Case Study: Innovative Financing – Debt for Conservation Swap, Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust and the Blue Bonds Plan, Seychelles (on-going)


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“Seychelles’ Blue Economy experiences and successes to date have shown how crucial partnerships can be, especially raising innovative finance and investment. The world’s first Debt Swap for Ocean Conservation and Climate Adaptation and first sovereign Blue Bonds attest this.” Seychelles President Danny Faure, November 2018


Seychelles’ current and future prosperity is intrinsically linked to its marine and coastal assets. However, the 2008 financial crisis left the country with substantial debts and made it difficult to invest in the Blue Economy. An innovative approach to financing was required to gain the most value from Seychelles’ marine and coastal assets as part of a sustainable Blue Economy.

Seychelles pursued an ambitious plan to finance sustainable development of the Blue Economy, through converting US$21.6 million of national debt via the world’s first Blue Economy debt for nature swap, and through launching the world’s first sovereign blue bond. Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) was established to competitively distribute funds from these initiatives to support the management and expansion of the Seychelles Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.

These ongoing initiatives have been very successful. With the support of The Nature Conservancy, the debt conversion enabled the Government of Seychelles to make a policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone through MPAs. The Blue Bond raised US$15 million from international investors, demonstrating the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the sustainable use of marine resources. The Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap was key to the success of the Blue Bonds Plan, providing a clear plan on how the funds would be invested prior to the bonds being issued. Three rounds of the SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund have already occurred, with the fourth due to open on 6 July 2020. Five SeyCCAT projects have been completed successfully and there are more than 20 on-going SeyCCAT partnerships and projects.

The issue

  • Seychelles has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.37 million km2 (compared with a land area of just 455 km2 ). As a result, Seychelles’ current and future prosperity is intrinsically linked to its marine and coastal assets.
  • The effect of the 2008 global financial crisis was hard felt in Seychelles, with the government facing repayment challenges with total public debt reaching more than 150 per cent of gross domestic product. This debt was restructured under the Paris Club and Seychelles initiated a five-year economic reform programme.
  • The Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap: Charting the Future (2018–2030) was developed to guide development of the Seychelles Blue Economy and was approved in January 2018. The Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap provides an integrated approach to ocean-based sustainable development bringing together economy, environment and society.
  • One of the four pillars of the Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap is “Economic diversification and resilience”, which links to one of the sought-after outcomes: increased investment in diversification of existing ocean-based economic sectors to realise greater value and efficiency.
  • The need for greater investment in the Seychelles Blue Economy to achieve the goals and desired outcomes of the Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap required an innovative approach to Blue Economy financing.

The response

Blue Bonds Plan

  • In 2018, Seychelles launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond, designed to support sustainable marine fisheries and fisheries projects.
  • Proceeds from the bond will support the expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), improved governance of priority fisheries and development of the Seychelles Blue Economy.
  • Grants and loans will be provided through the Blue Grants Fund and the Blue Investment Fund, managed respectively by Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS).

Debt for nature swap

  • The Government of Seychelles sought to undertake the world’s first Blue Economy debt for nature swap, with the aim of converting US$21.6 million of national debt
  • Multiple benefits from the debt for nature swap were envisaged, including: Financing for adaptation to climate change through management of coasts, coral reefs and mangroves; Promoting implementation of a Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) for the entire Seychelles EEZ; Approximately 400,000 km2 managed for conservation as MPAs within five years; Implementing the MSP, setting ground rules for what is permitted and where within Seychelles;
  • The project structure included four major milestones; financial negotiations with creditors; national stakeholder consolations; creation of an MSP; and executing the Conservation Actions.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust:

  • SeyCCAT was established in November 2015 to achieve conservation through innovative finance and creative collaborations.
  • SeyCCAT provides sustainable funds to support the management and expansion of the Seychelles MPAs, sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.
  • Proceeds from the Seychelles Blue Bond further capitalise the SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund to support sustainable-use MPAs and improved governance of priority fisheries.
  • SeyCCAT’s assets are projected to enable the competitive distribution of US$700,000 per year, and the Trust is investigating the feasibility of a Blue Challenge Fund and a Blue Equity Fund.
  • SeyCCAT is committed to developing strong and lasting creative collaborations to advance its mission and to enable the delivery of five objectives to: Support new and existing MPAs and sustainable use zones; Empower fisheries with robust science to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options; Promote the rehabilitation of habitats and ecosystems that have been degraded by human impacts; Develop and implement risk reduction and social resilience plans to support climate change adaptation; Develop business models to secure the sustainable development of Seychelles’ Blue Economy.

