The purchase and destruction of mangrove forests for aquaculture exploitation has been declared illegal by the President of the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) of Ecuador.(1)

Greenpeace and the communities fighting against shrimp farming have demanded that the Ecuadorean Government impose a moratorium on shrimp farm expansion, shut down all of the illegal shrimp farms, and impose heavy fines on the illegal operators to pay for restoration of the mangrove ecosystems that they destroyed.

“This historic ruling is a clear signal to the aquaculture industry that things are changing in Ecuador and that the local fishermen and concheros are finally being heard. The state has given us the legal instruments to protect the environment and to act against the illegal shrimp farming exploitations,” said Mike Hagler of Greenpeace International.

Over the past 30 years, about half of Ecuador’s mangrove forests have been destroyed by the shrimp aquaculture industry (150,000 hectares). Shrimp farmers clearcut the mangrove forests and block the natural flow of water through the estuaries killing the rich network of life that inhabits these forests and sustains the coastal communities’ traditional way of life.

“This decision is a landmark in the fight against aquaculture exploitation in Ecuador. It is the first time that our coastal communities have received a favourable legal decision in their 10-years struggle to defend the mangroves,” added Hagler. “The decision of the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador is a recognition of our efforts to protect the mangroves and attempts to restore the priceless ecosystem devastated by the greedy expansion of the shrimp farm industry over the past thirty years.”

A presidential decree in 1994 guaranteed a moratorium on mangrove destruction in Ecuador. Few respected it, and Greenpeace estimates of official statistics suggest that, of the 207,000 hectares of shrimp ponds existing today, nearly three-quarters are illegal.

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The cost to the environment and local communities of shrimp farming is enormous. The destruction of mangrove forests to make way for the farms causes potentially irreversible damage to coastal biodiversity and productive fisheries in tropical coastal countries around the world. In Latin American and Asian countries, thousands of families are forced out by the developments and often their only hope for survival is to migrate to urban centres, where work is scare, or even overseas to Europe and the United States.

Mike Hagler, Greenpeace International, tel.+1 202 319 24 75 (in Washington)
Luisa Colasimone, Greenpeace Communication, mobile +31 6 21 29 69 20 (in Amsterdam)

1- Twenty-two articles from the Ecuadorean Law Trole II were declared unconstitutional on 12th December, including Article 164 that allowed the Ecuadorean state to sell to the shrimp industrials zones of beaches and bays where the mangrove ecosystem lives and develops.