The shrimp farm industry and its impact on the mangrove eco-system. Tumbes, Peru
Diego Shoobridge, ParksWatch Peru, Peru
The shrimp farm industry and its impact on the mangrove eco-system. Tumbes, Peru

The Peruvian coastline is a desert strip. On the north coast, the desert gives way to a lush mangrove eco-system (Rhizophora mangle). The area is a haven for a wide variety of flora and fauna species. As the mangroves are the only type of this eco-system to be found in Peru, the government created the Tumbes National Mangrove Sanctuary, in a bid to protect the area's natural resources.

Fishermen discovered they could catch shrimp larvae (Litopennaeus Vannamei), which abound among the mangroves, and fatten them in a protected environment before selling them. Shrimp farming companies began to buy up the land and chop down the mangroves to build shrimp hatcheries there. Some companies hatch shrimps naturally, using pools with constant water circulation, while others farm shrimp intensively using chemicals, water concentration and producing effluent run-off. While both systems have an effect on the environment, the intensive method makes the impact more devastating. The boom in the shrimp industry is causing problems with both the environment and the local population.

While the shrimp industry has had its ups and downs in recent years, today the business has sparked a bitter conflict between the local population, the shrimp hatcheries and regional authorities. The local population, which make a traditional living from the mangroves, are forming associations with private non-profit entities to combat the industry. The shrimp hatcheries have turned to local authorities to enforce their rights. The local authorities, meanwhile, are wedged in the middle of the local population's demands and pressure from the industry, and maintain a stance whereby they refuse to take a stand either way, to avoid affecting either the taxpaying industry or the local population who are both voters and a source of social tension.

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