Friday, June 7, 2013

2010 Marine Preserve Decision Still Controversial for the UK

In 2010, the United Kingdom government decided to create the largest marine reserve in the world and set aside the Chagos Islands as a protected area. The Chagos Islands are located in the central Indian Ocean, near the tip of India. The area is comprised of an archipelago of 55 islands.

Diego Garcia Island, U.S. Air Force Base in the Indian Ocean
Photo Courtesy of Serendigity Photography

The controversial history of the Chagos Islands begins in the 1960's. The local populations were evicted so that the U.S. could establish an Air Force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia. The islanders have been fighting for their right to return to their native lands ever since.

The 2010 decision to create the Chagos marine park delivered aqblow to the island people. The islanders challenged the decision in court, claiming it was another tactic to prevent them from returning. The controversial preserve decision banned commercial fishing in some areas and denied the Islanders an integral part of their livelihoods.

Colin Roberts, British diplomat and creator of the park, denied that the park was created for the "improper purpose of keeping the Chagossians out, as the U.S. wanted" and said that it was for environmental and conservation purposes.

Lawyers for the islanders attempted to introduce a WikiLeaks document supporting the accusation. However, the High Court judges ruled that the documents were inadmissible under the Diplomatic Privileges Act of 1964.

The judges further ruled that the marine protected area was "compatible with EU law." The Chagos island people will continue to struggle for access to their homelands.

Angelica Oman
Graduate Program Assistant

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