Exclusive Interview with Alfredo Quarto, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Mangrove Action Project

Mangrove deforestation, due to the shrimp industry, tourism development and other human-caused factors, has resulted in countless deaths around the globe when ocean-borne natural disasters strike. Alfredo Quarto is on a mission to save these unique life-saving trees

(3BL Media/Justmeans) -- Growing in intertidal areas between land and sea, mangroves live in two worlds at once. They are known as the “rainforests of the sea,” and once called the “roots of the sea” by a Thai fisherman. From providing coastal protection from erosion to serving as important fish nurseries and providing wood to local communities to sequestering CO2 and storing massive amounts of carbon, mangroves provide numerous vital ecosystem services. In particular, mangrove forests—which grow along shorelines and up to a few miles inland—provide a natural barrier against giant waves and water incursions from storms, tsunamis and hurricanes. But unfortunately, they are being destroyed around the world at an alarming rate due to rampant coastal development.

I had a chance to talk with Alfredo Quarto, the executive director and co-founder of the non-profit environmental organization Mangrove Action Project, about the plight of the world’s mangroves—and what must be done to save them.

What are the main factors contributing to mangrove deforestation?

There is continual pressure on mangrove ecosystems from human development—from golf courses to hotels to shrimp farming. Also, marinas, road construction and urban and agriculture expansion have proven lethal for mangroves. But it depends on where you are. If you’re in the Bahamas or the Caribbean, it’s mostly tourist hotels, docks, golf courses and marinas, and so on. On the Bimini Islands right now, there’s a group called Genting from China that is basically ripping out the mangroves, dredging the coastal area and destroying the coral reefs to construct a 1,000-foot-long pier to dock large tourist boats. It’s going to destroy Bimini’s beautiful and healthy natural coastline and biodiversity, which is really sad. And there’s no environmental impact statement being done there. So in the Caribbean, it’s primarily the growing tourism industry. In the Philippines, shrimp farming and fish farming are the main culprits. And there’s also other kinds of development. The palm oil industry, for example, has been growing, and it is trying to go into any area they can get. And they can actually take over abandoned shrimp farms. Right now, worldwide, we estimate there are about 400,000 hectares of abandoned shrimp farms that remain idle and not producing any valuable ecosystem services that they would otherwise provide as restored healthy wetlands. So we’re looking at shrimp farming, tourist hotels, marinas, roadways, urban expansion, agriculture, including rice farming. Mangroves in Burma were cleared and the cyclone that hit there in 2008, Cyclone Nargis, killed 150,000 people. But there wasn’t much mention of it in the news. It wasn’t as big news as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. There were around 150,000 people killed, mainly because rice and shrimp farming destroyed the mangroves. During the British occupation of Burma, the British wanted to turn the nation into a rice production area, and so rice farms and later, shrimp farms started coming up along the coast—mangroves were destroyed over the years. When the hurricane finally hit the Irrawaddy Delta, there were no mangroves to buffer against that kind of a storm so that meant many lives lost and much property damage. So there are different factors contributing to the decline of mangroves around the world, but shrimp farming has been the number one cause of mangrove loss, especially in the last 30 years. And palm oil and tourist hotels are becoming increasing threats.

How much of the devastation of the recent Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines can be attributed to the loss of mangroves?

In certain spots there were mangroves that actually were still standing and they helped lessen the impact of the typhoon. I have a friend over there working with the Peace Corps and she witnessed the damage done in some of those areas. A lot of the mangroves that were cleared for shrimp farming, fish farms or other coastal developments would have been a buffer against this killer storm. Also, mangroves are really important as buffers against erosion. As the sea level rises, there will be more wave action against the shore. Mangroves help accrue soil and build up the land, adding to shoreline height. They also help hold the soil in place. Sediments build up and that helps defend against water surges and a rising sea level, up to a point. We really have no idea how fast the sea level is rising, so mangrove growth may not be able to keep up with the rate of the rise, which is a real factor. But in the Philippines, there was definite evidence that where the mangroves stood, there was less damage. We’ve had evidence of this around the world for the last 20 or 30 years, where mangroves have protected people from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 1999 Odisha super-cyclone in India, and in the Philippines, about 20 years before that, there was a hurricane of similar force that did no damage because the mangroves were still there. When the mangroves are taken down, the second typhoon came through and killed 10,000 people. This is 20 years ago or so. So this is not something new, it’s something old, but we’re not paying attention to it enough.

