British Indian Ocean Territory

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) includes the Chagos Archipelago of 58 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, its location and its near-pristine condition. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth, over 60,000km2 of shallow limestone reef, and it provides a vital sanctuary for heavily fished pelagic species, such as tuna, 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. To improve our understanding, the Bertarelli Foundation has, since the creation of the marine reserve, supported a series of scientific expeditions to BIOT and in 2017 launched the Bertarelli Programme in Marine Science.  Using established methods and pioneering new techniques, this collaborative and interdisciplinary science programme considers the biology of the MPA from the scale of the gene, all the way to trends of entire populations.

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 ocean sanctuaries around the world.