We all know who Leonardo de Caprio is—the man who played Jack in the legendary movie Titanic. He is a legendary American actor and film producer. But that is just a very common and let’s say, mere, introduction of this awesome man. Why? Because he is now becoming more than just an actor and film producer, he is now becoming one of the most active citizens of the US which shows concern for the serious problems that the world is facing today. Do you need a proof? Well, he just donated a whopping 1 million to help finance the first-ever “debt for oceans conservation swap,” which will benefit oceans protection efforts in the Seychelles, a tiny African nation comprised of 115 small islands in the Indian Ocean off of East Africa. Check out all the details below.
Leonardo DiCaprio continues to step up his work to combat global warming and preserve the world’s oceans.
Fresh off winning an Academy Award in February, this week DiCaprio’s foundation announced it is donating $1 million to help finance the first-ever “debt for oceans conservation swap,” which will benefit oceans protection efforts in the Seychelles, a tiny African nation comprised of 115 small islands in the Indian Ocean off of East Africa.
The total amount of debt to be restructured is $21.4 million, according to the Seychelles government. In return, the country has committed to protect more than 400,000 square kilometers, or 154,440 square miles, of ocean during the next five years.
The Seychelles is 99 percent ocean, with the government terming its economy as a “blue economy” that is built around a productive tuna fishery and ocean-based tourism.
The country is famous for its beaches and coral reefs, along with its unique wildlife. Like many other small island developing states, the Seychelles owe a considerable amount of money to international creditors, which have lent it money for development assistance. In the case of the Seychelles, the debt-holding nations include France.
For this project, DiCaprio’s foundation, which also supports climate science research and efforts reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, is teaming up with the Nature Conservancy, an organization dedicated to conserving the Earth’s pristine lands and ocean waters.
The deal, which was made with the help of the Seychelles government, would increase protection for the country’s waters while supporting the creation of the second-largest marine protected area in the West Indian Ocean, according to a press release.
As part of the deal, the Nature Conservancy is providing a low interest loan of $21.4 million, and in addition to the $1 million in funding from the Oscar-winning actor, financial support is also coming from several other private foundations, including from the Waitt Foundation, Oak Foundation, and the China Global Conservation Fund.
In total, the foundations are providing $5 million in grants to the project.
“We champion projects like this one across the globe that use cutting edge methods in conservation and environmental protection,” DiCaprio said in a press release.
“This deal will enhance food security for the local people of Seychelles, help mitigate the effects of climate change on their low lying island home, and protect the surrounding rich ocean ecosystems for future generations.”
Matt Brown, the Nature Conservancy’s Africa conservation director, told Mashable in an interview that the deal could serve as a model for future ocean conservation arrangements. Similar schemes have been pursued for forest conservation, Brown said, but never for the oceans.
He said countries like the Seychelles have significant financial needs, small revenue streams and high debt loads, making them ideal targets for projects like this one. His group, for example, is already considering similarly tailored projects with Caribbean countries, he said.
According to Brown, the participation of foundations like DiCaprio’s was crucial to getting the deal done.
“The grant money is critical to the success of this trust fund,” he said.
The deal can be seen as part of a global push to declare more areas of the ocean off limits to fishing and other resource extraction activities, with recent action toward these goals from the U.S., U.K., Palau, New Zealand, Chile and Kiribati.
In this case, instead of repaying debt at relatively high interest rates, the Seychelles government will redirect payments to a new, locally-run organization known as the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust.
This organization will direct the marine conservation and climate adaptation work throughout the country and its waters.
“They’re doing a master plan for the ocean,” Brown said.
According to the Seychelles Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy, the country expects to create the largest network of marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean.
This doesn’t mean that all uses of the country’s waters will be blocked, however. The Seychelles’ economy depends on fishing, diving and other uses of the marine environment, and the new programs will help ensure such uses will be sustainable.
“Together, we are making a difference. A difference that brings the best outcomes for Seychelles… and a difference that places nature at the center of solutions for climate change and sustainable development,” said Seychelles President James Michel, in a statement.
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