The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is located in the middle of the central Indian Ocean - about 1,500 km from the southern tip of India, 3,400 km due east of Africa and 3,000 km west of Indonesia. At its centre lies the Chagos Archipelago: 55 tiny islands, of which Diego Garcia is the largest, surrounded by some of the world’s cleanest seas. It contains the largest coral atoll on earth, over 60,000 km2 of shallow limestone reef, and about 300 seamounts and abyssal habitats.
On 1st April 2010, the British Government, with help from the Bertarelli Foundation, announced the creation of a ‘fully no-take’ Marine Protected Area (MPA) out to the 200 nautical mile (320 km) limit of BIOT. Until 2016, this was the largest marine reserve in the world at over 640,000 km2, and remains a conservation legacy almost unrivalled in scale and significance.
The tropical ecosystem enables a kaleidoscope of wildlife to thrive. As many as 800 species of fish can be found in the archipelago, including rays, skates and more than 50 different types of shark.
Around 175,000 pairs of seabirds visit the islands to breed, and the archipelago shelters populations of, turtles, coconut crabs and and many species of fish, including tuna. It is a breeding ground for many vulnerable types of wildlife, and a haven that is worth protecting.
In October 2013, hosted by the Bertarelli Foundation, an international team of 25 scientists and conservationists from 18 organisations and six countries met in Geneva to develop a co-ordinated approach to scientific research within the BIOT MPA. They proposed that BIOT become a ‘hub’ for a wide range of research that would benefit conservation and management of marine reserves around the world.