The Chagos Marine Reserve
On 1st April 2010, the UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, announced the government's intention to turn 247,000 square miles (640,000 square kilometres) of ocean around the Chagos Archipelago, known also as the British Indian Ocean Territory, into a no-take marine reserve. The area involved is larger than California and 60 times bigger than Yellowstone National Park. This act doubled the area of ocean under full protection.
The Chagos is a rare and globally significant marine ecosystem. Home to unique and critically endangered species, including over 220 types of coral and over 1,000 species of fish, the area’s unparalleled importance in terms of science and biodiversity is now fully protected, with fishing banned for 200 nautical miles around the 55 coral islands.
BLUE was able to secure the funding required to enforce the protection of the Chagos from the Bertarelli Foundation, a visionary, family-run donor organisation. The money will cover the cost of protecting Chagos for the first five years, after which the government undertakes to internalise the costs and to enforce the reserve indefinitely. It is an extraordinary, historic deal.
Henry Bellingham, Foreign Office minister for Overseas Territories, said the agreement was ‘a great example’ of how government could form ‘innovative partnerships with the private sector to deliver ambitious objectives.’ He expressed his gratitude to the Bertarelli family and the BLUE Marine Foundation.
BLUE is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the political momentum that first The End of the Line and now the Chagos reserve have created. We believe that with the UK government support there are opportunities to protect enormous areas of the global ocean starting within UK domestic and overseas waters and then the expanding to the waters of other nations. This will be our strategy and key differentiating strength.
Fishermen and conservationists have created a unique alliance to manage Lyme Bay, Britain’s premier marine area, in a project that has been supported and driven by the Blue Marine Foundation.
Blue is playing a leading role in the pioneering project which is potentially a blueprint for how to manage Britain’s 127 proposed marine areas without destroying the economies of fishing communities.
The initiative has been put together by the Lyme Bay Working Group, a collaborative body including local fishermen, scientists, regulators and Blue, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure the area’s fishing communities benefit from a more sustainable approach to marine conservation.
The MoU recognises the need to balance commercial necessity with the pressing need to protect these fragile environments, and comes out of a realisation that the 90 square miles of Lyme Bay protected in 2008 were in danger of being overfished.
Scallop dredgers and bottom trawlers had been banned from the protected area but the unexpected result was that the quantity of static fishing gear, including pots and nets, used in the reserve almost doubled. The proliferation in the western areas of Lyme Bay – potters took 600 tonnes of whelks in a single year - has led to overfishing and declines of up to 50 per cent in catches of some species, threatening livelihoods in nearby ports.
The MoU recognises the need to balance commercial necessity with the pressing need to protect these fragile environments and the deal offers a unique solution in which fishermen are self-regulating.
The partnership plans to fund a major scientific study by the University of Plymouth, which will seek to quantify the amount of fishing that Lyme Bay’s reefs can sustainably withstand, whilst also validating low-impact methods.
Under the terms of the proposed new partnership - part-funded by Marks & Spencer, whichalso funded the initial six-month project feasibility study - a new voluntary code of conduct has been agreed with fishermen from the four ports nearest to the Lyme Bay marine conservation area. Under the terms of this code, which came into force on July 2, 2012, the amount of gear used by any one fisherman will be restricted to 250 crab and lobster pots; 500 whelk pots and individual nets of 600 metres maximum. This contrasts with up to 1,000 pots used by a few larger fishing vessels before the rules changed. It is hoped that this self-policing approach will deliver long term value for fishermen working in the project area by ensuring the sustainability of their fishing methods.
This partnership also plans to fund environmental assessments of low impact fishing for all the major fish and shellfish species in the area to demonstrate the sustainability of a fishery with low-impact methods. Regulators including the Marine Management Organisation and the local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities are already actively looking at measures to limit the volume of fishing with static gear in the area.
Blue is proud to have played a major role in the creation of the Lyme Bay Working Group which represents the first working example of British fishermen undertaking to regulate themselves and conducting their own science-based management with conservation objectives.
It is hoped that the three-year project will benefit not only Lyme Bay’s ecosystems and fishing industry, but will also boost tourism and the local economy through the establishment of a lobster hatchery.
