In a world-first, a Seychelles marine reserve will protect large swathes of the Indian Ocean and clear some of its national debt in the process.
The island nation has agreed to preserve 210,000 sq km of ocean (nearly the size of Great Britain). Two huge marine parks will cover 15 per cent of Seychelles’ ocean. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation donated $1m towards funding the debt swap.
The plan restricts tourism and fishing activities to prevent damage to aquatic life. For a country like the Seychelles, where tourism accounts for 16 per cent of its GDP, this was a difficult, yet important decision.
Speaking of the world first agreement, Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Sherin Francis said; “By safeguarding our environment, we can also ensure that we are protecting our people against an uncertain future.”
World’s First Debt Swap to Protect the Indian Ocean
In 2016, The Seychelles government agreed on the debt swap with the Nature Conservancy, a US charity, and other investors. As part of the USD 21m (AUD 26m) deal, the charity and investors, including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, paid off a part of Seychelles’ national debt.
The country will make future debt payments to the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT). The trust will offer low-interest rates on debt repayments. Any savings will fund new projects designed to protect marine life and fight climate change.
What will be protected?
Seychelles will increase its protected waters from 0.04 to 30 per cent by 2020.
The first marine reserve includes the Aldabra islands. Aldabra is home to giant tortoises, rare tropical bird colonies and dugong, one of the Indian Ocean’s more endangered species. This area will be completely protected, with only research and regulated tourism allowed.
The second area will limit the fishing and tourism activities around the waters of Seychelles’ main islands. More information: seychelles.travel