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Seychelles creates massive marine protection areas using world-first “debt-for-dolphin” financing

The island nation of Seychelles off the eastern coast of Africa is known for its abundance of tortoises, coral reefs, sharks, and other aquatic species. In recent years, it has also emerged as a global leader in marine conservation.

In 2018, the nation officially converted 15% of its waters – an area twice the size of Texas – to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where fishing, mining, and drilling are either heavily regulated or banned altogether. These MPAs are essentially national parks for the country’s marine areas, preserving biodiversity and bolstering ecosystem services indefinitely. Until 2012, less than 1% of its waters were protected under MPAs.

Now, Seychelles has created 13 new MPAs, expanding its protected areas to cover 30% of its waters, an area double the size of the island of Great Britain.

Seychelles Marine Protected Areas MPAs
Source: The Guardian 2018

To fund the scheme, Seychelles entered into an innovative “debt-for-dolphins” scheme with The Nature Conservancy. Under the scheme, the Seychelles can write off sovereign debt of more than $20 million USD and reallocate that money to the administration of the MPAs. The MPAs in turn reinforce ecosystems services and tourism, a key component of the nation’s economic well-being.

While other countries have implemented similar mechanisms for wildlife protection, this is the first ever to be used for marine protected.

Fishermen Views on Marine Protected Areas – Shark Research ...
Source: WWF / Catalyze

“Seychelles’ marine ecosystem is the foundation that the economy is built upon, with fisheries and tourism being the primary pillars of our economy,” Seychelles President Danny Faure said. “The people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods.”

More than 5% of the world’s oceans are now protected by MPAs. The United Nations has set a target to reach 10% by the end of 2020. For an interactive map of the world’s MPA’s see:

globalmpas logo sm
Source: Atlas of Marine Protection

These are exactly the kinds of efforts we need to see more of worldwide. They not only protect our wildlife and ecosystems, but also provide stability and well-being for nations that rely on those ecosystems for tourism and other industries.

Unfortunately, as of now, it appears to we are not on track to meet our 2020 goal of 10% global coverage.

What can we do to make sure we meet this ambitious 2020 goal and continue to expand our MPAs for decades to come?

Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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