Versi Bahasa
Down to Earth No. 58, August 2003

Shrimp business destroys mangroves and livelihoods

Shrimp exports from developing countries - including Indonesia - are bringing foreign exchange earnings to exporter governments and profits to entrepreneurs. But the real price is being paid by communities whose coastal resources are wrecked both by commercial shrimp farms and shrimp trawling.

Forestry Minister Prakosa warned in May this year against the total destruction of mangrove forests in Indonesia. He said that strong determination and commitment was required to prevent further damage. His comments would be well directed towards colleagues in other government departments who are promoting shrimp farming. By doing so they continue to support production practices that devastate the coastal environment and further marginalise impoverished coastal communities.

Indonesia's aquaculture exports were valued by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at over US$2 billion in the year 2000 - high earnings for a debt-ridden country. But the environmental and social costs, borne by local people, are not calculated. Coastal communities are already among Indonesia's poorest - the Asian Development Bank reckons that around 80% are below the poverty line - and this process of impoverishment looks set to continue unless there is a radical policy rethink.

The devastating impact of shrimp farms on Indonesia's coastal marine environment has been well-documented for many years - since the shrimp farm boom first came to Asia in the 1980s. Mangrove coastlines cleared for farms can no longer protect coastal abrasion, provide breeding grounds for coastal fish species or provide the wood, medicinal leaves and other resources used by local communities. The intensive shrimp farms themselves are unsustainable - they need high levels of chemical inputs, pollute local coastal waters with waste and cause saltwater intrusion into rice-fields and other agricultural lands.

According to the World Rainforest Movement, since 1992 shrimp production has been affected by virus attacks, prompting investors to abandon infected shrimp ponds and seek new places to exploit. Recent reports of failed shrimp harvests in Indonesia blame the 'white spot' virus. In Java, new areas are being sought along the southern coasts, as some of the intensively cultivated ponds along the northern coast succumb to virus attacks.

The area under intensive or semi-intensive shrimp cultivation in Indonesia has expanded since the mid-1980s with financial assistance from the ADB and the World Bank (1983 and 1984). By 1998 the area covered by shrimp ponds covered 305,000 hectares. The government has said that 860,000 hectares of mangrove forests (at least one third of the remaining mangrove area) are available for conversion to shrimp ponds.

The development of shrimp farms in Indonesia has also been associated with human rights abuses, through land seizures, violent suppression of protests, and appalling labour conditions for shrimp farm workers.

Some of the worst incidents occurred at the biggest commercial ventures in southern Sumatra, including the deaths of one farmer and tow policemen at the PT Dipasena Citra Darmaja shrimp farm in Lampung (see DTE 45).

The credit system used by most Tambak Inti Rakyat (nucleus / smallholder) schemes leads poor farmers into a debt trap. Private companies provide fry, feed, chemical inputs and technical support to smallholders. They must then sell their product back to the company until their 'loan' is paid off.

Trawling for wild shrimp puts further pressure on coastal livelihoods

The Indonesian government is relying on the illegal shrimp trawling industry to fulfil high-earning export targets. This is the conclusion of the Indonesian environmental NGO, SKEPHI, who says that shrimp collected by small-scale fisherfolk cannot meet the high targets.* Instead, shrimp trawls are plundering coastal waters despite being banned in Indonesia's western waters since 1980.

Illegal trawling has caused serious and sometimes violent conflict between small-scale coastal fishing communities and trawler operators whose operations are depleting local fish stocks (see for example DTE 51). Shrimp trawling has a very high level of "bycatch" or non-target fish caught along with the shrimp. In Indonesia, according to the Ecological Justice Foundation, this is estimated as high as 26:1 meaning that 26kg of other species were caught for each 1 kg of the targeted shrimp. Bycatches are typically discarded, dead or dying, back into the sea. In Indonesia shrimp trawling bycatch is estimated at between 40,000 and 170,000 tonnes per year.