For more information about SeyCCAT, see https://

Partnerships and support

Blue Bonds Plan

  • The Seychelles Blue Bond was announced in 2018.
  • The business case for a sovereign blue bond was identified through support from the Prince of Wales’ Charities International Sustainability Unit.
  • Standard Chartered acted as placement agent for the bond and Latham & Watkins LLP advised the World Bank as external counsel. Clifford Chance LLP acted as transaction counsel.
  • A World Bank team comprising experts from its Treasury, Legal, Environmental and Finance groups worked with investors, structured the blue bond and assisted the government in setting up a platform for channelling its proceeds.
  • The Bond is partially guaranteed by a US$5 million guarantee from the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and further supported by a US$5 million concessional loan from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which will partially cover interest payments for the bond.
  • The three international investors in the bond were Calvert Impact Capital, Nuveen and U.S. Headquartered Prudential Financial Inc.
  • SeyCCAT is tasked with managing US$3 million of the US$15 million of the blue bond proceeds. DBS is managing US$12 million

Debt for nature swap

  • The debt for nature swap was made possible by private funders, including the China Global Conservation Fund of The Nature Conservancy, the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Lyda Hill Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Oceans 5, the Turnbull Burnstein Family Charitable Fund and the Waitt Foundation. • Collaborators on the initiative include the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, South Africa and the UK, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), GEF and the Global Island Partnership. • The policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of the Seychelles EEZ through MPAs was financed partially through debt conversion with the support of The Nature Conservancy.
  • The debt for nature swap project was a multi-step process, starting with policy commitments in 2012 and ending with SeyCCAT investing in local projects to enhance Blue Economy development in 2017.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust

  • SeyCCAT was established through the Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust of Seychelles Act, 2015. SeyCCAT is a long-term, on-going initiative.
  • SeyCCAT was initially capitalised with proceeds from the Government of Seychelles’ US$21.6 million debt conversion that was completed in 2015.
  • SeyCCAT also attracts capital from philanthropic organisations and continues to seek other innovative mechanisms to boost its assets.
  • Current partners with SeyCCAT include Pew Charitable Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, the World Bank, UNDP, the Government of Seychelles, the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association and local partners.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Blue Bonds Plan

  • The bond raised US$15 million from international investors, demonstrating the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the sustainable use of marine resources.
  • US$3 million of the proceeds from the bond are managed through SeyCCAT to support the management and expansion of Seychelles MPAs, sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.
  • Proceeds from the bond contribute to the World Bank’s South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program, supporting countries in the region to sustainably manage their fisheries and increase economic benefits from fisheries.
  • The Blue Bond proceeds are issued to SeyCCAT through six tranches of US$500,000 from 2018 to 2023.

Debt for nature swap

  • The journey towards the successful debt for nature swap started in 2012, when Seychelles committed to 30 per cent marine protection at Rio+20; 2013: the proposed debt restructure was discussed between the Seychelles President and the Prince of Wales; 2014: the delegation for Seychelles met main bank bilateral creditors and discussed plans to swap a portion of its external debt for funding for coastal/marine conservation projects; 2105: the Seychelles Government held discussions with key local stakeholders about MSP, and with Paris club creditors, announced the closing of the first-ever debt restricting for climate adaptation; 2016: the Government of Seychelles paid creditors to buy back their debt via a loan from SeyCCAT, funded by grants and a loan from The Nature Conservancy; 2018: SeyCCAT invested in local schemes to protect the offshore environment around the Seychelles archipelago.
  • With support from The Nature Conservancy, the debt conversion enabled the Government of Seychelles to make a policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of its EEZ through MPAs.
  • The debt service payments from the debt for nature swap fund three distinct cash flows: Repayment of the impact investor NatureVest; The SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund, which amounts to an annually distributed US$200,000; Capitalising the SeyCCAT endowment fund with US$151,000 per year, with an expected matured value of US$6.7 million. In total, from the proceeds of the debt swap and the blue bond, SeyCCAT can annually distribute US$700,000.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust

  • Three rounds of the Blue Grants Fund have already occurred, with the fourth opened on 6 July 2020.
  • Five SeyCCAT projects have already been successfully completed, on topics such as knowledge and impacts of artisanal fisheries, a fish identification initiative, restoration of commercially important lobster habitat and developing Blue Economy entrepreneurs.
  • There are more than 20 on-going SeyCCAT partnerships and projects. These span a diverse array of topics, including science and management in fisheries, blue carbon, business development, scholarship and internships, science to support coral conservation, mangrove mapping and monitoring, climate change social adaptation, MPA development, plastic pollution and seabird and shark conservation. See
  • Whilst SeyCCAT exists to develop the Seychelles Blue Economy, the Trust is also committed to sharing learning experiences with other island and coastal states across the Western Indian Ocean.


Accessibility and inclusivity: Making funds available does not guarantee that people or organisations have the capacity to apply for those funds. The Blue Grants Fund is supported by international donors and organisations, who may not always appreciate the local challenges in applying for those funds. For example, the application form was based on a standard EU format that experienced non-governmental organisations may be able to use but local Seychelles stakeholders may not. Steps taken by SeyCCAT to make the application process more accessible and inclusive include:

  • Removing language barriers: In 2019, SeyCCAT translated the application form into Creole (the local language) enabling people to apply in their native language.
  • Reaching out proactively: As well as the threeislands public meeting to attract potential applicants, SeyCCAT also conducted one-to-one meetings and in-person visits with fishing communities, students, young female entrepreneurs, public sector representatives and other groups.
  • Building capacity during the application stages: SeyCCAT and its partners have provided capacitybuilding sessions for the first application stage covering project and budget writing skills, project management, and monitoring and evaluation. The Project Preparation Grant also provides support at the second stage of application, and dedicated facilitators are available to support applicants through mentoring and training. For more information on fostering inclusion and accessibility, see

Administrative concerns: Administering the Blue Grants Fund requires the dedication and enthusiasm of a fulltime team, with appropriate experience and training. The administration team also requires sustainable, long-term funding support. Monitoring and evaluation: To ensure the funds are as effective as envisaged, all Blue Grants Fund projects need to be monitored and evaluated, which requires a considerable amount of time and resources.

