Ambitious Plans To Raise $1.6 billion for Ocean Conservation

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Cabo Pulmo in Baja Mexico is one of the examples the TNC cites as a successful conservation scheme benefitting the local economy and the marine environment

Leading American non-profit The Nature Conservancy (TNC) this week launched a radical plan to protect more than four million square kilometres of the world's oceans over the next five years through 'Blue Bonds'  designed to unlock $1.6 billion of funds for marine protection.

The plan is to help as many as 85 countries refinance their national debt and use some of the monies saved to invest in marine protection efforts to help local fisheries and protect coral reefs.

'There’s no longer any denying that our oceans are in a dire state.,' the TNC said at the launch. 'Overfishing has decimated global fish populations, climate change and ocean acidity are pushing coral reefs to the brink of extinction and the loss of those reefs and other ecosystems have left coastal communities more vulnerable to the impacts of storms and rising sea levels.

'Indeed, for many island and coastal nations, these are matters of life and death. Leaders of these nations want to protect the ocean—but too often they are struggling to manage their countries’ debt and unable to invest in the conservation efforts that would make their environments and economies more resilient.

'The Nature Conservancy  has an audacious plan that can help these countries address their debt challenges, benefit more than 40 million people and conserve 15 per cent more of the world’s oceans than are currently protected—in just the next five years.'

A debt conversion scheme proved successful in the Republic of Seychelles when the TNC worked with the government in 2016 to release more than $400,000 a year for marine conservation. Two marine parks have been established taking the country more than halfway to its target of protecting 30 per cent of its marine territory by 2020.

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Aldabra island is among the areas protected in the Seychelles scheme. (Photo: Simisa / Wikimedia Commons)

This ambitious new initiative plans to scale this up to global levels. The Blue Bonds for Conservation will restructure sovereign debt for coastal and island national so long as the countries commit to protecting at least 30 per cent of their near-shore oceans, particularly coral reefs, mangroves and other vital habitats.

The TNC has more than $23 million seed financing in place from donors and over the next five years has plans to refinance the debt of at least 20 countries which would unlock more than $1.6 billion in conservation funding.

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