In the first of its kind, a plan to swap the country’s international debt for marine conservation is offering hope in the Seychelles. In return for writing off large amounts of the national debt, the country will fund two massive new marine parks. “Swapping Debt for Dolphins” is a revolutionary plan to secure the economic future of the country.
Located off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean, this country has an economy dependent on tourism and fishing. Insuring the sustainability of its marine environment is of paramount importance to the survival of its people. (photo – The Ocean Agency/TheGuardian)
Vast New Marine Parks
The Aldabra Marine National Park encloses 74,000 square kilometers, which is approximately the size of Scotland. The second park, centered on the island of Mahe, will protect 134,000 sq km. When combined, the two parks represent 15% of Seychelles’ waters! And, the government plans to double that area by 2020.
As reported by Damian Carrington, extractive industries, including fishing and oil exploration, are banned within the Aldabra Park. Limited, “controlled activities,” will be allowed within the Mahe Park.
Swapping Debt for Dolphins: How It Works
The Seychelles owed $22 million in national debt to France, the UK, Italy and Belgium. That debt was bought at a discount by The Nature Conservancy. The TNC raised $5 million of that amount from donors. One notable donor? The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation contributed $1 million. “These protections mean that all species living in these waters or migrating through them are now far better shielded from overfishing, pollution, and climate change” said DiCaprio.
“The Seychelles is positioning itself as a world leader in ocean governance,” says Didier Dogley, the environment minister. “We truly believe these initiatives will create prosperity for our people, conserve critical biodiversity and build resilience against climate change.”
Home to Vast Numbers of Exotic and Endangered Species
The Aldabra archipelago is the jewel of biodiversity in the Seychelles. The area’s ecological importance is often compared to the Galapagos. Dugongs, giant land tortoises, dolphins, manta rays, sharks, turtles, whales and seabirds populate these islands.
Many details remain to be negotiated. For example, parts of the Sychelles may be sitting on “world-class” oil reserves. So, the technicalities of a sensitive industry still has to be settled.
The who and where of fishing rights is another piece of this deal that has yet to be finalized.
However, the Seychelles debt for nature swap holds promise for countries from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. The TNC hopes to close on a dept swap of $60 million with the island of Grenada. Other Caribbean nations and Mauritius have expressed interest in similar plans.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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