According to NOAA, current studies suggest that mangroves and coastal wetlands annually sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests. If mangrove loss is worse for the climate than rainforest loss, why does rainforest deforestation get much more press than mangrove deforestation?

Yes, it’s true. And rainforest loss became a very popular cause in the 1980s and ‘90s, especially with Rainforest Action Network’s effective techniques of promoting the plight of rainforests. The problem is that people don’t see the mangroves as easily. There’s also not as much information about mangroves. It’s becoming more visual now but they are in remote areas that are hard to get to. You have to take a boat to the outskirts to see them or walk through muddy areas at low tide, so there’s not a lot of tourism to these ecosystems. But it’s becoming more popular now. Only in the last few years have mangroves become more of a hot topic, especially since the tsunami in December 2004. That really brought the importance of mangroves to the foreground. I actually did around 30 interviews on the radio about mangroves being a factor in that tsunami and I was surprised at the interest that developed around that issue. Afterwards, a lot of groups like IUCN developed a lot of energy to replanting mangroves along the coastlines to protect against future natural events like tsunamis and hurricanes.

Have these efforts been generally successful?

Unfortunately, the techniques for planting have not been effective in many ways. Oftentimes, mangroves don’t survive; monocultures are planted rather than a biodiverse mangrove forest. This is one of the problems we’re dealing with right now. Often, these large restoration projects are only planting one species—usually the red mangrove, or Rhizophora. Here in the United States, there’s a variety of three mangroves in Florida. But in the tropical nations of Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Africa, there are dozens of different species of mangroves. One of the reasons that the red mangrove is so popular for these replanting initiatives is that it’s so easy to plant. You basically take the pencil-shaped seedlings and just stick them in the mud and they’ll grow. They are planted in mud flats or around ponds and that’s seen as “restoration,” but it’s really not restoration—it’s a plant being planted, but you don’t have a forest. You don’t have the full biodiversity restored, you don’t have the full impact of a productive mangrove forest in place. You basically have an ultimately decorative monoculture that is not acting as a fully functioning mangrove wetland ecosystem, as it should. So it might not stand up to a hurricane as well, the plants may not be very healthy because they’re not grown in the right zone. Some species grow closer to the marine waters, experiencing more salinity, other times they grow further upland at a higher tidal level with less salinity. This is one of the main problems we see with large-scale mangrove restoration projects. I’ve heard of major efforts—in the millions of dollars—where 75 to 80 percent of the mangrove restoration has failed due to this issue. And we have seen these failures worldwide.

It sounds like a very difficult task to rebuild a mangrove forest. You would have to identify the exact species that were lost and replant all of them.

We use a method called Community-based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR), in which we try to involve local communities. And there is little hand planting included in this approach. But instead we’re really trying to get nature to replant the mangroves. CBEMR entails trying to restore the natural hydrology of the restoration site. Robin Lewis, who is one of the founders of the ecological mangrove restoration technique, helped to develop this method with great success. In this process, you restore the hydrology of an area back to more normal conditions and, if there’s a nearby stand of mangroves, the seedlings will float in and replant themselves over time, and not that much time, either. Within a few years, you have a healthy, biodiverse mangrove stand. In a place like the Philippines, for instance, if you were to do this, you would have 20 to 30 different varieties of mangroves replanting themselves in their proper zones that fit their needs. And it’ll be a healthy forest, more resilient to changes in climate and incursions of waves. CBEMR offers a more scientific approach to restoration, which is urgently needed, but we are not seeing that approach taken by others in most cases. We are seeing instead many fast but ineffective monoculture plantings by hand which Lewis calls the “gardening approach.” There is even a Guinness world record of planting millions of red mangrove seedlings in one day. But go back there in a year or so and you’ll find that 80 percent of those seedlings have died. The ones that survive may be growing in the proper substrate but they’re probably not healthy. So we’re too often seeing these totally counterproductive efforts to replant mangroves better just not done scientifically.

CBEMR: A sustainable approach to mangrove restoration

Is there any international body that should be overseeing these programs?

