At over a quarter of a million square miles, the Chagos Marine Protected Area (MPA) is the world’s largest no-take marine reserve. It is also, critically, home to some of the planet’s most pristine waters - relatively untouched by pollution or human activities - which surround the archipelago's 55 islands. Much of these waters are totally unexplored.
The reserve’s establishment was the culmination of many years of effort from a number of organisations, notably the Chagos Environment Network lead by the Chagos Conservation Trust. The Bertarelli Foundation, working in partnership with the British Government and with Blue Marine Foundation, helped to secure its formal designation on the 1st April 2010, committing the funds to police the reserve’s no-take policy.
Chagos is important because of its size, location and condition. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth and over 23,000 square miles of shallow limestone reef. In addition it may provide a vital sanctuary for heavily fished pelagic species, such as tunas, sharks, marlin and sailfish.
While much is known about the benefits of MPAs for reef-dwelling species, less is known about their effects on these pelagic and migratory species. That is why the Bertarelli Foundation is working with leading marine scientists from across the world to develop a research programme that will tell us more about how these animals use the MPA and, hopefully, 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 sanctuaries across the world.