International Focus on Marine Sanctuaries

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On October 31, the world’s largest marine reserve was finalized in the Indian Ocean in the British territorial waters of the Chagos Archipelago. The sanctuary is designated as a “no-take” zone that bans commercial fishing and covers an area twice the size of Britain.

The reserve also serves to remind the international community that the 2002 goals for marine life protection have not been met. The original goal, set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), was to protect ten percent of the world’s oceans by 2012. Current projections extend to just over one percent.

Dr. Heather Koldewey, manager of the Zoological Society of London’s international marine and freshwater conservation program warns that failure to meet or exceed protection goals would result in “a massive loss of marine resources and, with that, an associated loss of people’s livelihoods.”

The Chagos reserve is home to a diverse habitat with more than 1,200 species of coral and fish – including one of the world’s largest coral reefs. But marine life has been severely affected by commercial fishing practices that capture other species while in pursuit of primary commodities such as tuna.

On November 11, the Ecology Centre at the University of Queensland in Australia completed a two-year analysis that involved a team of marine and social scientists from around the country. The report calls for establishing a network of marine sanctuaries along the Australian coast that will protect marine ecosystems in order to support environmental, economic, and social interests.

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