The expansion of urban areas, the increase in shrimp ponds, pollution of water and soil, were the main causes for the deforestation of mangrove and salt marshes in the past four decades in Ecuador. Reports from 2006 showed a 28% loss of mangrove ecosystem since 1969. For the salt marshes the situation was even more critical. The 51,461 hectares of salt marshes in 1969 turned into 3,705 hectares in 2006.
The eminent threats have made Ecuador react by taking serious steps to remediate the situation. Strengthening the political and legal framework was just the beginning for turning a vision of mangrove sustainable management into a reality.
Since 1980 Ecuador began to implement a new legal framework to enforce mangrove and salt marshes conservation. However, the big milestone was reached in 1999 when the Government modified the Forestry Law and established that mangrove forests belong to the State, and therefore will be free of private possession or trade and can only be sustainable used trough a concession.
Since then, mangrove concessions became the tool to access to mangrove resources by local communities. They are agreements by which local associations make use of natural resources, in exchange for applying sustainable management practices and complying with environmental procedures. Therefore, the consumption and merchandising of fish, mollusks, clams, cockle and crabs is allowed as long as the procedures comply with the concession agreement.
Map: Mangrove concession intervention areas
Source: Christian Martinez, Spatial Analysis Manager
(Conservation International, Ecuador)
With regards to mangrove concessions, the following ministerial agreements have been pivotal to enforce the regulation:
- Ministerial Agreement No. 129 of August 11, 2010 which exhibits the procedure for the approval of the mangrove concessions.
- Ministerial Agreement No. 144 of 2011 and No. 198 of 2014 that simplifies the procedures and allows communities under protected areas to ask for a mangrove concession.
A total area of 66,735.37 hectares is under concessions since the regulation was put in force. The table below shows in detail the mangrove concessions that have been approved to date.
Table No. 2 Mangrove Concessions
|Provinces||Number of concessions||Hectares under concession|
A second initiative called the Socio Manglar Program was a breakthrough for mangrove conservation. It was launched in October 2014 as part of the National Incentives Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Natural Heritage (Socio Bosque). Socio Manglar was a big step forward for the mangrove concession system, to enhance mangrove conservation through livelihood improvement of communities. It provides a direct economic incentive conditioned to the implementation of a management plan of the mangrove concession. The goal of Socio Manglar is the incorporation and strengthening of the conservation agreements of at least 100,000 ha in four years. For the computation of the incentive there are two basic criteria:
- A fixed annual amount considering the following table:
Table No. 3 Incentives per hectares
|Hectares in the mangrove concession||Fixed annual incentive (US$)|
|100 to 500||7,000|
|501 to 1,000||10,000|
|More than 1,000||15,000|
- A variable amount according to the number of hectares in the concession. Now is US$ 3 ha/year.
The incentive that the Government is giving corresponds to the 50% of the operational cost, (measured by hectare), the other 50% is the contribution of the users who get the concession.
Until June 2015, the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador granted 66 mangrove concessions spanning 66,206.67 hectares in the five coastal provinces. Currently there are six Socio Manglar agreements signed with an expectation to expand the program to other areas in the near future.
The Blueforests project in Ecuador is providing information to enhance the mangrove concessions and Socio Manglar incentive through the inclusion of key ecosystem services as bluecarbon and coastal protection. A better understanding of these services will enforce the financial resources to the programs.
By: Xavier Chalén, Coastal and Marine Program Director & Montserrat Albán, Ecosystem Services Manager (CI-Ecuador)
Edited by: Carolina Rosero, Environmental Policy Specialist & Belén Vallejo, Communication Coordinator (CI-Ecuador)