*In 2000 Indonesia's wild shrimp production of 260,400 tonnes was third highest in the world after China and India. According to ISAnet newsletter, April 2000, the UK imports almost 25,000 tons of tropical prawns per year. No distinction is made in trade statistics between wild caught and farmed shrimp. Packaged products rarely display full information about where and how they have been produced.

(Source: SKEPHI report in Late Friday News Edition 103, received 23/Sep/02; EJF Squandering the Seas, 2003 at

New coastal law

It remains to be seen how shrimp production will be affected when Indonesia's new law on coastal and small islands management is passed. The draft law (RUU PWP-PPK) includes some significant provisions for coastal communities, including recognition of adat (customary) systems of coastal resource management. Although the drafting process has included consultations with communities, NGOs and other stakeholders, there is some concern among the NGO community that their needs are not being adequately addressed and that key stakeholders have not been included in discussions.

(Source: Learning CBCRM newsletter, April 2003; AFP 7/Dec/03; Asia Pulse/Antara 14/May/03;; Late Friday News, various editions at; Jakarta Post 14/Nov/03; Kompas 23/Apr/03, 17/Dec/02; Mangroves, local livelihoods vs. corporate profits, WRM December 2002, p.53)

Drastic decline: mangroves and poverty in Indonesia
Decrease in Indonesia's wetlands
(mangroves, swamps, peatlands)
42.5 m ha in 1987
33.8 m ha 2002
Wetlands International in Jakarta Post 14/Nov/02
Decrease in mangrove area due to fish ponds 3.2 m ha in 1986
– 2.4 m ha in 1996
Wetlands International in Jakarta Post 14/Nov/02
Mangrove area
Of which seriously damaged
8.6 m ha
68% (5.8 m ha)
Forestry Minister M Prakosa in Asia Pulse/Antara 15/May/03
Global decline in mangroves From 19.8 m ha in 1980
to less than 15 m ha in 2000
FAO new figures
Indonesia's mangrove area in 2000
(This is still the largest in the world)
2,930 000
Remaining mangrove area in 2000 2.2 m ha WALHI (in DTE 51, Nov 2001)
Foreign exchange earnings target from shrimp exports US$6.79 bn by 2003 Fisheries Development Policy
Coastal communities living below poverty line Around 80% ADB in AFP 7/Dec/02

EJF report highlights growing global problem

A new report published by the UK based charity, Ecological Justice Foundation, documents how large increases in shrimp consumption in the USA, Europe and Japan are continuing to take a heavy toll on the livelihoods and environment of peoples living in coastal regions of developing countries particularly in Asia and Latin America. Up to 38% of global mangrove loss has been attributed to shrimp farming and, in some countries, shrimp farming has been the principal threat to mangrove ecosystems.

Since the 1980s, when the shrimp farming boom took off, global farmed shrimp production has rocketed to 1,083,641 metric tonnes (2000), valued at over US$6.8 billion. Today, 28% of shrimp consumed are farmed, compared to about 5% in the early 1980s.

Smash and Grab: conflict, corruption & human rights abuses in the shrimp farming industry links intensive shrimp farms to cases of illegal land seizure, false imprisonment, forced labour, summary expulsion, enforced resignation, intimidation, rape, arson, violence, torture and murder enacted upon poor and vulnerable communities. People have been killed in violence linked to the shrimp industry in at least eleven countries: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"Although shrimp farming has brought employment and revenue to some, the industry's social impacts are sufficiently widespread and grave to warrant immediate attention from the financial institutions, governments, global seafood industry, retailers, and consumers who, together, continue to promote the industry's expansion at significant cost to the rights and livelihoods of the rural poor in a number of developing nations."

EJF is calling on the governments of shrimp importing countries to avoid channelling overseas development aid into projects that promote unregulated, unsustainable or inequitable expansion of shrimp farming. It wants to see independently developed and monitored certification schemes aimed at ensuring social equity and environmental sustainability.

The full report is on EJF's website at A report on the impact of shrimp trawling Squandering the seas: how shrimp trawling is threatening ecological integrity and food security around the world, (2003) is also on the EJF site.

For more information on global action to save mangroves, July 26th, contact

see ISAnet's website at for information on global shrimp trade action and consumer campaigns on supermarket shrimps/prawns.

