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Scientific monitoring has recorded only a recent fraction of the oceans' alteration history. This biases our understanding of marine ecosystems. Remote coral reef ecosystems are often considered pristine because of high shark abundance. However, given the long history and global nature of fishing, sharks' vulnerability, and the ecological consequences of shark declines, these states may not be natural. In the Chagos archipelago, one of the remotest coral reef systems on the planet, protected by a very large marine reserve, we integrated disparate fisheries and scientific survey data to reconstruct baselines and long-term population trajectories of two dominant sharks. In 2012, we estimated 571,310 gray reef and 31,693 silvertip sharks, about 79 and 7% of their baseline levels. These species were exploited longer and more intensively than previously thought and responded to fishing and protection with variable and compensatory population trajectories. Our approach highlights the value of integrative and historical analyses to evaluate large marine ecosystems currently considered pristine.
On 1st April 2010, the British Government announced designation of the British Indian Ocean Territory – or Chagos Archipelago – as the world's largest marine protected area (MPA). This near pristine ocean ecosystem now represents 16% of the worlds fully protected coral reef, 60% of the world's no-take protected areas and an uncontaminated reference site for ecological studies. In addition these gains for biodiversity conservation, the Chagos/BIOT MPA also offers subsidiary opportunities to act as a fisheries management tool for the western Indian Ocean, considering its size and location. While the benefits of MPAs for coralreef dwelling species are established, there is uncertainty about their effects on pelagic migratory species. This paper reviews the increasing body of evidence to demonstrate that positive, measurable reserve effects exist for pelagic populations and that migratory species can benefit from no-take marine reserves.
This editorial elaborates on the ramifications of the new Chagos Marine Reserve in the context of pelagic fisheries.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office;
The full report produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) Chagos Consultation Facilitator, giving a full breakdown of the responses received to the consultation and also the overall conclusions upon which the FCO based their decision to declare a Marine Reserve in Chagos.