IUCN does. And Mangroves for the Future (MFF), which includes IUCN and other large environmental organizations. Bill Clinton is a spokesperson for that group. And George Bush Sr. earlier on was, as well. The two of them were chosen after the 2004 tsunami to be spokespeople for MFF, helping to raise nearly $20 million for mangrove restoration effort. And they’ve given a lot of money to both small- and large-scale restoration efforts in tsunami-affected nations. They are still raising money. So they’re active, but I think the problem is that there is just not enough emphasis on the way to do it right and oftentimes they’re trying to support small-scale projects where they simply plant by hand and they are actually encouraging this bad idea of monoculture, just planting one species, thinking that it will be better than nothing. It’s very easy to plant a seedling in the ground but it takes some time for a monoculture to survive, and if it survives is a big "if." And what survives is a big "if" as well. You might have basically just one species and you’re losing biodiversity. That’s something we just don’t want to accept or encourage. You’re also not restoring the hydrology to that area so those mangroves aren’t going to be getting the right hydrology and nutrients they need to be healthy.

How do local communities and indigenous populations benefit from the maintenance of mangroves?

In addition to getting protection against storms, traditional coastal communities need mangroves for fishing, tannin, medicine, wood for building materials for boats and homes and for fuel. The mangroves also protect the fresh water. Oftentimes when the shrimp farms come in, the wells that the local people depend on are salinated by the incursion of seawater during high tides and storms. Mangroves actually buffer against that incursion. And without fresh water for drinking, for animals and plants, you have to truck in fresh water from miles away. In Thailand and other counties, many coastal communities have resorted to this because their drinking water has been contaminated. Also, people can fish closer to shore with mangroves, saving fuel and time. When mangroves are taken away, there is a large reduction in the fishery and people have to go further and further out to sea to fish, while catching less fish, as mangroves are a nursery for fish. So mangroves are extremely vital to local communities.

Still, developers have been able to entice local governments to give them permits by arguing that they will provide jobs in their hotel or other business.

Yes, but we’re talking low-pay, low-skilled wage earners. And it’s not a replacement for your traditional sustenance, which you get from the mangroves. And these developments don’t provide protection from hurricanes or tsunamis. Plus, these kinds of businesses might be short-lived; a shrimp farm may run only three to five years. A hotel might last longer, but the tourism might not be steady. So these are not good substitutes. And people are sustaining themselves with the mangroves intact, through fishing and farming, so it’s not that they are out of work. They may not be getting paid a salary, but how do we judge the worth of a person’s life and lifestyle to a low salary that might not be existent in a few years? We’re losing that self-sustaining skill, the labor that goes into surviving and living on this planet. And the skills handed down from generation to generation are being lost as well. Do you want to hand the skill of peeling shrimp down to your children and grandchildren? What if they need to survive if there’s a problem in the future? But with fishing and farming, you hand those skills down and they’ll be able to survive, while living more healthy, more sustainable, more in harmony with the natural environment.

Is there any kind of sustainable aquaculture that doesn’t mean ripping out mangroves?

Well, this is the thing. A lot of people think I’m against aquaculture, but I’m not if it’s done right. There are ways to do it right. One thing is small scale. Right now, the scale is too large, the industry is too big. And in Africa, and in certain parts of Asia and Latin America, these industrial operations are mainly exporting the product rather than keeping it to feed the local population for sustenance. This is especially the case with such high-end products as shrimp and salmon, 80 to 90 percent of which are produced for export. Also, aquaculture shouldn’t be done within intertidal zones, which should be protected, and not just to maintain mangroves, but sea grasses, coral reefs, mud flats, salt marshes, etc. Those should all be protected from any coastal development. These are valuable ecosystems that must be preserved, not destroyed. Additionally, aquaculture should be done in a closed system, what’s called a “recirculating aquaculture system,” where the water is recirculated, the waste isn’t thrown out but recycled, the diseases don’t spread to the wild, and non-native species aren’t accidentally introduced. You don’t want those kinds of leakages contaminating the environment surrounding the aquaculture areas. So yes, sustainable aquaculture is a possibility. They’re doing it more and more in the United States. We’re finding aquaponics combined with aquaculture is very successful in raising both vegetables, fish and seafood. And this can be done anywhere. You could raise tropical shrimp in Ohio if you wanted to. And it would also supply the local market and feed local populations. So that’s what we need to start seeing: Aquaculture becoming more advanced using a closed-system technique, not the open, throughput systems that now exist and threaten the environment.

What are some examples of businesses that are utilizing this sustainable approach?

