Controversy is still the name of the game when it comes to the future of the area surrounding the Chagos Islands located amid the Indian Ocean. On the one side there is John Beddington acting as the chief scientific advisor of the Marine Resources Assessment Group who is insistent that imparting a marine reserve around these islands would not be protecting the environment any more so than what is already being done. On the other side is the Chagos Environment Network and the Marine Conservation Society pushing for the signing of their petition to set up and enforce one such reserve. Just what does this mean for those wishing to suit up in their scuba gear or the fisherman currently trolling the waters? Well for the former it is worth noting that this region boasts the greatest amount of coral reef ecosystems and flourishing sea life across the entire planet.
It is a huge draw for eager scuba divers and among these 220 species of coral are a select 60 already being deemed endangered. For the latter, this would put a ban on any kind of fishing and send those in the market elsewhere. This then brings up the point raised by Chris Mees who is the development director for the MRAG in that, “Shark finning is banned completely, unlike elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. If you close the fishery, those boats will be displaced to areas where there is less control.” His feeling is that by limiting these fishers further it would only cause more havoc on outlying regions, those that are already under looser legislation and then in turn would do more damage to sea life and the state of our waters. This has been an ongoing battle and it seems that we won’t be met with a winner until later this spring at best. It is difficult to discern because at this point there is a net earnings of up to £1 million annually coming in from selling out rights to those looking to fish among the waters around the Chagos Islands, and a stricter ban would no doubt hurt financially. Still, the negations are under way and as David Miliband who is the foreign secretary reassured the public and interested parties in November of 2009 there will be an answer as to the ban as it materializes. And so it seems that all heated environmentalists, worried fisherman, and even those merely looking to strap into their scuba diving equipment will be forced to wait until the spring for an update.