Setting a new precedent for marine conservation, The Nature Conservancy, has announced the finalization of the first ever debt swap in Seychelles aimed at ocean conservation. The new protected area increases the country’s marine protected waters from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent including support for the creation of the second largest Marine Protected Area in the Western Indian Ocean.
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands and is vulnerable to sea level rise, and changing ocean temperatures causing ocean acidification. The archipelago is 99 percent ocean, and its “blue economy” is built on a productive tuna fishery and ocean-based tourism.
“The Seychelles government has committed to protect more than 400,000 square kilometers of ocean through marine resource management over the next five years,” Matt Brown, The Nature Conservancy’s Africa conservation director, said. “This deal is a significant milestone towards that goal and is a model for ocean conservation commitments worldwide.”
The debt swap deal was made possible through a partnership with the Seychelles Ministry of Finance, support of debt-holding nations including France, and grants from private organizations led by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
“I’m proud my foundation is partnering with Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy on this innovative project that will protect this vital ocean habitat and fragile marine life,” Leonardo DiCaprio, chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, said. “We champion projects like this one across the globe that use cutting edge methods in conservation and environmental protection. This deal will enhance food security for the local people of Seychelles, help mitigate the effects of climate change on their low lying island home, and protect the surrounding rich ocean ecosystems for future generations.”
President of the Seychelles, James Michel joins a growing group of countries which have made unprecedented commitments to ocean conservation. Over the past two years, the governments of Palau, New Zealand, Chile, Kiribati, the United Kingdom and the U.S. collectively protected several million square kilometers of the world’s oceans. [Nature]