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Aquaculture conflict in Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras, Nicaragua


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.

Basic Data

NameAquaculture conflict in Golfo de Fonseca, Honduras, Nicaragua
ProvinceCholuteca, El Valle, Chinandega
SiteGulf of Fonseca
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific CommoditiesShrimps
Biological resources

Project Details and Actors

Project Details40 000 tones/year of shrimps (2008).

15 000 tones/year in Honduras.

25 000 tones/year in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua (2010)

- Pescanova (Spain): 4776 ha

- Campa: 988 ha in Nicaragua

- Farallon Acuaculture de Nicaragua: 735 ha in Nicaragua

Honduras (2010)

- Sea Farms International (Granjas Marinas San Bernardo) 5700 ha

- Dagustín (El Faro) 2000 ha

- Seajoy (Acuacultura Fonseca y Biomar) 1878 ha

- Crimasa (Criadores Marinos, S.A.) 1800 ha

- Pescanova (Novahonduras Zona Libre) 1200 ha
Project Area (in hectares)30 000
Level of Investment (in USD)4000000000
Type of PopulationRural
Company Names or State EnterprisesPescanova from Spain - 4776 ha in Nicaragua
Campa - 988 ha in Nicaragua
Farallon Acuaculture de Nicaragua from Nicaragua - 735 ha in Nicaragua
Sahlman Seafoods of Nicaragua from Nicaragua - 456 ha in Nicaragua
Acuaculture Torrencilla I from Nicaragua - 415 ha in Nicaragua
Relevant government actorsInstituto Nicaragüense, de la Pesca y Acuicultura
International and Financial InstitutionsInter-American Development Bank (IADB)
The World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCooperativas de pescadores, Unión de Cooperativas Camaroneras de Puerto Morazán, CODDEFFAGOLF

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Participation in international networks in defense of mangroves

Movimiento Social Nicaragüense, Otro mundo es Posible (MSN) ha denunciado a Pescanova ante el Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos, acusando a la empresa de violaciones de los derechos humanos, laborales y daños al ambiente.


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
OtherMangrove destruction
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence


Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Shrimp farming aquaculture was promoted through development agencies and international financial institutions, as a vehicle for developing impoverished regions. But, currently the small community-based shrimp-farming organizations are not the main beneficiaries of this activity. The community has lost their livelihood and their land and mangrove forests.

Sources and Materials


Maria Mestre Montserrat, Miquel Ortega Cerdà, 2012, Central America: Shrimp Aquaculture, Conflicts and Justice, Samudra, 61.

Mestre, M., Ortega, M., Musoles, L. y Ramos, J. 2011. Conflictos socio-ambientales de la acuicultura del camarón en Centroamérica.Un análisis desde la justicia ambiental. Colección DOCS Núm.1. Vilanova i la Geltrú: Fundació Ent.

Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, El Salvador, Honduras y Nicaragua, Gestión Integrada de los Ecosistemas del Golfo de Fonseca, Propuesta del proyecto FMAN.


Red Manglar

La Tribuna, Jorge Varela se despide del Coddeffagolf, 14 enero, 2013

Blue Channel 24

El Nuevo Diario

La Prensa

Boletín Proyecto Eco-Pesca, 2013, Golfo de 1) Fonseca zona de paz y desarrollo, CODDEFFAGOLF, Amigos de la Tierra España.

International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) is an international non-governmental organization that works towards the establishment of equitable, gender-just,self-reliant and sustainable fisheries, particularly in the small-scale, artisanal sector.

Meta Information

ContributorJoan Martinez Alier & Talia Waldron
Last update03/05/2014