  • External support for impact monitoring: The World Bank is looking to help SeyCCAT establish a framework to measure how Blue Grants Fund projects aid progress towards the Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Capacity-building for impact monitoring: SeyCCAT is providing Blue Grant Funds projects with the capacity to conduct their own monitoring and evaluation on the success of their projects, through accessible spreadsheets.

Key lessons learnt

Simultaneously invest in capacity. The Blue Bonds have only a six-year disbursement period, and preparing the population so they are able to apply for funding and engage with other initiatives takes time. To make the best of the limited time the finances are available for, future initiatives could look to engage in capacity-building with the population as the deal is being established, so that, when the funds are available, the local capacity is already in place and the population is ready.

Seek sound and worthwhile investments. Finance initiatives need to be large enough to be worthwhile, but not so large as to be too great a risk. Small economies, such as Seychelles and many other island nations, can only absorb small risk. Larger investments mean there is more to lose. There needs to be a robust risk assessment prior to establishing finance initiatives.

Invest in a robust administrator. Sustainable long-term funding to support a good administrator is essential for the initiative to remain innovative and the funds to reach the target audience. Procurement monitoring is essential to ensure projects funds are being spent effectively and responsibly.

Implement environmental and social safeguards. Funding support from the World Bank and partners means that certain standards must be met. Serious consideration needs to be given to the way in which funds are applied, so that there are not any unintended consequences. Supporting new businesses is an important role of the Blue Grants Fund; however, in some cases this may have the potential to increase environmental pressure, which runs counter to the concept of a sustainable Blue Economy, so caution and oversight must be exercised.

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Lyme Bay Fisheries & Conservation Reserve, UK (on-going)

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“The collaborative model has proved that not only can sustainable fishing co-exist with conservation,

but, indeed, that low-impact fishers can often be the most effective conservationists.”

– Tim Glover, Blue Marine Foundation’s UK Projects Adviser, who set up the project


Lyme Bay, on the south coast of England, is a biodiversity hotspot that supports an important inshore fishery, most especially for shellfish lobster, crab and scallop). It is also a significant area for conservation, containing important reef habitats that support a number of rare and threatened marine species. Following conflict between mobile gear fishers (primarily scallop dredgers) and static gear fishers (potting for lobsters and crabs) over access, and evidence of damage to some of its nature conservation importance, 206 km2 of Lyme Bay was permanently closed to mobile demersal fishing gear. A series of voluntary best practice management measures that the fishers could sign up to and also benefit from were agreed.

There is a Memorandum of Understanding to promote and implement best practice in fisheries and conservation management, and a voluntary Code of Conduct, which includes fitting of an Inshore Vessel Monitoring System and caps on the volume of fishing gear deployed by vessels within the reserve. A Code of Conduct for recreational fishers has also been agreed. The measures introduced have not only reduced further damage but also enabled seabed habitats to recover as well as supporting increased catches of shellfish. Studies show that the well-being and livelihoods of fishers directly involved in the project has also improved.

The issue

Lyme Bay is an open, relatively shallow bay on the south coast of Devon that has long been known as a marine biodiversity hotspot. The seabed is a mosaic of rocky and stony reefs overlaid in places with a thin layer of mud, sand or gravel. The reefs support many species, including nationally important seafans and solitary hard corals, as well as soft corals, and abundant fish and shellfish populations.

Fishers towing demersal fishing gear (otter trawls, beam trawls and scallop dredges) typically fished on the mixed sediment areas, and static gear fishers used pots on rocky areas to catch crab and lobster. Following the development of spring-loaded “rock-hopper” gear and in response to a lucrative market, scallop dredgers also started to fish across the rocky areas and reefs in the 1990s and early 2000s. This led to conflicts between the different groups of fishers, conservationists and SCUBA divers. The main issue raised was physical damage to the reef features and their associated marine life, but also some loss of static fishing gear. Regulators needed to address the multi-use nature of the area alongside conservation priorities.

The response

In 2001, the main interested parties (fishers, conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and a local fish producer organisation) agreed on two voluntary closed areas but this arrangement broke down after various factors, such as rising fuel costs and higher prices for scallops, contributed to more boats fishing in the area.

A statutory approach was taken in 2006 and expanded in 2008, with legislation passed to close a significant part of the bay, over the reef habitats, to mobile demersal gears.(1) This replaced the former voluntary closures covering a similar area. Further obligations came in 2011 when Lyme Bay and Torbay became a candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats and Species Directive; the site was formally designated a SAC in 2017.(2)

Vessels in Beer
Vessels in Beer, James Bowden Photos

A consequence of the ban on the use of any mobile demersal gears was a significant increase in the use of static gear by fishers. This led to a new conflict over whether the increased level of potting, an activity requiring a permit but with no limit on the number of vessels that can apply for permits, was compatible with achieving the nature conservation objectives of the protected area. A Lyme Bay Working Group was set up in 2011 by a conservation NGO, the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), to address this question, and to develop a series of voluntary best practice management measures that the fishers could sign up to and also benefit from, in what became known as the Lyme Bay Fisheries and Conservation Reserve. This encompasses the Lyme Bay and Torbay SAC.

