(15 March 2016) The Nature Conservancy, a leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to conserving the Earth’s lands and waters, has announced the finalization in Seychelles of the first ever debt swap aimed at ocean conservation and climate mitigation programs. The deal increases protection for the country’s waters from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent and supports the creation of the second largest Marine Protected Area in the West Indian Ocean.
“The Seychelles government has committed to protect more than 400,000 square kilometers of ocean through marine resource management over the next five years,” Matt Brown, The Nature Conservancy’s Africa conservation director, said. “This deal is a significant milestone towards that goal and is a model for ocean conservation commitments worldwide.”
North of Madagascar, off Africa’s coast, just beyond the Seychelles Plateau are the Outer Seychelles. Scattered in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Outer Seychelles are a collection of five coralline island groups that include 72 low-lying sand cays and atolls.
Designated a Hope Spot by Mission Blue, marine life is relatively pristine in the remote cays and atolls of the Outer Islands of the Republic of Seychelles. This is largely due to its sparse population and to Seychelles’ conservation laws, which are among the most stringent in the world. These reefs are considered some of the most beautiful in the world and harbor over a thousand species of fish.
Like many reefs, they have suffered from coral bleaching, a process in which photosynthetic algae inside the coral are killed off by outside stresses, such as changing water temperatures from climate change, however, the greatest danger that faces the Outer Seychelles is rising sea levels from melting ice caps that threaten to plunge the low-lying islands under water.