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April 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 44, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Creative Way to Create Marine Parks and the U.S. Must Step Up

from the April, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

There is some amazing diving left in this world, if you can just get to it. The Seychelles, specifically, Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, is one of those places.

Years ago, the Fantasea II (now the Pelagian ) maderegular visits, as did the Indian Ocean Explorer, until pirates captured it. Today, if you want to visit Aldabra, the only vessel seems to be the Galatea, a Turkish-built gulet sailing from Mahe with Diving Cruises Seychelles.

But, someday it may be the hot new destination, because the tiny tropical nation of the Seychelles' paradiscical islands will create two huge new marine parks -- in return for the Nature Conservancy paying off, at a discount, $22 million of its national debt to four European Countries. It will increase the Seychelles' marine protected area from 0.04 percent of its territorial waters to as much as 30 percent.

The new parks include areas around the inner islands and the capital, Mahe, and the Admirantes to the Fortune bank, together with a second area around Aldabra, the world's second-largest raised coral atoll, which rivals the Galapagos for ecological importance. In fact, it has a greater population of giant tortoises, and the waters are full of marine life. The new protected area around Aldabra is almost the size of Scotland and bans all extractive uses, from fishing to oil exploration.

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose Foundation donated $1 million toward funding the debt swap, said: "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."

During the Obama Administration, the U.S. was working toward a similar debt swap to expand marine parks in Palau and the Marshall Islands, but those plans are now on the back burner.

Debt swap is an excellent way to help small nations protect their waters. We divers must get behind it.

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