Success Story: Chagos - Jewel of the Indian Ocean

In April 2010, following more than three years of work, the Pew Environment Group celebrated the designation of the Chagos Islands and their surrounding waters as the world's largest no-take marine reserve. More than 275,000 people from at least 200 countries and territories joined the call for a Chagos marine reserve.

The Facts

The Chagos Islands and the surrounding waters are one of the most remote and unspoiled marine areas on Earth. Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean (PDF), the Chagos atoll, comprising 55 islands, is the world's largest coral reef. The waters surrounding these islands are some of the world's healthiest, and serve as a refuge and breeding ground for large, critically important marine species such as sharks, dolphins, and green and hawksbill turtles.

The Challenge

Overfishing, pollution and climate change threaten to degrade the few special places in our oceans that remain healthy and teeming with life. Chagos is one of these places – its islands are vital for more than 175,000 pairs of breeding seabirds, and its surrounding waters host 220 known species of coral and more than 700 species of fish.

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Protecting places like Chagos before it is too late is critical. Currently, less than one-half of one percent of our oceans is safeguarded in no-take marine reserves. More than 15 times as much land area receives this kind of protection. Like national parks for our lands, very large, highly protected marine reserves can help ensure healthy oceans for generations to come.

Our Goal

Global Ocean Legacy, a project of the Pew Environment Group and its partners, aims to establish a worldwide system of very large, highly protected marine reserves that are no-take (fishing and other extractive activities are not allowed). We work with local citizens, governments and scientists around the world to protect and preserve some of the Earth's most important and unspoiled marine environments.

Through the Chagos Environment Network's Protect Chagos campaign, we collaborated with eight leading conservation and scientific organizations to protect the rich biodiversity of the Chagos Islands and its surrounding waters. We also worked with the Blue Marine Foundation in supporting the operation of an enforcement vessel for the reserve.

The Results

Chagos was designated as the world's largest no-take marine reserve (640,000 sq. km.) in April 2010, and all commercial fishing in its waters ended in October 2010. These accomplishments mark a historic victory for global ocean conservation, and provide a protected refuge and breeding site for migratory and reef fish, marine mammals, birds, turtles, corals and other marine life. Scientific and conservation efforts can now be undertaken to learn more about these islands, remove invasive plant and animal species, and restore native vegetation.

What You Can Do

You can make a difference in conserving our global ocean heritage. Sign up to stay in touch with the Protect Chagos campaign, and learn more about Global Ocean Legacy's efforts in other parts of the world.