There’s actually a network in the United States. A friend of mine, Marianne Cufone, who lives in New Orleans is actually doing this there. She’s heading up a coalition of these US-based aquaponics producers raising fish and shrimp and so on in aquaponics facilities, sometimes even based on rooftops in New York, Chicago and other places that have pretty heavy-duty winters. And they’re doing it inland, not on the coasts. It’s not necessarily that expensive. You do need some filtration systems. And they still need to be perfected, but the fact is it does work. There was a successful operation in Las Vegas, providing shrimp for the restaurants there. So it can be done here in the US and be profitable because there’s a demand.

But these operations aren’t close to replacing the industrial-scale farms that supply the global demand.

Not now. And that’s a good point. We do need to reduce our consumption, there’s no doubt about it. Ten years ago, we probably ate about two pounds of shrimp per person per year. Nowadays, we’re eating about 4.5 pounds. And that’s just too much. Twenty years ago, it was probably about one pound of shrimp per person. So we don’t need to eat so much shrimp. We weren’t starving in Europe or the US when we ate less shrimp. But today, shrimp has become a cheap luxury food. Actually, there’s a disease that’s going to change that a bit. It’s called the early mortality syndrome (EMS) and it’s been killing shrimp at industrial farms in Thailand and elsewhere and causing great concern among food retailers and restaurant owners. So we may be forced to abandon our appetite for shrimp due to these kinds of diseases which are affecting more and more large-scale shrimp producers. And no cure has yet been found for EMS, which is caused by high-density of production of shrimp and improper siting of shrimp farms. Plus, consumers are becoming more wary of being exposed to the chemicals and antibiotics used in shrimp production. That’s a big issue in the US, but it doesn’t get a lot of press. These chemicals affect not only the local communities where the shrimp are grown, but also consumers of imported shrimp in countries, like the United States. The bottom line is that these shrimp are not necessarily healthy to eat. They are raised in small, super dense ponds that have too many shrimp packed too tightly together and are often given a mix of antibiotics. Sometimes, farmers will harvest diseased shrimp before they die and bring them to market. Some of these antibiotics are actually banned in the United States, but still enter the food supply through shrimp because only one percent or less of imported shrimp or seafood is even inspected for banned chemicals. And of that one percent, maybe only 25 percent are actually laboratory-tested for such substances. But the vast majority of shrimp-eaters in the country don’t even know this and are likely ingesting bad shrimp.

There’s also an issue with improper labeling, right?

Yes, for instance sometimes you’ll see shrimp from China labeled “from Thailand” or “from Bangladesh” to make it easier to go through US customs. They are called “transshipments,” and they are becoming more and more common.

And these shrimp imports also hurt America’s domestic shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

For sure. Imported shrimp has competed effectively against our local shrimpers in New Orleans and coastal Louisiana and Texas. And this is ironic, because the local fishermen in export countries are also being hurt by these same companies. This is a key point: Fishermen who make their living on the sea are being hurt at both ends of the import-export business. In production countries, fishing communities are losing mangroves and with them, the fisheries. I met fishermen in Malaysia who are now having to buy canned seafood because they can’t find enough fish in the sea due to the development of golf courses, shrimp farming and trawling. So not only are they losing their livelihood, but they are forced to buy canned sardines if they want to eat fish. In the US, we see shrimpers and salmon fishermen becoming unemployed and selling their boats because they can’t sell their product at a high enough price to compete with foreign shrimp.

What are the primary shrimp exporting countries?

Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil. One country that concerns me greatly is China, because it now imports more shrimp. Even if we can curtail shrimp imports into the US, the exports to China will likely not be curtailed because of the huge and rapidly growing demand there. So the future for the world’s coastal ecosystems and the livelihoods of traditional people who live there is definitely threatened by this still rising global demand for cheap shrimp.

So a US-based chain restaurant like Red Lobster doesn’t purchase its shrimp from US shrimpers?

No. Up to 90 percent of shrimp in the US is imported, either trawled or farmed. About 52 percent or more is farmed. Commercial trawling production is declining because we’ve hurt our oceans so badly.

Which is worse, shrimp trawling or farming?

Well, both are really bad news. Trawling in the US is being done with by-catch reduction devices on the nets so that’s actually more sustainable. But in other countries like Thailand or Ecuador, there are trawling operations that dredge the bottom of the ocean, destroying the ocean floor and catching and killing all sorts of animals not meant to be caught. Shrimp farming is dangerous as well because it destroys the wetlands that are the nurseries for wild fisheries. The by-catch is often turned into fish feed and oil for shrimp or salmon farms, so actually shrimp farming is contributing to massive losses of fish by turning sardines and chubs and so on into fish feed, depleting a critical food source for the larger fish and disrupting the food chain. And, it may take 2-3 pounds of wild fish to raise one pound of farm raised shrimp to harvest size.

