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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: 250,000 hectares of abandoned shrimp ponds worldwide  (อ่าน 2849 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: กุมภาพันธ์ 06, 2007, 10:16:18 AM »

Source: New Straits Times  World News    5/02/2007 09:13:51

Jessica Lim

9,000 hectares of mangroves were lost to prawn farming yearly between 1980 to 1995. Official Forestry Department statistics say that nearly 9,000 hectares of mangrove now are being devoted to shrimp farms.



But the trail of destruction that followed in the wake of the shrimp farming boom is not pretty.

 

"Businessmen chopped the trees, excavated the land and bred their shrimps. After a few years, the land became unsuitable, and they moved to a new plot," says Maritime Institute Malaysia senior researcher Tan Kim Hooi.

 

He explained that the shrimp ponds of those days only lasted between two and five years. After some years, the soil became too acidic and water quality deteriorated, lowering prawn yields.

 

"It’s what we call the ‘rape-and-run’ business."

 

Fish in focus

 

This year’s focus on fisheries for World Wetlands Day is one reflection of how seriously global environment giants are taking the aquaculture issue.

 

Some of the concerns, says the Ramsar report, are the industry’s heavy dependency on antibiotics and hormones, the use of wild fish as a food source and the introduction of non-native species.

 

It’s like clearing a natural forest to build a chicken farm. You lose thousands of plants and animals, but at least you can sell the chickens.

 

In Bangladesh, according to a report by international NGO Mangrove Action Project, 10 agricultural jobs were lost for every job created in aquaculture. In Andhra Pradesh, shrimp aquaculture generated US$500 million. But estimated losses from environmental damage cost US$2 billion.

 

The report went on to say that for every dollar earned by the industry, four was being lost by the people, the coastal ecology and therefore the country as a whole.

 

But the industry got hit most badly when a worldwide shrimp epidemic called White Spot Syndrome Virus broke out in the mid 1990s.

 

The disease, which caused prawns to literally curl up and die within days of being infected, heralded a grim end to many a shrimp-harvesting dream.

 

In recent years, a tighter rein had been put on aquaculture activities, says Tan. Guidelines which took environmental sustainability into account had been imposed on the industry, ensuring that at least a measure of control was exercised.

 

"Prawn farms now are supposed to be built further inland away from the mangroves, and the good farms line the bottom of their ponds properly," he says.

 

But the damage of yesteryear has been done, leaving the world with an estimated 250,000 hectares of abandoned shrimp ponds.

 

Ugly, ugly, everywhere

 

Tan estimates that about 4,000 hectares of previously teeming mangroves in Malaysia now lie desolate and barren, no thanks to shrimp farms thatcouldn’t hack it.

 

He’s among a growing pool of experts who suggest that mangrove replanting efforts be focused on abandoned shrimp ponds where they have a better chance of thriving, rather than on open coasts.

 

"After the tsunami, there were many efforts to plant mangroves on open coasts. Most of these have failed."

 

He said that building hard structures along coasts to block high-energy waves was also expensive. One pilot project highlighted by the New Sunday Times last week (Mangrove shelter, Jan 28) cost RM1 million to rehabilitate 250 metres of open coast.

 

The first priority, he said, should be gazetting over 100,000 hectares of yet ungazetted mangrove forest.

 

The replanting of mangroves around the region, says J.H. Primavera of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre, have mostly been expensive and unsuccessful because of two basic factors — wrong sites and wrong species.

 

"Mangrove rehabilitation should focus on these aquaculture pond sites because they are in the middle to higher sub-tidal zones that are most ideal for mangrove growth," said Primavera, who does most of his work in the Philippines.

 

One reason why replanting locations thus far focused on the lower open coasts was because these zones often posed no ownership conflicts, whereas the pond culture areas were more prone to be legally covered by private or government land titles.

 

"To plant at the most optimum sites will require great political will. And this is a big question mark in many countries in this region."

 

Putting the groove back in

 

The ponds could be easily restored as long as hydrology was restored, and seedlings allowed to enter and take root, explained Tan.

 

Some abandoned ponds had self-regenerated without any human help. This happened when waves broke through the man-made pond bunds and fresh sea water sloshed in by itself, bringing in mangrove seedlings with it.

 

"For some, it’s a simple matter of breaking down the bunds, so seawater and seeds can come in to naturally regenerate," says Tan.

 

If that didn’t work, then manpower might have to be harnessed to physically plant the saplings. The success rate, he is convinced, will be very high, and at a cost of a few hundred ringgit per hectare.

 

"But of course it will not be overnight. Full ecosystem function may never be fully restored, but one study showed that fishery production will make a comeback in six years."

 

Referring to successful pond-restoring projects in Vietnam, he said local communities could be appointed as ‘stewards’ of rehabilitation projects, with funds coming from the government.

 

We’ve already seen one successful project here, said Tan. For years, the Penang Inshore Fishermen Welfare Association had been successfully restoring abandoned ponds.

 

The group of simple fishermen made headlines after the tsunami hit, because the 25,000 mangrove saplings they planted over the years was believed to have lessened the impact of the great wave on their village.

 
 Source or related URL: http://www.nst.com.my
 
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