The intention is to create a management body and funding mechanisms which will live on in Lyme Bay after the project ends. Moreover, the project will create a template for the protection of marine areas that can be adopted anywhere around the UK’s coastline – and beyond - whatever the size of sea involved.
We have achieved more in six months than any individual member of the group believed possible. What we will achieve in three years, we firmly believe, could help change marine conservation in Britain.
Tropical marine paradise and its rare species protected by funding from the philanthropic Bertarelli Foundation
UK-based marine conservation charity works with Swiss foundations and local stakeholders to secure designation of globally-important reef ecosystem
Belize City – November 22 2012: The Government of Belize has today established a marine reserve that will secure the future for the Turneffe Atoll, the most sizeable unprotected fragment of the largest and most biodiverse coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere.
The declaration of a marine protected area around the Turneffe Atoll has been made possible by funding from the Bertarelli Foundation, the Geneva-based family foundation of Dona, Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, which will also provide part of an endowment fund to ensure Turneffe’s protection into the future.
The Bertarelli Foundation enabled the British government to designate the largest no-take marine reserve in the world in 2010 in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
The Turneffe deal was brokered by the UK charity, BLUE, and is expected to receive additional financial support from the Oak Foundation, another charity already extensively committed in Belize, as well as other donors.
Plans to create this new marine protected area benefited from the collaboration of many highly respected local organizations including local fishermen.
Speaking at the declaration ceremony held by the Government of Belize, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development Lisel Alamilla explained the importance of this announcement in conservation terms:
“Turneffe Atoll is currently the largest unprotected section of the Mesomerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), the second-largest reef system in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and home to an array of vulnerable marine wildlife including manatees, turtles, saltwater crocodiles and rare corals.
Under the terms of this agreement, a new multiple-use marine reserve of 1316 sq kms will ensure that conservation priorities are balanced with the sustainable local fishing community, without jeopardising the significant contribution made by coral reef eco-tourism to Belize’s national economy. We hope this collaboration with the Bertarelli Foundation, BLUE and Fauna and Flora International will create a new blueprint that will help other international governments work to conserve their own fragile marine environments.”
Establishing a Turneffe Atoll marine reserve represents the missing link in a chain of marine protected areas that currently extend across 3866 square kms of Belize’s territorial waters. In 1996, seven areas of the MBRS received UNESCO World Heritage Site protected status but Turneffe was excluded as it was not protected at the time.
Commenting on today’s declaration from the Government of Belize, BLUE co-founder George Duffield explained: “The idea of creating a marine protected area for Turneffe has been under discussion for the last 20 years but the inherent complexities of establishing such a reserve have restricted progress until now. With the essential support of the visionary Bertarelli Foundation, who are contributing $5 million, and Oak, an established player in the region, together with our conservation partner, Fauna and Flora International, BLUE has succeeded in marshalling the financial and technical support necessary to enable the Belize government to secure the protection of this priceless marine ecosystem for future generations.”
Charles Clover, BLUE’s chairman, said: “Protecting Turneffe is about more than just the protection of the atoll’s coral reefs, mangroves and rare species from unsympathetic development and overfishing. This deal will enable Belize to get within reach of its target of protecting 20 per cent of the seas within its jurisdiction – which makes it a beacon for marine protection around the world.”
A spokesperson for the Bertarelli Foundation said “After having helped create the Chagos marine reserve two years ago, with this intervention the Bertarelli family want to help protect one of the world's most magical reefs; the Turneffe Atoll and its rare creatures are of huge value and literally world class in their sophisticated ecosystems and the potential they offer for scientific research and wider education”.
Imani Fairweather Morrison, programme officer for Oak Foundation said “A great deal of thought and consultation with stakeholders occurred in the lead up to the decision of the Government, and many local organizations such as the Turneffe Atoll Trust provided tremendous support to the process. It is a true reflection of what can ssssbe achieved collaboratively and Oak Foundation is pleased to be involved. We will continue to work with partners to bring new funding and talent to address marine issues globally.”
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) (
FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.
About the Oak Foundation (
Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. Oak Foundation is a group of philanthropic organisations which, since its establishment in 1998, has given more than 2,400 grants to not-for-profit organisations around the world. Oak has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland and has a presence in eight other countries: Belize, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, the UK, the US and Zimbabwe.