World's largest marine reserve looks set to go ahead

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Plans to create the world's largest Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands have looked on shaky grounds recently until a billionaire has stepped up and offered to fund the move privately.

PFK reported in June this year of the UK’s plans to create an MPA which covered an area of around 210,000 sq miles in the Indian Ocean. These plans however, looked increasingly likely to be shelved following a series of public spending cuts and uproar surrounding the political situation of the island’s exiled inhabitants. The £750,000 lost revenue in tuna fishing licenses was deemed to much by the new coaltition government.

However, the Blue Marine Foundation secured the backing of Swiss, America's Cup-winning yachtsman Ernesto Bertarelli to provide the necessary financial backing. Ministers are now drawing up contracts for a £3.5 million deal to police the zone around the Chagos.

Charles Clover, founding trustee of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: "Towards the end of last year I was beginning to doubt whether a marine protected area around the Chagos archipelago, which includes half the remaining unspoiled coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, would ever come into being, because of what is to a government a relatively small amount of money. I said surely there has to be someone, perhaps even a single individual, who takes the plight of the oceans seriously enough and has the money to fund this?"

A search by fellow campaigners to find a rich individual willing to help, found the Bertarelli Foundation who had "the vision and the pockets to match". Glover added: "Hats off to them."

The deal includes the provision of a patrol boat - named the Pacific Marlin, and a separate deal for £1.5 million has been made with the Pew Foundation, part of the Chagos Environmental Network, and the Pentagon to provide the fuel for the patrols.

Junior foreign office minister Henry Bellingham welcomed the initiative: "As the world's largest marine reserve, the MPA will bring huge environmental benefits to the Indian Ocean and to the world. It will double the global coverage of the world's oceans benefiting from full protection. We hope that the UK's example encourages others to do the same in other vulnerable areas."

"We are very grateful to the Bertarelli family, their foundation and to the Blue Marine Foundation for their interest and we look forward to working with them.

"This Government wants to form innovative partnerships with the private sector to deliver ambitious objectives. This is a great example of how this could work in practice."

The Blue Marine Foundation was founded by Charles Clover, George Duffield and Chris Gorell Barnes in order to fund the creation of a global network of marine reserves and to provide private sector solutions for the sea.