BLUE established the Lyme Bay Consultative Committee bringing together the stakeholders, set up working groups and provided momentum for the development of management measures.

A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed to promote and implement best practice in fisheries and conservation management and a voluntary Code of Conduct was developed, which includes fitting of an Inshore Vessel Monitoring System (real-time monitoring)(3) and caps on the volume of fishing gear deployed by vessels within the Reserve. A Code of Conduct for recreational fishers has also been agreed.

Voluntary marine reserves have a long history in
the UK. The first was set up around the island of
Lundy (Devon) in 1973, in response to concern
that there was no legal protection for this area of
marine nature conservation importance. These
sorts of reserves were typically supported by a
consultative/management group that agreed
on voluntary measures such as defining areas
where extractive activities such as commercial
and recreational fishing and collection of
marine curios should be prohibited. They were
innovative in having a more collaborative and
inclusive approach, an idea that is now standard
practice in statutory marine protected areas.
The main challenge has always been getting
support and acceptance by groups that may be
negatively affected, such as those involved in
excluded types of fishing. Consequently, while
such areas have laid much of the groundwork for
protection, formalising some of the agreements,
for example through local bylaws, provides
clarity and certainty for all concerned.

A “Reserve Seafood” brand has been established to promote and guarantee all the criteria that define the provenance of assured fish and the sustainable small scale inshore fishers who catch them. Together with provision of on-site facilities designed to optimise freshness and condition at the market, such produce can be sold at a premium.

Other activities include the development of new markets and branding, investment in post-harvest icing infrastructure and knowledge-sharing and training, including a school outreach programme working with fishing ambassadors to engage young people and local communities.

Partnerships and support

The Lyme Bay Consultative Committee is chaired by BLUE. Most of its members are local fishers; there are also representatives of the Devon & Severn and the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, the Marine Management Organisation, Natural England, Dorset County Council, Devon County Council and the Sea Angling Trust, as well as scientists from Plymouth University. Other organisations (e.g. fish merchants and agents, charities) provide advice and expertise. The Memorandum of Understanding and the voluntary Code of Conduct is supported by fishers that use a wide range of different gears, as well as by regulators and BLUE.

Monitoring of fish stocks and the reefs is carried out by scientists from the University of Plymouth in partnership with fishers and the Devon & Severn and the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.

Seed funding of around £60,000 was provided by Marks & Spencer through BLUE. These and other partners from the private sector continue to provide some financial support, as do the UK government and the EU.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The measures introduced achieved the project’s objectives of preventing further damage to the reef habitats and indeed enabling some recovery, at the same time as resolving conflicts between the two types of fishers and promoting sustainable, premium quality, provenance-assured seafood from Lyme Bay.

In addition, over the period 2008-2016, there was a four-fold increase in the number of reef species, and, between 2013 and 2017, a doubling of scallop landings, a quadrupling of juvenile lobsters and 250 per cent increase in landings of brown crabs.

The well-being and livelihoods of fishers directly involved in the project have also improved. For example, measures such as installing chiller units in ports to maintain fresh catches and the development of Reserve Seafood to sell sustainably sourced fish and shellfish at a premium have both been very successful and popular with the local fishers involved. Job and income satisfaction of fishers involved with the Reserve activities has been high, and has gradually increased, showing that there have been both environmental and socioeconomic improvements.

The approach taken at Lyme Bay is being explored as a model for sustainable coastal fisheries management in other parts of the UK and elsewhere. In 2019, the BLUE project brought together artisanal fishers from Europe and Lyme fishers to exchange knowledge, skills and stories and discuss the future of low-impact, sustainable fishing. Feedback from Lyme fishers was extremely positive, with some asking to take part in further exchanges.

Axmouth fisherman
Axmouth fisherman, James Bowden Photos


The main challenges centre around engaging and building trust with stakeholders, especially those whose livelihoods are affected by the management measures. For example, not all fishers have signed the Memorandum of Understanding, particularly those who operate large boats or towed gears that are prohibited in the Reserve and therefore see no direct benefits. The approach taken is to keep communication open, offer to create a code for larger vessels and find projects that may be mutually advantageous.

The status of the management measures, as they currently stand, also presents a challenge. The Code of Conduct, which limits pots and nets to agreed levels, is voluntary; it is supported by and largely adhered to by local boats but is not enshrined in law. Consequently, there is no constraint on vessels that choose to ignore it. This has been a particular concern because of interest from fishers from further afield who are attracted to fish in the area because of its improving stocks, even if they cannot market their fish under the Reserve Seafood brand. A related issue is that, while there are voluntary agreed limits on the number of pots that can be deployed, there is no limit on the number of vessels that operate in the Reserve.

Continuity and ensuring that the collaboration between fishers, conservationists, scientists and regulators can carry on in the long term are also challenges. One aspect of this relates to financing the management, projects and initiatives that stakeholders wish to undertake. Seed funding started the process, and a variety of partners and stakeholders make financial contributions, but it is not self-financing.

Key lessons learnt

A voluntary approach to managing sustainable fisheries can be used to bring people together and find solutions that are good for fisheries and the environment. However, in the longer term, statutory backing for agreed measures is key to ensuring compliance and clarity. This is being advocated by the Consultative Committee and has widespread support, but has still to be taken forward by the regulators (the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities).

