Seychelles: The island nation with a novel way to tackle climate change
On board Darryl Green’s small fishing boat, just off the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, the water is so clear we can see the seabed. Brightly coloured fish swim around the hull.
“You know at my age I’ve seen the fish size decrease dramatically,” the fisherman reminisces. He’s on board his boat with his young grandson in tow.
“If as fishermen, we do not take responsibility for our fish stocks, who’s going to do it? If we don’t start somewhere then in the future we’re going to be very hard pushed to find fish to feed our children.”
Mr Green has been fishing his local bay for decades – but not any more. He’s set up a project with his fellow fishermen to voluntarily stop fishing here for six months of the year, hoping that this will allow fish stocks to replenish.
“This is our office,” he says. “You go to the office to work. We come here to work. This is where we earn our livelihood. So we’ve got to protect it.”
During the six months off, they have to fish further out to sea, while some of them do other things like carpentry too.
A pioneering marine conservation plan
Mr Green’s project is one of many which have been funded by a pioneering marine conservation plan.
In the first deal of its kind, the East African nation swapped 5% of its national debt for a cash injection to fight the effects of climate change on the ocean.
In return, it promised to protect 30% of its national waters, which is an area twice the size of the UK – by the end of next year. It’s a huge undertaking for this tiny nation.
What is the deal?
The Seychelles government agreed the debt swap with the Nature Conservancy, a US charity, and a number of investors in 2016.
Under the terms of the $21m (£16m) deal, the charity and the investors – who include the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – bought a portion of the Seychelles’ national debt from European nations, such as the UK and France.
The debt is now held by a trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), which offers the country lower interest rates on its repayments.
The savings – over $8 million – are ring-fenced for projects designed to protect marine life and handle the effects of climate change.
Policing the waters
Small island nations are among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels. Conservationists say dying coral reefs, extreme weather and land erosion threaten the very existence of the Seychelles archipelago.
The country is trying to defend its greatest resource – the sea – but it’s no easy task. All human activity in the protected areas will have to be severely restricted – not just fishing but tourism too. Policing this huge swathe of the Indian Ocean will fall to the country’s coastguard.