The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) contains the Chagos Archipelago of 55 tiny islands and is located in the central Indian Ocean between East Africa, the southern tip of India and Indonesia to the east. The territory is globally important because of its size, location and its near-pristine condition. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth, over 60,000km2 of shallow limestone reef, and provides a vital sanctuary for heavily fished pelagic species, such as tunas, sharks, marlin and sailfish.
The Bertarelli Foundation entered into a partnership with the British government in 2010 to help establish, what was then the world’s largest no-take Marine Protected Area, covering a total surface area of 640,000km2. Since the creation of the reserve, the Bertarelli Foundation has worked with the BIOT Administration to support enforcement of the ban on commercial fishing and police the reserve’s ‘no-take’ policy.
While much is known about the benefits of MPAs for reef-dwelling species, less is known about their effects on pelagic and migratory species. That is why the Bertarelli Foundation is working with leading marine scientists from across the world to carry out a programme of long-term research that will tell us more about how these animals use the MPA and much more besides.
The Bertarelli Foundation shares the belief of marine scientists, that it is only through learning more about this relatively unknown haven that we can hope to improve the way that it is managed and, in the process, take strides towards the creation of many more such sanctuaries around the world.