British Indian Ocean Territory:
Nature's Stepping Stones

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) comprises the 55 islands of the Chagos Archipelago. The land area is only 44km2. But, below the territorial seas lie over 20,000km2 of coral reefs - a near-pristine treasure store of marine life. The Archipelago lies at the centre of the Indian Ocean, its only human inhabitants now being military personnel on the southernmost island, Diego Garcia.

The biological importance of the Chagos Archipelago is two-fold. First, its isolation and low level of human impact make it ideal for the study of tropical marine ecology, undistorted by pollution. Second, ocean currents bring larvae from the Indo-Pacific basin which then develop into adulthood and release progeny to regenerate the depleted stocks further west.

Through control of commercial fishing, legislation to protect the environment, the designation of one of the largest marine protected areas in the world and the application of International Conventions, the Government sets a protective framework, treating the area with all the strictness applicable to World Heritage Sites. In April 2010, the UK Government went one step further by announcing the Chagos Archipelago as a Marine Protected Area. This includes a 'no-take' marine reserve where commercial fishing is banned. Issues remain over the enforcement as the waters around the Chagos are some of the most productive in the world and present a rich bounty for illegal fishermen from other parts of the Indian Ocean. The right of former inhabitants and their descendents to return to the islands is subject to current litigation.

The Chagos Conservation Trust, a charity formed to promote conservation of the Territory’s diverse and delicate ecology is focusing on its conservation priorities. Its main challenges are to assist the regeneration of indigenous flora and fauna and to minimise human impacts.

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The islands are home to large colonies of sea birds, as well as to the unusual coconut crab (illustrated) and provide nesting sites for green turtles and the more endangered hawksbill.
The UKOTCF is a Registered Charity (1058483) - keen to develop partnerships with business or commercial organisations