The marine protected area and conflicts around it over fisheries management brought things to a head but at the same time created the momentum for change. The principles and approach taken in Lyme Bay, such as the active involvement of stakeholders, the support of regulators and government agencies, financial support, promotion and education, can be applied in other locations, both within and outside areas of nature conservation importance.

Careful consideration needs to be given to the approach and level of financing to support such initiatives. Funding needs to be sufficient to make it work but at a level where partners have buy-in, and where there is a view to make it self-financing in the future.

If the work of the Lyme Bay Consultative Committee is to continue in the long term both locally and as a model for elsewhere, it is important to ensure that the lessons learnt are acted on, and that the stakeholders themselves become advocates for the approach.

Lead contact

David Tudor, Blue Marine Foundation


  1. The Lyme Bay Designated Area (Fishing Restrictions) Order 2008
  2. Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
  3. This is a remote tracking system using mobile phone networks
    rather than global satellite links, typically used to monitor
    artisanal or smaller fishing vessels under 12 m working close to
    the coast.


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Antigua & Barbuda to co-champion blue economy action for the Commonwealth

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the sustainable blue economy, alongside the current champion country, Kenya.

As a new co-champion, Antigua and Barbuda will work with Kenya, as well as the other action group members, to cooperatively develop sustainable blue economy strategies across Commonwealth countries, covering more than a third of the world’s coastal waters.

Blue Economy

The aim of a ‘blue’ economy is to support the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods, while protecting ocean health.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “It is very encouraging that Antigua and Barbuda, a ‘large ocean state’, has stepped forward to co-champion the sustainable stewardship of our vast ‘blue wealth’. This welcome milestone demonstrates the commitment of Commonwealth countries to leveraging ocean resources wisely, sustainably and responsibly, while tackling unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.

“In this regard, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for countries to proactively collaborate across borders to tackle shared ocean challenges.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas said: “We commend the Commonwealth on its development of the Blue Charter and in championing work on the sustainable blue economy.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long had a special relationship with the oceans.  We are, however, keen to understand more about the potential of our oceans as an economic growth area as well as balance this with protecting and promoting the health of our oceans. Antigua and Barbuda is committed to being an active member of this action group working alongside Kenya and all states who are members of this group.”

Prof. Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya added: “Kenya is very pleased to be able to welcome Antigua and Barbuda as a co-Champion. Kenya has long recognised the necessity to work together to build strong and resilient blue economies.  We look forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda moving forward.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment made by leaders of all 54 member countries to work together in tackling ocean challenges and fulfilling global commitments on ocean sustainability. It was endorsed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, UK in April 2018.

Ten Action Groups, led by 14 countries, implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, each focusing on a different ocean challenge, from marine pollution to climate change.

The Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy encourages better stewardship of ocean resources through actions such as sharing strategies and best practices, promoting green and blue innovative technologies, and financial instruments such as blue bonds and blue carbon credits. The group also seeks to empower coastal communities economically, while building their resilience to future shocks.

Fragments of Hope – Community-Led Coral Reef Restoration, Laughing Bird Caye National Park, Belize (on-going)

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Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) was declared in 1994 and is one of seven protected areas making up the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site. While the land area is just 1.4 acres, the marine component of the park is 4,095 hectares. This protected area is one of the best examples of the unique type of atoll formation in the Caribbean.

LBCNP provides significant social and economic benefits to the local society. It is an important tourism resource, with over 10,000 visitors per year, given its proximity to Placencia Village just 11 miles away, and it provides sheltered snorkeling sites. In 2017, the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University valued LBCNP at almost US$5million/year (Nawaz et al., 2017). Because the site has no fishing allowed, it harbours good populations of conch, lobster and finfish, which then spill into local fishing areas.

Fragments of Hope (FOH) is a non-profit communitybased organisation that was formally established in 2013; FOH focuses on the restoration of coral reef habitats and advocacy for sustainable management of associated habitats. LBCNP was the first restoration site in Belize (2006) by FOH and is considered by most experts the best example of reef restoration in the Caribbean.

This case study is presented as it is an example of responsible restoration that has persisted. There are significant long-term conservation and economic benefits of successful coral reef restoration – for example tourism and fisheries are key industries in Belize that rely on the health of the reef. Restoration is, however, still a new and evolving strategy for retaining coral reefs into the future and so it is important to share and draw from experience.

The issue

Tourism and fisheries are key industries in Belize that rely on the health of the reef. In Belize, the shallow reefs have been valued at more than US$9 million/year in preventative storm damage alone. Over the past couple of decades, there have been significant declines in coral cover in Belize, as is the case for the whole Caribbean region – especially for the dominant and structurally important Acropora palmata or Elkhorn coral. Acroporids are keystone or foundation species in the Caribbean, branching and fast-growing, and therefore provide habitat and shelter for hundreds of other marine species, including the commercially important Spiny lobster. They thrive in shallow water, and it is the top metre of living reef that provides the most shoreline protection. This species has been affected by hurricanes, bleaching and white band disease. Because of these declines, all Caribbean acroporids (two species, one hybrid) were listed as Endangered Species in the USA in 2006 and as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List in 2008.

In 2001, Laughing Bird Caye National Park (LBCNP) was affected directly by Hurricane Iris, a category 4 hurricane, which caused massive damage to the fringing reefs in southern Belize, reducing coral cover to less than 6 per cent.

