Unleasing Fish Ponds
Much mangrove forest has been lost due to the creation of fish ponds for commercial shrimp farming, a good source of income in coastal areas, at least in the short term. If we are to return the coast to mangrove forests, we need to find land that can be rehabilitated.
Much mangrove forest has been lost due to the creation of fish ponds for commercial shrimp farming, a good source of income in coastal areas, at least in the short term. If we are to return the coast to mangrove forests, we need to find land that can be rehabilitated. Many fish ponds are no longer of any value to the owners for shrimp farming but are still locked up by leases held by the owners.
Over the past few years, ZSL has been working with local authorities to identify fish ponds that are no longer in use and negotiate with the owners to allow the ponds to be returned to mangrove forest. This has involved extensive investigation to identify sites that will be likely to undergo successful rehabilitation. Importantly, sites need to be found where owners no longer value the fish ponds and are willing to help, likely if the ponds are abandoned or underused . Sometimes tax benefits are being claimed where no rehabilitation has occurred, and we have had to investigate on the ground when this is the case.
So far, we have managed to get 55.7 hectares of land approved for return to mangrove forest, through the kind cooperation of several local fish pond owners. This has been achieved by obtaining tenurial rights for the coastal communities for a period of 25 years through Community-based Forest Management Agreements. After this period is up, the rights can be renewed and we hope to release over 80 hectares eventually.
The next stage is turning ZSL conservationists are working with communities and schools to set up rehabilitation projects for these reclaimed areas. Thousands of new mangrove seedlings of a variety of mangrove species have already been planted on three of the six sites we are working with. They and will be cared for by members of the community and monitored periodically by ZSL conservationists, to hopefully produce flourishing infant mangrove forests for the future.
The help of locals has mean that rehabilitation is possible on a much more rapid and large scale than it otherwise would be. These forests will repay the effort well by improving the livelihoods of coastal communities through improved water quality, fish stocks for food and income. Crucially, they will also protect coastal communities from natural dangers such as coastal erosion, storms and flooding and even tsunamis.