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UK Designates World’s Largest Marine Reserve

April 2, 2010

United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Minister David Miliband has designated the area around the Chagos Islands as a marine reserve, making it the largest such location in the world.

The 210,000 square miles that surround the 55 island chain, which is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is said to boast one of the richest aquatic ecosystems on Earth. According to BBC news, the Chagos Islands “has been compared to the Galapagos Islands and”¦ hosts the world’s biggest living coral structure.” The archipelago is home to over 220 species of coral and 1,000 species of reef fish.

According to Miliband, the Chagos Island reserve designation will “double the global coverage of the world’s oceans under protection”¦ Its creation is a major step forward for protecting the oceans, not just around BIOT [British Indian Ocean Territory] itself, but also throughout the world”¦ This measure is a further demonstration of how the UK takes its international environmental responsibilities seriously.”

On Thursday, the Pew Environment Group commended Miliband’s efforts.

“Foreign Minister David Miliband’s decision today to fully protect the Chagos Islands and its surrounding waters is a historic victory for global ocean conservation,” Jay Nelson, director of Pew’s Global Ocean Legacy, said in an April 1 press release.

“Nearly three quarters of the planet’s surface is water, but surprisingly little of it is protected,” Nelson added. “For more than a century we have had the foresight to protect the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park on land, but only recently have we turned our attention to protecting similarly significant places in the sea.”

According to the Global Ocean Legacy statement, the largest marine reserve prior to today was the 140,000 square mile Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, off the coast of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Chagos Islands is home to 76 species currently listed on the IUCS Red List of Endangered Species, the environmental group’s press release claims.

Image Caption: The brain coral Ctenella chagius is endemic to the reefs of the Chagos. Credit Wikipedia

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