The Seychelles government this week announced the creation of two new Marine Protected Areas off the archipelago.
The MPAs cover about 210,000 square kilometers (81,081 square miles) of ocean waters teeming with biodiversity. They are the result of an innovative “debt-for-conservation” deal designed by The Nature Conservancy. That deal commits the Seychelles to increase the marine areas protected from fishing, oil exploration and other activities from .04 percent of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone to 30 percent.
This week’s action is only half of the eventual 410,000 square kilometers (158,302 square miles) that are slated for protection by 2022, according to The Nature Conservancy.
Of the current area under protection, 74,400 square kilometers (29,000 square miles) will see restrictions on nearly all human activities. That area includes the Aldabra Group of islands that feature a coral atoll that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The other Marine Protected Area traverses 136,000 square kilometers (52,000 square miles) of waters encompassing the Amirantes Group and Fortune Bank. Some tourism and fishing will be allowed under strict new rules, according to The Nature Conservancy.
In fact, it was The Nature Conservancy that gave the Seychelles government the opportunity to put together a unique debt refinancing package with the help of private donors like the the The Nature Conservancy’s China Global Conservation Fund, the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and others. That package will allow part of the Seychelles’ payments to fund projects aimed at protecting its marine environment.
Back in 2005, DeeperBlue.com got a chance to visit the Seychelles. Here’s an excerpt from that visit:
The waters surrounding the Seychelles are relatively shallow. If you look at a chart you will see maximum depths of 40-50m. The water is clear and you can swim out quite a distance from the beach quite safely, and freedive down to granite rocks covered in corals and reef fish, in 10-20m of water. There are lots of stingrays and plenty of baby eagle rays swimming close to the shore. I only did two scuba dives in the Seychelles and enjoyed both of them tremendously. The fish species are abundant and there are lots of octopus, large marble rays, nudibranch and different species of reef fish. Booby Island (see the shape of it to understand the name) was a lovely dive site and only 18m deep. One of those dives where I wished I had a rebreather and a patient boat captain.