Are we on a path towards sustainable aquaculture?

Hopefully we are moving in that direction, but we are not there yet. Maybe the increased incidence of EMS will help stimulate development towards more sustainable systems in the US. There’s a big profit to be made as well so I think we’ll see more investments in sustainable aquaculture and aquaponics using a closed system that doesn’t rely on antibiotics. There’s a ready market, less distance to travel—the right entrepreneur could make a good profit selling domestic, sustainable and healthy shrimp. In addition to decreasing our own appetite for shrimp, we as consumers can help move the country along this sustainable path by demanding a better, safer and more environmentally friendly process for raising the shrimp that hits our markets, which is where we can exert more influence.

What has Mangrove Action Project been doing to help educate consumers?

We have a campaign called “Question Your Shrimp,” which is now based in Seattle with plans to expand to other cities, to educate consumers about the problems associated with buying and eating shrimp and to promote buying shrimp produced in the US or Canada, which is more manageable than the shrimp coming from the Southern Hemisphere. Seventy-five percent of shrimp consumption is done in restaurants, so we also want the nation’s chefs and restaurant owners to help by not serving imported shrimp.

Question Your Shrimp

Could the USDA establish a certification for sustainable shrimp?

That’s not going to happen as far as I can see. But there are rules in the US for raising shrimp that mandate where you set up shop, what kinds of antibiotics you can use and so on. But those rules don’t apply to the shrimp we import. So it still means we’re eating a lot of bad shrimp.

Some 3 billion people live within 200 kilometers of a coastline. By 2025, that figure will double, according to the Population Reference Bureau. The challenge for coastal communities, lawmakers, responsible businesses and social entrepreneurs is to reap the benefits of coastal ecosystems while preserving them for the current and future health of the planet. Can we be hopeful that this challenge will be met, or are we in for much worse times for the world’s coastal ecosystems and communities?

I was just reading an article in National Geographic about climate change and the rising sea level and there are some positive developments to combat sea level rise happening in Holland, for example. But with the predicted sea level rise by the end of the century—cities like Miami may be underwater by then—we are already in dire straits. The trend of people migrating to the coasts is quite worrying. And with the melting polar caps, it’s going to be hard to prevent the sea level from rising. And that melting ice is releasing methane gas, which contributes even more to global warming than CO2 emissions. What worries me greatly is the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama has promised to think about whether this should be done. Well, the southern half of the pipeline, in Oklahoma, is ready to go. And he wants to make the US the number one producer and exporter of fuels in the near future.

Are we past the point where we can mitigate climate change and efforts should be moved towards adaptation for what is to come?

There’s still a lot we can do to mitigate. We can reduce emissions; that’s a big contributing factor. But there should be a sense of urgency. In World War II, the US devoted all its attention to winning the war. Women were working in factories to make weapons. People were donating their gold and silver to help the war effort, and people were told not to drive their cars. There was an urgency that everyone felt. We should have that urgency today. Americans and all people around the world should be looking at climate change as an urgent situation. We no longer have time to just sit back and see our profits coming in and using the stock market as an indicator of success. We are losing, all of us, and the future is being lost for future generations. The majority of people in power today are guilty of wasting the resources of future generations.

Are consumers becoming more aware about the effect of their decisions at the cash register?

I think the average consumer is more aware, but also more helpless in a sense because of the success of some of these corporations in greenwashing. For example, there is a shrimp certification endorsed by World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam and IUCN that we are fighting. We are trying to tell the public that it’s still bad shrimp to buy because it is still causing coastal destruction and threatening the livelihoods of traditional coastal peoples. But we’re having a hard time because people see a green certification stamp on the shrimp and think it’s OK.

Why would these non-profits certify bad shrimp?

I call them the BINGOs: big internationals NGOs. They must raise lots of money and them make lots of compromises to get that money. The chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee, Rob Walton, is also the chairman of the board of Wal-Mart. These BINGOs make comprises with industry, thinking that working with the problem producers to make them improve their bad practices can help save the planet. But in actuality, they are helping to expand bad production practices. So while you might get a small-scale improvement, you’re getting a large-scale expansion of the bad part. These large-scale industries need to be controlled more, but right now they are in control.

