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January 21, 2014

Ecuador

Video—The Mangroves Have Become War Zones

 

   

 

This 27-minute, high-definition video focuses on Ecuador’s shrimp farming industry, its mangroves and the fishermen who are battling shrimp farmers for control of the country’s estuaries.  Told from the fishermen’s point of view, it’s a high-quality, well-research documentary with shots of shrimp ponds, mangroves, processing plants, estuaries, guard dogs, fishing villages, crab fishing, government patrols—and the people who live in the lowlands around the Gulf of Guayaquil.  The first eight minutes of the video provide an overview of the shrimp farming industry, and the last nineteen minutes discuss environmental problems and the plight of the small-scale fishermen who have been displaced by the farms.

 

Shrimp News: Even though this video (link below) paints a negative picture of shrimp farming in Ecuador, I recommend that everyone in the world watch it to get a good look at the mangroves, the shrimp farms around the Gulf of Guayaquil—and to see what the shrimp farming industry is up against.  If you have the option of expanding the video to full-screen mode, do it, and you will see even more.

 

 

Edited Excerpts from the Transcript that Accompanies the Video

 

Ecuador is the fifth largest producer of shrimp in the world, generating over a billion dollars a year.  While the industry is a prosperous one, it has been developed at a huge cost to fishermen and the environment.

 

Nature has been poorly treated, weakened, endangered—and more importantly—the population whose livelihoods depend on the mangroves is being endangered, says Lider Gongora, an environmental activist, highlighting how the fragile ecosystem has been devastated by extensive shrimp farming.  The expanding shrimp farming industry is pushing whole communities off their land.  Between the shrimp farmers who control the land and the desperate fisherman fighting for their rights to it—the estuaries have become war zones.

 

The shrimp industry employs 250,000 people and generates over one billion dollars a year.  After oil, it’s the second largest source of income for this small country of 14 million people.  Every day, over 60 tons of shrimp are being peeled, sorted and packaged in Ecuador.  Nothing goes to waste.  Everything is used.  The shrimp heads are used to make pet food, or mixed with animal meal to feed either shrimp or fish.

 

Lider Gongora, an environmental activist, says, Ecuador used to have 362,000 hectares of mangroves.  According to the official governmental statistics, there are barely 108,000 left.  The small-scale fishermen who live in the villages along the coast are the ones who suffer the most from the loss of the mangroves.

 

Two hours south of Guayaquil, a few miles away from the Pacific Ocean, you can find the largest concentration of farms in the country.  Esca Pesca’s 20-pond, 230-hectare shrimp farm produces 500 metric tons of shrimp a year.  The days of the small producer are gone; today it is all about industrial farming.  Farmers no longer use antibiotics, replacing them with organic acids and essential oils.  It’s all about being close to nature.  It’s all about treating the land in a natural way.

 

Some desperate fishermen engage in criminal acts and destroy farms as a sign of protest.  They loot the farms to sell the shrimps at local markets.  Truckloads of stolen shrimps supply a parallel market.  The shrimp are sold for about 50 cents per kilo, which is three times cheaper than the official price.  A small percentage of these fishermen have gotten into organized piracy.  In order to fight this, Coast Guard units have been strengthened.  The pirates are well-organized.  They steal shrimp and pumps.  They also steal the phones, money and even the clothes of the employees.  They come in gangs of twenty men, all armed.  Sometimes they get away with as much as ten metric tons of shrimp.  They also attack the boats that carry the shrimp to processing plants.  The Coast Guard is often powerless when faced with this situation, and most of the attacks are not reported for fear of retaliation.  Farmers use packs of dogs and armed militias to protect their farms.

 

Source: Journeyman Weekly.  Video: Ecuador/Surviving Without ShrimpWide Angle Productions (November 2013).  Producer, Véronique Mauduy.  January 20, 2014.

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