Friday, April 13, 2012

EXECUTIVE DECREE 1391 FOR THE ‘LEGALISATION’ OF SHRIMP FARMING INDUSTRY:

Industrial shrimp farming is the principal cause of the destruction of Ecuador’s mangrove ecosystem and the displacement, from their ancestral territories, of thousands of families of small-scale fishermen and crustacean harvesters. The government of Ecuador, through an executive decree of October 2008 is ‘legalising’ this predatory activity, threatening community and environmental rights.

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 Ecuador’s 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 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 Ecuador 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.

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 [1] 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 [2] 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 Ecuador’s 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 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 2,500 hectares of mangrove forest through natural regeneration, through reforestation by mangrove community organisations, and by the Coastal Resources Management Programme; the 2006 data were presented again in 2012, the result of an ‘illegal’ process of regularisation of industrial shrimp farming which started in 2008.

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.

[1] Reflected in the reforestation of more than 80 hectares in a salt panin El Oro province, within the Dry Forest and Sand Mangroves NaturalReserve.
María Dolores
VeraPresident,
C-CONDEM
ecwww.ccondem.org.ec

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