Ecuador outlaws mangrove destruction for shrimp farming

The purchase of coastal mangrove forests by the aquaculture industry in order to exploit their natural resources has been declared illegal by the President of the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador.

The new law is designed to decrease the destruction of the country’s mangrove forests, which, according to Greenpeace, have been reduced by approximately half over the past 30 years by the shrimp aquaculture industry (150,000 hectares). Mangrove forests have been cut down by shrimp farmers, blocking the natural flow of water through the estuaries, damaging habitats and the traditional way of life of the coastal communities, says the organisation.

“This historic ruling is a clear signal to the aquaculture industry that things are changing in Ecuador and that local fishermen and concheros are finally being heard,” said Mike Hagler of Greenpeace International. “The state has given us the legal instruments to protect the environment and to act against the illegal shrimp farming exploitations.” The organisation is confident that the new regulation, passed on the 12 December, has now been made part of the constitution of the country, and will be enforceable and effective, a Greenpeace spokesperson told edie.

In Latin American and Asian countries, thousands of families are forced out by developments destroying coastal biodiversity, often forcing them to migrate to urban centres, according to Greenpeace.

In October, hundreds of people from Ecuadorian coastal communities, together with Greenpeace activists, succeeded in breaking a dike surrounding an illegal shrimp farm in the El Oro Province of Ecuador, and reforested the area.

“My hope for the future is to stay in my place of origin,” said Genaro Perca, a local community leader and activist, at the time of the protest. “I’m willing to give my life to save these lands. I need for my children and grand children to know the mangroves. I don’t want mangroves to become a lost part of history.”

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