Ramsar countries fail to act against unsustainable shrimp farming

Countries should put words into action to protect wetlands, said representatives of local communities, indigenous peoples and NGOs attending the 8th meeting of contracting parties (COP8) to the Ramsar Convention in Spain, December 2002.

The Ramsar Convention, drafted in 1971, secures the agreement of countries to protect wetland areas. Indonesia, which ratified the convention in 1991, has two international Ramsar sites: Berbak National Park in Jambi and Lake Sentarum Reserve in West Kalimantan.

At Ramsar COP7, a resolution was adopted urging countries to suspend the expansion of unsustainable aquaculture in coastal wetlands until adequate studies are carried out and sustainable practices have been developed. But this has been ignored by Ramsar countries, said the NGOs. The representatives' statement also regretted the lack of political will to deal with damaging sectors such as large dams, water diversion schemes, oil exploration and exploitation and unsustainable aquaculture. The groups criticised the fact that very little had been done to ensure the effective participation in Ramsar of local communities, indigenous peoples and NGOs.

(Source: 'Statement to COP8 Final Plenary', 26/Nov/02 in MAP's Late Friday News 107th Edition, received 8/Dec/02;

Marine protected areas to be doubled

Indonesia has pledged virtually to double its marine protected areas over the next three years to cover 10 million hectares, fisheries minister Rokhmin Dahuri announced in June. Conservation International, the US-based conservation organisation, has agreed to provide an initial US$ 1 million to create a trust fund for marine protected areas. CI said it was "extremely impressed" with the minister's decision.

Marine protection in Indonesia has attracted some controversy in recent months due to the privatisation plans for the Komodo National Park, which are being opposed by Indonesian NGOs (see DTE 57). In May, the environmental NGO WALHI wrote an open letter to the forestry minister rejecting the plans which involve another large US-based organisation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

(Source: Conservation International 5/Jun/03; WALHI letter 22/May/03)

Sustainable mangroves

There are many positive examples of sustainable mangrove management by local communities and village-based initiatives to restore damaged or destroyed mangrove forests. One Indonesian group working to promote community-based sustainable coastal resource use is Yayasan Kelola, based in North Sulawesi. Together with Mangrove Action Project (MAP), a US-based NGO which works with partners in a number of countries, Kelola has developed a mangrove curriculum for local schools and is building a Coastal Community Resource Center (CCRC) in Tiwoho village, Bunaken National Marine Park. The idea is to create a place where local coastal communities and national and international community-based coastal resource practitioners can gather for hands-on workshops and seminars on coastal resource management, including mangrove rehabilitation.

MAP Indonesia reports that Tiwoho village, where MAP has been working with villagers to restore mangroves on an abandoned shrimp farm site, has created a village regulation for the total conservation of approximately 40 hectares of mangrove forest adjacent to the village. (Late Friday News 118th edition).

For more cases of mangrove rehabilitation and sustainable silvoculture see and

Mangroves - local livelihoods vs. corporate profits

World Rainforest Movement, December 2002

This book - available in English, French, and Spanish - gathers a selection of articles published in the monthly electronic bulletin of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), addressing the issue of the processes leading to the destruction of mangrove forests and the struggles developed at the local and global levels to protect and use these forests in a socially equitable and environmentally adequate manner.

Non Governmental Organizations and Indigenous Peoples Organizations can ask for a free copy of the book.
To do so, please contact WRM International Secretariat at: and send your postal address.

For other organizations or institutions its cost is US$ 10 (shipment included).
You can either send a cheque (against a U.S bank) payable to "Fundacion Movimiento Mundial por los Bosques Tropicales"
to the following address:
Maldonado 1858, CP 11200, Montevideo - URUGUAY (South America)
or transfer the money to the following bank account:

Bank Boston, Sucursal URUGUAY
Zabala 1463, Montevideo, Uruguay
Account number: 6020517
Account in name of: Fundación Movimiento Mundial por los Bosques Tropicales
Agencia Bulevar España
Swift Code: FN BB UY MM

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