The Seychelles, an island nation in East Africa, recently announced the creation of two new Marine Protected Areas roughly as big as Great Britain. It’s part of what The Telegraph called a debt-for-nature swap: the island nation gets a $20 million debt relief plan backed by investors (including the foundation of our favorite eco hero Leonardo DiCaprio), and in return it will place controls on fishing and tourism industries.

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In a debt-for-conservation deal designed by The Nature Conservancy, the Seychelles will protect areas covering 81,000 square miles. The move is not without controversy: fishing is limited in areas commercial fishermen and tour operators for years; in some places, like the Aldabra region, people won’t be allowed to fish at all. Tourism has been successful in the Seychelles in recent years, but The Telegraph said record numbers of visitors have taken their toll on the islands; commercial fishing has increased to meet demand. Biodiversity has eroded in the wake of two recent coral bleaching events. The Telegraph said debt restructuring will essentially send Seychelles repayments into a trust set to invest in plans to foster a sustainable blue economy.

Related: Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions

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Nature Conservancy said the Seychelles are among the nations most vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on marine resources. They said the Marine Protected Areas will help the nation better prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, warming waters, and ocean acidification. “Without these Marine Protected Areas, activities like oil and gas exploration, deep-sea mining, dredging, and controversial fishing techniques could take place in one of the planet’s most biodiverse oceans with little or no restriction or direction,” the organization said.

DiCaprio tweeted the news, along with a link to a Nature Conservancy page where those in support can sign a letter congratulating the citizens of Seychelles.

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DiCaprio said, “This effort will help the people of Seychelles protect their ocean for future generations, and will serve as a model for future marine conservation projects worldwide. These protections mean that all species living in these waters or migrating through them are now far better shielded from overfishing, pollution, and climate change.”

+ Nature Conservancy

+ Congratulate the citizens of Seychelles

Via The Telegraph

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