The response

The response to the decline of coral cover was active restoration through the transplantation of corals (initially acroporid corals) within LBCNP. Fragmentation is a natural form of asexual reproduction for acroporid corals and a form of natural adaptation to the high-energy environments in which they live.

Mapping of existing acroporids has been conducted in the warmest months of the year to identify naturally thermally tolerant corals. Genetic analyses are outsourced to ensure genetic diversity since the corals can sexually reproduce, and many different individuals of each species are needed to ensure self-reproducing/ sustaining restored populations. Long-term monitoring includes tracking these different individuals over time for growth and survival rates, longevity, bleaching and disease responses and evidence of sexual reproduction (spawning). Since the acroporids can reproduce via fragmentation, Fragments of Hope (FOH) began using photomosaics in 2014 to document coral cover changes on 100–200 m2 plots within LBCNP.

The restoration efforts undertaken by FOH engaged the local community, including the local fishers and tourism operators as well as staff from the Belize Fisheries Department.

Partnerships and support

There are significant long-term conservation and economic benefits of successful coral reef restoration. While the FOH team implements all the active reef restoration, the Belize Fisheries Department and the Southern Environmental Association are close partners.

The work has had several funders over the years (2006-present), primarily through short-term grants written and implemented by FOH:

  • World Wildlife Fund (2009-present);
  • The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) (2015-2019);
  • Carib-Save (2015);
  • The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) (2014-2016);
  • The Mesoamerican Reef Fund (the MAR Fund) (2018-2019);
  • The Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (2011);
  • The World Bank (2010);
  • The Protected Areas Conservation Trust (2006- 2007);
  • Private sector donations (2016-present).

FOH partners with a local licensed tour operator, Placencia Ecology Tours, and with local fishers to provide tours of local coral and mangrove ecosystems. All net profits go back into the restoration activities and contribute to the sustainability of these efforts.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

A total of 82,879 nursery grown corals have been outplanted to LBCNP.

  • Annual coral cover increases of 10–20 per cent, after initial outplanting and without adding more corals, have been documented at LBCNP, where over 1 hectare of shallow degraded reef has been replenished and persisted.
  • Multiple genotypes of each species from these nursery-grown outplanted corals have sexually reproduced each year they were monitored (2014- 2017), with 89 per cent survival of the outplanted individuals after 13 years.
  • The approach has been endorsed by the Belize Fisheries Department.
  • A manual and three-day training curriculum have been developed targeting coastal community members and actors with interests in the reef. This helps transfer the knowledge for restoration of degraded reef areas within protected areas.
  • There are now 23 in-situ coral nurseries throughout Belize.
  • Exchanges, study visits and workshops have been conducted to share experience across the Caribbean, including in Colombia and St Barth’s: In 2016, IADB funded FOH and a coral restoration workshop in partnership with the University of the West Indies in Discovery Bay Jamaica. In 2018, there was a Belize/Mexico exchange facilitated by the MAR Fund and a Belize/ Jamaica exchange funded by GEF SGP.
  • In 2016, FOH received international recognition for its work to demonstrate effective Caribbean acroporid population enhancement from the International Coral Reef Symposium, and in 2017 the Lighthouse Activity Award from the UN Secretariat for Climate Change.
  • In 2018, FOH won a Women as Agents of Change Award from GEF SGP.
  • In 2018 and 2019, FOH was invited to speak at UN Headquarters on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62) and Solutions for Implementing Gender-Responsive Climate Action.


Consistent, long-term funding is always a challenge and, even when sourced, the amount of administrative work (financial and technical) can be time-consuming. Climate change itself continues unabated with the lack of global political initiative to reduce emissions. Challenges include unpredictable weather patterns for fieldwork; increasing severity and frequency of storm events; increasing sea temperatures leading to ever-increasing severity of coral bleaching and disease events; and illegal fishing practices that can cause imbalanced food webs important for keeping coral predators (snails, fire worms) in check. Finally, the methods needed to accurately quantify restoration results (e.g. diver-based photo mosaics, drone mapping for larger areas) are more costly than the restoration work itself, and the processing technology must be outsourced (lack of capacity in country).

Key lessons learnt

What was novel was the ability to engage all the different partners that were needed to enable success, so that everyone was able to move towards a common vision.

  • Involvement of local community and ownership of the restoration work has been very important for success and sustainability.
  • Use of the same practitioners to undertake the restoration work had a positive impact in terms of building expertise.
  • Other success factors identified include a low human population density, the protection of grazing species since 2009, the establishment of no-take zones and only undertaking out-planting outside of hurricane (and bleaching) season, between December and May.

The methods and experiences from the work undertaken by FOH have been documented and made available as pdf resources:

Lead contact

Beverly Wade, Fisheries Administrator, Fisheries Department, Belize Vivian Ramnarace, Fisheries Department, Belize Lisa Carne, Fragments of Hope


Carne, L. (2011) ‘Reef Restoration at Laughing Bird Cay National Park, Belize’. Mesoamericana 15(3): 21-30. Nawaz, S., Bood, N. and Shal, V. (2017) Natural Heritage, Natural Wealth: Highlighting the Economic Benefits of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site. WWF Technical Report.

