Our response to today’s Guardian article

Today an article about the Chagos consultation appeared in the Guardian online’s Greenwash blog, written by Fred Pearce. His misleading article contains a number of inaccuracies, the most troubling of which is that the establishment of a no-take Marine Protected Area would be a barrier to Chagossians returning to the archipelago. Below we reproduce the letter that we sent to the Guardian in response.

Fred Pearce’s Greenwash article (18 February) is based on the false premise that the designation of the Chagos Archipelago as a protected area would form a legal barrier to the Chagossians’ return. The government and the NGOs that support this campaign have made it abundantly clear that this is simply not the case.

The reason that the Chagossians have been excluded from the Archipelago is due to the setting aside of this area for defence purposes. This is a completely separate issue to the establishment of a marine protected area, and one has absolutely no bearing on the other. Should the Chagossians ever return in the future, everyone accepts that any protected area would change to accommodate that and following full consultation with the Chagossians.

A Chagos no-take protected area would ensure that the Chagos Islands and their resources would remain healthy no matter what the future holds. It is difficult to think of anyone other than a few distant water commercial fishing fleets that would be disadvantaged by this, whereas millions would be advantaged, including those benefiting from the replenishment of the Western Indian Ocean’s marine resources and those benefiting from better climate and marine science. Equally, it must also be to the advantage of the Chagossians that these islands, to which they hope to return, are maintained in as good a condition as possible.

This really could be a win-win situation, but mistaken information will help neither the Chagossians nor the environment.

Simon Hughes,
Secretary, Chagos Environment Network (CEN)

On behalf of members of the CEN:
Zoological Society of London
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Linnean Society of London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Professor Charles Sheppard, Warwick University
Pew Environment Group
Chagos Conservation Trust
The Marine Conservation Society

Read the original article: “Where conservation meets colonialism”.