Recognizing the value of a large isolated marine protected area to scientific discovery, in October 2013 the Bertarelli Foundation convened a meeting of 25 scientists and conservationists from 18 organisations and six countries to develop a co-ordinated approach to scientific research. A five-year science plan was developed by the attendees and a collaborative consortium was established to advance and implement the programme.
Pilot expeditions were carried out from 2014 until 2017 when nine projects were chosen to launch this research programme. The second phase of the research programme began in 2021. The programme recognises the challenges and research opportunities across the wider Indian Ocean region and focuses on collaboration with regional partners to further marine science research to better protect our ocean.
The Indian Ocean Region
The archipelago also hosts the world’s largest living coral atoll on earth, the Great Chagos Bank, a staggering 60.000 km² of shallow limestone reefs and about 300 seamounts and abyssal habitats, surrounded by some of the world’s cleanest seas.
On the 1st April 2010, the British Government, with the help of the Bertarelli Foundation, declared the creation of the world’s largest “fully no-take” Marine Protected Area (MPA) out to the 200 NM limit. Until 2016, this was the largest marine reserve in the world at over 640,000km2 (more than eight times the size of the United Kingdom), and remains a conservation legacy almost unrivalled in its scale and significance which plays an important role in meeting global targets.
The MPA surrounding the Chagos Archipelago is a place like no other for scientific research. it is located in the middle of the world’s most exploited oceans but, because of its size and isolation, it suffers limited direct human impact. This makes the MPA an ideal ocean observatory, giving scientists the opportunity to investigate the complex biology of marine ecosystems. The MPA is also able to serve as a test bed for new conservation and management techniques which can be applied to MPAs in other parts of the world.