An end to fishing in the Chagos marine reserve


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October 31 was a memorable day for the world's largest designated marine protection area (MPA), when fishing within the Chagos archipelago came to an end as the remaining fishing licenses expired at midnight.

In April this year the UK government announced the UK territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean as a "no-take" marine reserve.

At 210,000 square miles the reserve covers an area over twice the size of the UK itself and includes a combination of tropical islands, unspoiled coral reefs and their adjacent oceanic abyss, the whole of which is now protected from all extractive activities.

Conservationists estimate that around 60,000 sharks, a similar number of rays, and countless other species have been legally caught as by-catch from commercial fisheries during the past five years in Chagos, something that will now be prevented as a result of the fishing ban.

It is now hoped that the MPA can be used as a comparative site to other reefs worldwide in the study of the effects of climate change, human impact and sea temperature rises. Current estimates suggest as little as 1.17% of the world's ocean is under some form of marine protection, with only 0.08% of these protected areas classified as no-take zones.