order to fund the creation of a global network of marine reserves and to provide private sector solutions for the sea.
The Blue marine Foundation has appointed 5 trustees: -Tom Appleby, Lord Deben, DR Arlo Brady, Kate Goldsmith, and Mark Rose.