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Case Study: Litter Intelligence Programme, New Zealand (on-going)

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences.

To share your own case study, please contact us

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“We cannot improve what we do not measure’ has become a common phrase in the environmental space. However, robust environmental monitoring programmes are few and far between, and where they do exist, communities are seldom engaged with the monitoring work and data that inform the decisions that shape their communities.

“Litter Intelligence provides these communities, and specifically schools, with a unique opportunity to connect with their local coastline, engage in critical monitoring work, and protect the places they love.”

Camden Howitt, Co-Founder and Coastlines Lead at Sustainable Coastlines


Led by New Zealand charity Sustainable Coastlines, Litter Intelligence collects data, provides insights and inspires action towards reducing marine litter. Launched in May 2018, Litter Intelligence is a long-term programme that combines citizen-science beach litter monitoring and innovative teacher training and education to build a strong understanding of the problem and solutions for litter in the marine environment.

To collect and input litter data, Sustainable Coastlines engages communities around New Zealand, providing the training, equipment and technology required for people to take part in the programme as “Citizen Scientists”. By working to a United Nations Environment Programme/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission methodology (Cheshire et al., 2009), data are collected with a high standard of scientific rigour, for use for national, regional and international reporting, including the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The programme focuses on solving the litter problem long term, with an innovative education programme that inspires and enables educators and their students to connect with nature and take action on litter in their local community, all the while gaining curriculum credits.

To roll out the education programme, the charity provides professional development training for educators. The approach is innovative and holistic, and is structured around a robust behavioural change framework. It focuses on educator professional development rather than resource design, so educational impacts are long term and scalable.

All data and training resources are freely and openly available through the purpose-built Litter Intelligence platform at

The issue

Plastics reach the marine environment through a variety of land- and sea-based human activities; therefore, marine litter results from human behaviour, whether accidental or intentional. Any measure to address the issue of marine litter must thus also seek to educate and inform communities, to ultimately alter human behaviour. To understand which measures will have the greatest impact in relation to reducing quantities of plastics in the marine environment, it must first be understood which items are most commonly found, and where these items originate (the source). Although marine plastic pollution is a global issue, the quantities and types of plastic, as well as their individual sources, vary greatly depending on where you are in the world. As such, any country or organisation wishing to take action on reducing marine plastics must first understand the specific issues in the area considered (be this a stretch of coastline, a municipality, a small island, a region or even an entire country).

One of the best indicators of types and quantities of marine plastics in any given area is the presence of plastics at the coast, or more specifically on beaches.

Monitoring of litter on the coastline is also one of the most accessible ways to gather data on marine plastics, as no specific scientific apparatus is required, and reliable, consistent data can be collected at a relatively low cost.

The response

Litter Intelligence provides local communities with the means to tackle specific marine litter issues in their local areas, by inspiring and informing better decisions for a world without litter. It does this by connecting people to nature, engaging communities with citizen science, and arming them with influencing tools with innovative and holistic education. The programme incorporates the following two components:

  1. A school education programme (primary and secondary) and teacher professional development that focus on the connection between nature and positive behaviour change, rather than simply education and awareness on marine litter. Through the programme, the school also adopts and monitors a nearby beach. Schools are provided with training to undertake the monitoring, and an inquiry-based programme that builds on the data collected at the local beach (e.g. integrated learning experiences ranging from maths, statistically analysing data, to crafting a response through the arts), working towards encouraging school communities to identify specific issues in their local area and take action to address these.
  2. An ongoing Citizen Science beach litter monitoring programme, in which school-based Citizen Scientists are an integral part of a nationwide programme and network of other monitoring groups. The data collected contribute to an official national litter database, which presents analysis of the data submitted and includes quality assurance and quality control to ensure data quality. The volunteer groups are permitted to submit data only if they have undergone the dedicated Litter Intelligence training. Confidence in the data is such that the New Zealand government uses it to inform policy

The programme is built on standardised beach litter monitoring, which is a localised adaptation of the United Nations Environment Programme/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission methodology (Cheshire et al., 2009).

Partnerships and support

Litter Intelligence is led by New Zealand charity Sustainable Coastlines, in close collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Statistics New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. The project is funded by the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund. The initial funding was for NS$2.7 million, and included design and development of the programme, as well as its operation (May 2018– April 2021). Sustainable Coastlines is currently seeking funding(1) to extend Litter Intelligence as a core on-going programme in New Zealand and to expand its reach to countries around the Pacific, and eventually around the world.

The programme was initially launched through a nongovernmental organisation statement at the UN Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017, and was subsequently listed as a voluntary commitment on the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 Ocean Action platform.

Litter Intelligence was also introduced to participants at the Pacific Environment Forum in Apia, Samoa, in September 2019. Alongside this, the charity ran training and an initial litter survey with forum attendees and staff from the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The Litter Intelligence Programme has been running since May 2018 and has already has significant impacts on policy, environment, awareness, behaviour change and community action.

The Litter Intelligence database is fully operational and set up to house data from anywhere in the world, although it currently contains only data from New Zealand and a pilot monitoring site in Samoa. The education programme has been established in 13 New Zealand schools, with dozens more schools around the country soon to join.

