Shearman & Sterling advised The Nature Conservancy (TNC) pro bono in the creation of “Blue Bonds” to refinance $500 million of Gabon’s national debt which will generate an expected $163 million in new funding for ocean conservation.
For more than seven years, Shearman & Sterling has provided pro bono legal services to TNC, including transactional advice and legal research on a wide variety of topics that aid the organization’s global environmental efforts. The Firm previously represented TNC, one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, in similar Blue Bonds transactions on behalf of the governments of Barbados and Belize.
This innovative transaction with the government of Gabon is the first conservation-focused ‘debt conversion’ involving a country in mainland Africa, and the largest amount of new debt raised as part of the TNC’s “Blue Bonds for Ocean Conservation” program. TNC’s pilot program of debt conversion for marine conservation was with the Seychelles.
Gabon’s beaches and coastal waters host the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles—as much as 30 percent of the global population of this endangered species—and their most important nesting sites. Gabon is also home to one of the largest olive ridley turtle rookeries in the Atlantic, and to the Atlantic humpback dolphin, recently classified as critically endangered.
The Blue Bonds project will help finance a Marine Spatial Plan with the aim to increase the area of ocean under protection, improve management in currently protected areas, and all new protected areas, and support Gabon’s sustainable ‘blue economy.’ This project will also help Gabon strengthen and enforce regulations in its fishing industry whereby some estimates, $610 million annually is lost to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.