The Nature Conservancy is playing “let’s make a deal” with the Seychelles government. The NGO helped the island nation trade debt for dolphins, according to the Guardian, in what is being hailed as the first-ever debt-swap deal for marine protection.
With help from a team of backers, the Nature Conservancy, back in 2016, helped the Seychelles convert $22 million in national debt owed to the U.K., France, Belgium, and Italy, raising money from donors to pay off part of the debt, and negotiating to cut the interest rate charged to the Seychelles government.
The deal freed up $12 million, which is now being used to help implement a new marine plan that protects an important dolphin habitat and the coral reef that surrounds the islands. The newly protected areas include two parks, which cover 15% of the oceans surrounding the Seychelles—a protected area the size of Britain. According to the Guardian, the government will double this by 2021, putting it far ahead of an international target of 10% by 2020.
While fisheries and oil companies don’t like the plans, the Seychelles debt-for-dolphins swap could be the way of conservation in the future. The Nature Conservancy expects to close a similar deal with Grenada this year. Islands like Mauritius, and U.S. territories Palau and the Marshall Islands, have also expressed interest, although President Trump has shelved the plans for the U.S. territories.ML