Do you advocate more governmental regulation?

I think we need more local strength in government to regulate industries, but we need citizens to get behind the government. There is too much separation between citizens and the government. We need more citizen pressure on elected officials to get done what needs to get done. Right now, people vote and they think that’s going to solve the problem. The public needs to be more informed, engaged and active in being properly represented by the politicians they put into office. And behind the scenes, we’re finding government and industry in collusion. A good example is salmon farming in Washington State. A few years ago, I was part of a group of environmentalists that was invited to a meeting with NOAA. The fishing industry executives were invited as well. We discussed the problems with aquaculture, but the next day, NOAA held a separate private meeting with just industry. We heard about it afterwards. So they had a pre-conceived plan of what they wanted to happen and they went with NOAA endorsing aquaculture in Washington State. This kind of thing happens all the time.

What is MAP working on now?

Right now, we have several programs running: The “Marvelous Mangrove Curriculum,” for example, aims to educate the younger generation about the importance of mangroves. The curriculum is now in primary schools in 10 countries. We’re also doing small-scale restoration work in Thailand, India, Burma and Indonesia that we hope will inspire larger scale projects to use the ecological mangrove restoration method. We’re also seeing progress in our Question Your Shrimp campaign in Seattle; more people are becoming aware. But we need help. We’re a small staff—six full-time staff members worldwide—but very effective. But we need more funding to help us help the mangroves. And if we help them, they will help us.


About Alfredo Quarto

Alfredo Quarto is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Mangrove Action Project. He is a veteran campaigner with over 35 years experience working on international environmental and social justice issues. His experiences range over many different countries and several environmental organizations, with a long-term focus on marine ecology, wildlife, forestry and human rights. Alfredo has spoken on mangrove conservation issues at the United Nations, the American Museum of Natural History international meetings and workshops, universities and colleges, high schools and grade schools, churches and other organizations. Alfredo was a 1970 graduate of Purdue University in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, working for over four years for the Boeing Company as a jet propulsion systems analyst. In 1980, he quit Boeing to work on environmental issues. He worked with Greenpeace (1977-1984), then as Project Director for the human rights grou, Freedom Fund (1984-1989), and then Executive Director of the Ancient Forest Chautauqua (1990-91), a multimedia traveling forum with events in 30 West Coast cities supporting old-growth forests and indigenous forest dwellers. He is also a freelance photojournalist whose published works on mangrove forest/shrimp aquaculture issues have appeared in Cultural Survival Quarterly, E-Magazine, Wild Earth, Birdscapes, Earth Island Journal, Dollars and Sense, Tiempo, Bangkok Post, Earth First Journal, Aquaculture Asia and Shrimp News International, among others. He has also contributed chapters to books, including An International Perspective on Wetland Rehabilitation (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999). While Alfredo works at the grassroots level with international organizations and local communities, he also works at the “grassroots” level at home, where he lives with his Chilean wife and two children on a small organic farm in Port Angeles, Washington. (Image: Alfredo planting a mangrove seedling in wetland substrate in Indonesia.)

About Mangrove Action Project

Witnessing firsthand the rapid devastation of the world’s mangrove forest wetlands and their associated coastal ecosystems, the founders of the Mangrove Action Project (MAP) decided in 1992 that it was time to form a global network to address the problems of mangrove loss worldwide. MAP has grown steadily during the last 20 years to become a respected member of the global environmental movement. MAP’s international network has grown to include over 500 NGOs and 350 scientists and academics from over 60 nations. In recent years, MAP has transformed from a network-and advocacy focused organization into one still involved in advocacy, but with programs and activities on the ground, supported through local offices in Thailand and Indonesia, as well as close partner groups in S. Asia, Latin America and S. Africa. MAP’s pro-active approach to long-term mangrove conservation involves: education, advocacy, collaboration, conservation and restoration, as well as sustainable community-based development. MAP’s mission is to partner with mangrove forest communities, grassroots NGO’s, researchers, and local governments to conserve and restore mangrove forests and related coastal ecosystems, while promoting community-based sustainable management of coastal resources.

For more information, visit: http://mangroveactionproject.org

Top image: Mangroves in the Salinas Estuary in Salinas, Puerto Rico (credit: Boricuaeddie, Wikimedia Commons)