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Wetlands and Coastal Zones Bulletin
Volume 1, No. 2

Technical Communiqués

Projects in Central America

Ecological Ordering of Coastal
Ecosystems on the Gulf of Fonseca

Start: February 1997
Conclusion of first phase July 1998
Execution phase August 15, 1998 to
July 31 2001
National coordinators: Nicaragua
M.Sc. Jacobo Sánchez
M.Sc. Roduel Rodríguez
El Salvador
M.Sc. Maritza Guido
Regional Coordinator: Guillermo Quirós

The Gulf of Fonseca is an important coastal formation on the Central American Pacific, shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. It covers an aquatic area of 20,15 km2, including 409 km of coastline. The 19 coastal townships in the three countries total 7,740 km2 and shelter a population of 750,000 inhabitants.

Major problems in this area are the following:

  • Poor populations have been relegated to areas with very few resources and sub-human conditions (hillsides and the coastal region) with the expansion of commercial farming, cattle ranching and recently, shrimp cultivation. To survive, this population uses natural resources in different environments unwisely.
  • The illiteracy rate is over 35 %.
  • Public heath services are inadequate due to deficiencies in equipment, human resources and medicines.
  • More than 15% of the children born in this area do not survive past five years of age. Child labor is a major cause for dropping out of school and leaving home.
  • Rivers and marshes are highly polluted due to dumping of organic waste, agrochemicals, sewage water effluent, livestock activity, industrial gas emissions and discharge of industrial toxic waste. More than 90% of local inhabitants throw their garbage into rivers and marshes.
  • Over 50% of the population defecate in the open air.
  • Most communities have no sanitary landfills or garbage dumps.
  • Deforestation is caused by migratory farming, shrimp cultivation, and use of firewood as the source of energy. Mangrove extraction supports productive activities such as tanneries, saltworks, shrimp cultivation and housing construction.
  • There is a notable loss of biodiversity, especially marine, due to the use of toxic substances for eliminating the fauna that accompany shrimp larvae. Mollusk and crustacean populations are also shrinking as a result of the unwise use and reduction of the mangrove.

The following strengths have been identified:

  • Forest resources and productive soils supporting various uses still persist, generating wealth for many producers.
  • There are important water resources associated with rivers, streams, and springs. These are worth protecting and conserving in order to produce energy and water for drinking and irrigation.
  • There is a wide range of sites with natural beauty that could be considered for ecotourism development.

The information available indicates that ordering plans are needed for a considerable number of activities if sustainable development goals in coastal communities are to be promoted. The most critical of these activities are:

  • Ranching in plains areas
  • Intensive farming on the flatlands
  • Shrimp cultivation in wetlands
  • Artisanal fishing in sea waters
  • Extraction of firewood from mangroves
  • Protected areas in different ecosystems
  • Urbanization of islands and other areas with tourism potential
  • Management of waste from human and productive activity
  • There are important water resources associated with rivers, streams, and springs. These are worth protecting and conserving in order to produce energy and water for drinking and irrigation.
  • Development of road infrastructure
  • Agro-sylvipasture systems on the hillsides

Specific actions of importance include the following:

  • Establish official seasons for collecting larvae in the wild, taking into consideration patterns of rainfall and the reproductive behavior of the different species of shrimp and other ecologically and commercially important species;
  • Construct post-larval cultivation areas outside of the Gulf of Fonseca region in order to ensure that water quality is adequate for this purpose; and
  • Place the few remaining areas of tropical dry forest under management to conserve biodiversity
  • Set up a management plan for the Gulf of Fonseca’s 62,000 ha of mangroves under a multiple-use system.

Communities recommend the following:

  • Promote the breeding and raising of species such as ctenosaur, iguana, alligator, rabbit, parakeet, parrot, deer, ducks, and other types of animals;
  • Create and support wildlife refuge reserves;
  • Design and implement environmental education programs;
  • Fishing and aquaculture activities should not be expanded without first performing environmental impact assessments and a study on carrying capacity;
  • Conserve and protect threatened systems as a means of conserving the ecosystem and species, improving water quality, reducing soil erosion, and ordering the use of resources with commercial value
  • State control of illegal fishing devices and methods, with participation by the communities and competent authorities
  • Promote community participation in natural resource conservation, particularly organization on behalf of conservation, training in natural resource management, nature courses and coordination and information with respect to resource management. Communities should also be granted the authority to carry out surveillance and control activities.
  • Strengthen the presence of institutions with jurisdiction over natural resource management
Tourism and Management
of Coastal Protected Areas
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