Feeling bad about your debt? Seychelles just used theirs to save the ocean.

The plan will help protect an area of ocean larger than Germany!

Go to Kenya, run down to the coast, and swim kind of east-ish for a thousand miles, and you'll hit the Seychelles archipelago.


Image from Didier Baertschiger/Flickr.

Made up of 115 islands, they don't have a ton of land or a huge population, but they do have some amazing biodiversity. Fish and coral reefs throng the waters, and giant tortoises plod around on land.

The nation's pretty serious about its conservation; their constitution even guarantees citizens the right to an ecologically healthy environment.

They also have, like, the coolest flag ever. Image from Vxb83/Wikimedia.

And, like many nations these days, they owe some debt. But something pretty clever just happened.

In a debt swap deal between the government of Seychelles, its international creditors, and The Nature Conservancy's NatureVest investment branch — plus some negotiating help from the French government — Seychelles may have just turned some of its national debt into money to protect their awesome environment.

Wait, how does that even work?

Basically, the Seychelles owed some people money. NatureVest came along and said, "You know that debt you owe? We'll loan you about $30 million so that you can pay some of it off. But, in return for paying of your debt, we want you to put the money you would have paid into this special trust fund we're setting up."

The trust fund, meanwhile, will use some of the money to reimburse NatureVest's initial investors (who ponied up most of the loan). But some of it will go into a long-term endowment too. And, a large chunk, about $6 million overall, will go to funding conservation projects.

So the creditors get paid, Seychelles gets more money for conservation, and NatureVest gets a little extra bang for its investment buck. It's kind of a win-win-win.

Image from Olivier Cochard-Labbé/Flickr.

It's like a bank took your car loan and used it to build a park next to your house.

The plan will help turn about 100 million acres of sea into marine protected areas over about five years. That's an area larger than Germany!

The money will also help fund projects to manage and protect their coasts, mangroves, and coral reefs.

This is really good news for Seychelles. Fishing and tourism combined make up about a third of all the jobs and a quarter of the GDP in Seychelles, so protecting their rich, beautiful waters is pretty dang important. Losing those two industries would be like the U.S. losing all of its manufacturing, retail, and wholesale trading jobs.

It's really hard to overstate how vital a healthy ocean is to Seychelles' prosperity. Image via Nina/Flickr.

The money couldn't come sooner. Climate change is going to make things rough.

Seychelles, like a lot of low-lying island nations, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Coral bleaching could kill off their reefs. Rising sea levels and stronger storms could flood their land.

But this new deal could give Seychelles a little extra oomph in their preparations and response. If it turns out to be successful, it could be a blueprint for deals with other island nations.


Image from Simisa/Wikimedia Commons.

Protecting our oceans is one of the best things we can do to ensure everyone access to a healthy, stable global environment.

If you're interested in helping out but aren't sure what to do yet, sign this petition from the League of Conservation Voters showing Congress your support for the Clean Power Plan.

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