Litter Intelligence has informed national-level SDG monitoring efforts; the programme was included in New Zealand’s first Voluntary National Review on the SDGs, presented at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2019 (for the SDG indicator 14.1.1 on marine plastics). As the data from Litter Intelligence inform the SDG monitoring and reporting efforts, the programme is expected to have a global-level impact on policy (MFAT, 2019: 101).

In October 2019, Litter Intelligence beach litter data were also included in “Our Marine Environment”, an official government report. This was the first time that marine litter data had been included in official reporting, and the first time that Citizen Science data had been accepted at this highest national reporting level (Stats NZ and Ministry for Environment, 2019: 29-31).


Three main challenges identified during implementation in New Zealand and through working with other countries around the Pacific Islands are as follows:

  1. Cultural adaptation. Ensuring all communities (including indigenous communities such as the tangata whenua (māori) communities in New Zealand) are equally reached requires much more than simply language translation and needs to be done with a holistic cultural lens and in direct consultation with the communities it aims to serve.
  2. Funding and resources. While the programme is funded for a three-year design and development phase, long-term funding is always challenging. The charity is investigating a range of sources for long-term programme resourcing.
  3. Standardisation. The majority of challenges with standardisation have been addressed through a robust training programme, making use of technology and strong communication tools. However, citizen science programmes by their nature require on-going training and support to ensure data quality.

Key lessons learnt

Sustainable Coastlines has concluded that education resources and technology alone cannot engage communities and develop capacity. Communities need human contact, training and support to continue to motivate and inspire them to engage with the programme. The vast majority of the environmental education programmes researched tend to focus on lesson plans and resource production, or some combination of these, while the overwhelming majority of behaviour change research suggests that these approaches have limited effect. This programme focuses on a holistic and innovative approach that does more to support (often) under-resourced schools with the hands-on environmental engagement needed to create long-term change.

Lead contact

Camden Howitt, Sustainable Coastlines: [email protected]


Cheshire, A.C., Adler, E., Barbière, J., Cohen, Y. et al. (2009) “UNEP/IOC Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter”. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 186; IOC Technical Series No. 83.

MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) (2019) “He Waka Eke Noa: Towards a Better Future, Together. New Zealand’s Progress towards the SDGS 2019”. Voluntary National Review. New-Zealand-Voluntary-National-Review-2019-Final. pdf

Stats NZ and Ministry for the Environment (2019) “Our Marine Environment 2019”. publications/environmental-reporting/our-marineenvironment-2019


  1. The estimated costs to support and maintain the national Citizen Science and Education programme in New Zealand, as well as support the technology behind it, are estimated at between NS$250,000 and $300,000 per year. To expand the programme to additional countries (e.g. Pacific Island countries) it is estimated that between $100,000 and $150,000 will be required per country, plus around $15,000 per year for support and maintenance.



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Commonwealth Blue Charter joins the search for first Earthshot Prize winners

The Commonwealth Blue Charter, the Commonwealth’s flagship programme on ocean cooperation, has been invited to join a leading line-up of official nominators for the prestigious Earthshot Prize.

The Earthshot Prize is an ambitious global environment prize launched by His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, that seeks to stimulate innovative solutions to the world’s most urgent environmental problems while improving living standards, particularly for communities most vulnerable to climate change.

Nominations open today for five awards worth £1 million each, highlighting impactful contributions to the following five goals or “Earthshots”: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; Build a Waste-Free World and Fix our Climate.

As one of the Earthshot Prize’s Global Alliance of Partners, the Commonwealth Blue Charter team will bring its expertise and a global reach to the search for candidates in at least one of those areas. Nominees could be individuals, teams or organisations, from a wide range of sectors including public, private and grassroots.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Our Commonwealth Blue Charter team is extremely honoured to be selected to become a Global Alliance Partner supporting the pioneering and inspirational work of The Earthshot Prize.

“The Commonwealth has long been a leading champion of multilateral cooperation to protect and conserve the natural environment, mobilising awareness and action on the issue of climate change and pioneering international cooperation to protect and manage our oceans.

“Through the Commonwealth Blue Charter, all 54 of our member countries make far-reaching commitments to work together proactively on ocean governance and conservation of marine resources, and to address ocean-related challenges and implement policies to use the bounty of the deep in ways which are sustainable.”

The nations of the Commonwealth have jurisdictions covering a third of the world’s coastal oceans, 42 per cent of coral reefs, and they include the majority of the world’s small island developing states – more aptly described as ‘large ocean states’.

Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline, where many communities rely on the ocean for life and livelihoods. This brings special awareness of the interdependence and connectedness of natural ecosystems, both on land and sea.

The Secretary-General continued: “I believe the innovation, collaboration and drive which the Commonwealth Blue Charter expresses, align perfectly with the objectives and values of The Earthshot Prize. We are thrilled by this fresh opportunity to shine the spotlight on the many imaginative environmental projects and conservation programmes currently emerging from Commonwealth countries.”

The Earthshot Prize will be awarded every year from 2021 to 2030, for a decade of action on the environment.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an agreement by all 54 Commonwealth countries adopted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 2018. At the summit, all member states agreed to actively cooperate to solve ocean-related problems and meet commitments for sustainable ocean development, with particular emphasis on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

To achieve this, 10 Action Groups implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, led by 13 ‘Champion countries’ that have stepped forward to coordinate action on 10 key issues they have identified as priorities, supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Blue Charter Team.

For more information about The Earthshot Prize, visit: