LET'S MAKE A DEAL
Scuba Diving|July 2020
The Nature Conservancy has a bold plan to protect over 1.5 million square miles of ocean in the next five years
ALEXANDRA GILLESPIE

A nation of 115 islands, the Seychelles’ sinew is more sea than terra firma. The Indian Ocean envelopes up to 90 percent of its territory, a place where sun dictates the lifestyle and coral reefs shape the market.

Only eight years ago, this archipelago off the East African coast protected less than 1 percent of its waters. Now, it protects more than 30 percent.

The sweeping shift began in 2012, when the Nature Conservancy launched a project that created 13 new marine protected areas in the Seychelles. Combined, they protect an area almost the size of Texas, making it the second-largest MPA in the world.

The international nongovernmental organization powered the change by restructuring $21.6 million of the Seychelles’ debt to fund new protections, and helped establish the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) to distribute the redirected funding in support of marine conservation and sustainable economic development.

Now that there’s proof the idea can work, the Nature Conservancy is spreading it worldwide—fast. In the next five years, its Blue Bonds for Conservation initiative aims to use debt-for-nature swaps to increase the amount of ocean protected by 15 percent, helping 20 countries establish MPAs targeted to cover more than 1.54 million square miles. Full implementation of the idea would see $3 billion in debt-for-nature swaps free up to $1.6 billion in government spending for ocean protection.

REDIRECTING DEBT TO REEFS

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