SEYCHELLES: The Government of Seychelles announced two new Marine Protected Areas covering 210,000 square kilometers (81,000 square miles) created as part of the debt-for-conservation deal designed by conservation group The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
As part of the debt conversion deal, Seychelles committed to increasing its marine protection from just 0.04 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone to a full 30 percent. These first designations cover an area the size of Great Britain and represent the first half of the 410,000 square kilometers that will be protected by 2022.
The areas now fully protected, which restrict almost all human activities, include 74,400 square kilometers (29,000 square miles) of waters around islands of the Aldabra Group. The archipelago includes UNESCO World Heritage Site raised coral atoll, it is home to the dugong, the most endangered animal in the western Indian Ocean, and 100,000 giant tortoises.
The second Marine Protected Area covers 136,000 square kilometers (52,000 square miles) of deep waters between the Amirantes Group and Fortune Bank, which includes important areas for tourism and fishing industries.
The debt swap was made possible by private funders, such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, China Global Conservation Fund of TNC, The Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Lyda Hill Foundation, Oak Foundation, Oceans 5, Turnbull Burnstein Family Charitable Fund, and Waitt Foundation.
Collaborators on the initiative include the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, the Republic of South Africa, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Nations Development Program, Global Environment Facility, and Global Island Partnership.
To create the parks, the government relied on marine survey data from the Pristine Seas expedition team (a National Geographic initiative) as well as on consultations with more than a hundred stakeholders, according to TNC.
In Spain, the manager of the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Freezer Tuna (OPAGAC), Julio Morón, acknowledged that while the closure of these marine areas will affect more artisanal fisheries, the Spanish tuna sector will also feel the impact of the measure.
On his part, Juan Pablo Rodríguez-Sahagún, manager of the Association of Freezer Tuna Ships (ANABAC), lamented that "traditional partners like Seychelles are turning their back on the European sector," and expressed concern about "the drift that has fishing in the Indian Ocean," reported the Galician newspaper Faro de Vigo.