In relation to the article ‘Shrimp farmers manage to recover mangroves‘ published on
28 March 2012
(www.fis.com), which mentions that through the reforestation plan, the
Ecuadorian shrimp industry managed to recover 1,6% of the total area of the
existing mangroves in 1999. The following points should be noted:
The 1391 Decree, which is in effect rewarding
shrimp farming sector, is illegal and unconstitutional. The 1391 Decree
regularises (i.e. grants concessions), shrimp farms constructed on areas of
mangrove previously deforested illegally by the industry, as mentioned in the
same decree. At the same time, the decree calls for a reforestation level of 10%
when the area of the aquaculture installation covers up to Ecuador 10 hectares, 20% when it covers
from 11 to 50 hectares,
and 30% from 51 to 250 hectares.
But it should be noted that mangroves are protected in
by a legal framework – since 1960 by the Marine Policy Code and since August 1981
by the Forestry Law – and given a Decree can’t override a Law according to the
order of precedence of the national legal framework, 100% of the cleared areas
should for this reason be reforested, as stipulated by this law. Ecuador
The 1391 Decree is a reward for the shrimp farming sector and a backward step in the application of environmental and community rights. Official comment has attributed benefits resulting from the supposed recovery of mangroves that are still in actual fact occupied illegally by shrimp farms. Furthermore, reforestation carried out by the sector (when it has taken place) hasn’t achieved restoration of areas, such as shrimp ponds, that were previously covered by mangrove, but has instead reforested areas which never have been, and never will be, adequate for mangrove planting, such as flats fishing, salt pans and beaches  or on sandbanks where forest could never regenerate. The aquaculture industry has also attempted to claim as reforestation efforts areas that were previously reforested either through local community initiatives or by natural regeneration; the figure of 1.6% of mangroves recovered by the aquaculture industry reported in the FIS article  is therefore patent nonsense and untrue.
It is important to emphasise that we can’t talk about mangrove restoration with reference to a 1999 baseline (the reference year of the FIS article), given that approximately 70% of
coastal mangrove ecosystem had already been destroyed by then, principally as
the result of the shrimp farming sector (the Ministerial Agreement 498 of the
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, published in the Official Register on 24
December 1986, and rectified by the Ministry through the Ministerial Agreement Ecuador 238 in 1987, recognised 362,802 hectares of mangrove
ecosystem at that time).
In 2006 the Centre for Integrated Survey of Natural Resources by Remote Sensing (CLIRSEN) reported the recovery of
More than three years after the Executive Decree 1391 for the ‘legalisation’ of the destruction of the mangrove ecosystem, complete information is still lacking regarding the number of hectares of ponds that have been ‘legalised’ in practice, the area of mangrove forest reforested to comply with this ‘legalisation’ and their exact locations, and how much was paid to the state by companies to obtain the concessions granted them by the Subsectretariat of Aquaculture.
The Decree stipulates the removal of shrimp ponds installed in protected areas, however there is no information on how many ponds have been removed. For example, the ponds belonging to the company “Purocongo” located in the “Cayapas Mataje Mangrove Reserve” in the north of Esmeralda province should have been removed, given they were constructed after thedeclaration of the protected area; however they are still operating.
Deforestation greatly affects artisanal fishing communities who have seen their fishing areas reduced, and in many areas it contributes to increased sedimentation of estuaries, causing serious problems affecting both the mangrove ecosystem and its human communities.
Furthermore, mangrove communities, which already suffer from travel restrictions through areas that have traditionally offered them free passage, have experienced an increase in violence. In the last 12 months two shellfish harvesters have died in El Oro province, as well as a shrimp farm guard in Manabí province, electrocuted on the walls of shrimp pools; it is not only guards gunfire and dogs that threaten the lives of mangrove community families, but also electrified fencing. For mangrove communities the right to work has turned into a death penalty.
 Reflected in the reforestation of more than