Written by Jorge Varela Marquez / Goldman Prize recipient (1999)
Translated by Mira Maude Chouinard
Land (and water) grabbing and loss of biodiversity is taking place in the wetlands of Ramsar Site #1000 and the Protected Areas (PAs) of the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras, mainly due to shrimp aquaculture. The institutions responsible for conserving these ecosystems, such as the Instituto de Conservación Forestal (ICF), the Honduran Forestry Conservation Institute, and Mi Ambiente (MiA), the country’s Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Mining Ministry, are unable or unwilling to enforce the environmental essence of their statements and those made by the president of Honduras.
There are 4 business entrepreneurs in the Gulf in Fonseca who are taking over the wetlands along a large portion of the southern coast. The Spanish transnational corporation’s (owned by Mr. Jaime Soriano and managed by countryman Antonio Cano) shrimp farm El Faro, was the first to violate Decree 5-99-e of the Declaration of Protected Areas (PA) in 2000 and destroyed about 100 hectares of the PA and Ramsar Site La Berbería, along with the acquiescence of state officials and the endorsement of the government’s forces. The actual offense was committed with impunity, and now the rest of La Berbería is under threat of destruction. Complaints of Cano’s actions reached the ICF and MiA, but they failed in their duty. The original El Faro Shrimp Farm colapsed and new farms expanded on tens of hectares in La Berbería; this time with the complicity of some fishermen and the sad silence of the NGO that was once a proprietor of its declaration as a protected area.
On February 14, 2017, the complaint about this ecocide was formally presented, but the ICF and MiA remained silent. On February 15, the newspaper El Heraldo published the headline: “The European Union can RESTRICT ACCESS TO SHRIMP FOR MANGROVE LOGGING". The article mentions other cases of protected areas being grabbed and converted to shrimp farms. Almost immediately, on February 17, MiA retorts in El Heraldo, “Environment Ministry would fine SHRIMP FARMERS WHO HAVE DESTROYED PROTECTED AREAS”. In this regard, it should be noted that if the fine does not include the recovery and restoration of the intervention area, it can be perceived as mockery and complicity.
To worsen the situation of the official environmental policy, the digital journal Criterio writes "EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY REQUESTS END OF PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT BETWEEN EUROPEAN UNION AND HONDURAS”. This was presented on the anniversary of the murder of environmentalist Bertha Cáceres and also proposes cutting off bilateral aid to the Honduran state, particularly in the Eurojustice program.
In response to this threat, it should become a priority to truly protect the environment, to do justice to those who gave their lives in the fight for the conservation of territories and to protect other environmentalists exposed to the threat of extractive companies.
Of the 3 Goldman Prize winners in Honduras who were recognized internationally for their environmental struggle, one of them escaped the country, another was killed (Bertha), and only one remains.
For how long?