Seychelles is a nation of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles off the coast of East Africa and north of Madagascar. Its “Blue Economy” is based on tuna and tourism, which, along with its low-lying island geography, makes its people and economy particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change.
More severe storms and rising sea levels are battering coastal areas that attract important tourist dollars to their economies; warmer ocean temperatures are diminishing fish stocks; and increasing ocean acidity from rising carbon levels are destroying coral reefs that buffer the force of storms and provide vital habitat for numerous marine species.
A Sea Change in the Western Indian Ocean
With more than 30 years experience in marine conservation and restoration efforts, The Nature Conservancy is acting to mobilize an $30 million (USD) debt-swap for the government of the Seychelles in exchange for their commitment to enhance marine conservation and climate adaptation. The effort will also establish a permanent endowment that generates sustainable financing for Seychelles’ marine conservation and climate adaptation activities.
Once complete, this project will result in the Indian Ocean’s second largest marine reserve, improving protection for the marine resources that fuel this island nation’s thriving tuna and tourism sectors. For example, some 200,000 square kilometers of Seychelles’ territorial waters are slated to be classified as “replenishment zones” to protect important tuna feeding grounds, and therefore the tuna industry.
Leading the Way for Other Island Countries
President James Michel and the Environment, Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministries of Seychelles strongly support this project, showing the political will necessary to make this debt-for-adaptation swap successful, and in the process provide a model for other at-risk island countries.
With the leadership support of Oceans 5, a collaborative of philanthropists dedicated to conserving the world’s oceans, the Conservancy is facilitating a marine spatial planning process that engages multiple stakeholders (fishing, energy tourism, government and conservation) in the development of a sustainable use plan. The Conservancy is also providing financial expertise to help complete the swap and the design of the permanent trust fund.
Financing A Sustainable Future
The Seychelles government will set up the Seychelles’ Conservation & Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), which will purchase and restructure the debt, manage the endowment and enforce the terms of the debt forgiveness agreement. After 20 years, the endowment is expected to be fully capitalized at nearly $10 million and will pay out approximately $600,000 per year to fund continued marine conservation and climate adaptation activities.
By investing in the Seychelles’ marine spatial planning process, its climate adaptation policies and a sustainable source of financing for conservation, the Conservancy will help create a demonstration project that can be adapted to other sites in the Western Indian Ocean region as well as globally.