Gulf of Fonseca has 409 km of coastline and covers an extension of approximately 3,200 km2 of marine and brackish, it includes a protected area: Reserva Natural Protegida Delta del Estero Real, Ramsar site (2001).
The expansion of shrimp farming aquaculture since the 80s has produced well documented environmental impacts (mangrove deforestation, wetlands affectations, pollution, etc.) in some of the poorest areas of Honduras (Cholueca and El Valle) and Nicaragua (Chinandega). Less well known are the conflictive social implications/conflicts of aquaculture expansion: physical aggressions to small scale fishermen and coastal inhabitants, lost of access to the beaches, economic problems of the producers cooperatives, and small scale aquaculture producers, etc...
For instance, impressive changes in coastal uses with large ponds for producing shrimp: in Nicaragua, the surface area under production expanded from 771 ha in 1989 to 10,396 ha in 2009, and in Honduras from 750 ha in 1985 to 14,954 ha in 2000.
This is helped by different economic incentives, such as tax concessions, foreign-investment guarantees, and export incentives. For instance, the Spanish company Pescanova operated in tax-free zones in both Nicaragua and Honduras.
The need to fulfill market standards in the U.S. and Europe has resulted in the exclusion of the small community-based shrimp-farming organizations, who initiated the activity.
In reality, what was supposed to be a source of wealth for the regional economy has ended up disempowering local fishing communities vis-à-vis the use of natural resources, whilst generating serious social conflicts. And destroying mangroves on a large scale.
At least twelve persons have died in Honduras, and at least one in Nicaragua in aquaculture related conflicts, and many others have been injured. This conflict is still taking place.
In September 2013, local and government actors have proposed the Gulf of Fonseca as a trilateral Ramsar site.