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The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is leading private-sector investments to support the Nature Conservancy in the world’s first debt swap aimed at ocean conservation and climate resiliency. The deal increases protection for the country’s waters from less than 1% to more than 30% and supports the creation of the second largest Marine Protected Area in the West Indian Ocean.
This deal was made possible through a partnership with the Seychelles Ministry of Finance, support of debt-holding nations including France, and grants from private organizations led by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
The Nature Conservancy provided a low interest loan of $21.4 million and helped secure an additional $5 million in private grants from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with additional support from the Waitt Foundation, Oak Foundation, China Global Conservation Fund, Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham and the Turnbull Burnstein Family Charitable Fund and others.
The Seychelles government has committed to protect more than 400,000 square kilometers of ocean through marine resource management over the next five years, according to Matt Brown, The Nature Conservancy’s Africa Conservation Director. “This deal is a significant milestone towards that goal and is a model for ocean conservation commitments worldwide.”
Under the leadership of Seychelles President James Michel, the country joins a growing group of countries that have made unprecedented commitments to ocean conservation. Over the past two years, the governments of Palau, New Zealand, Chile, Kiribati, the United Kingdom and the United States collectively protected several million square kilometers of the world’s oceans.
The transaction restructures approximately $25 million of Seychelles debt, reducing the country’s financial burdens and strengthening the integrity of its conservation programs. Under the terms of the deal, debt payments will be redirected to a new independent, locally-led organization called the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust, which will oversee the marine conservation and climate adaptation efforts.
The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean that is vulnerable to sea level rise, as well as changing temperatures and ocean acidification. Seychelles is 99 percent ocean, and its “blue economy” is built on a productive tuna fishery and ocean-based tourism.