Marine Matters

Thailand's Disappearing Mangroves: Factors in the Destruction of a Resource

Grant Murray
School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Dana Building, 430 E. University,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1115;


Mangrove resources in Thailand are disappearing at an alarming rate. Benefits of healthy mangrove systems include shoreline stabilization, "nursery" functions for thousands of associated species, and direct value as timber products (fuel wood, building supplies, etc.). Due to underlying population and development pressures, however, mangrove areas are being developed in ways that favor short-term economic gain over the long-term economic and ecosystem benefits that mangroves provide. While there are several causes of mangrove destruction in Thailand, the primary, conversion to shrimp aquaculture ponds, is the focus of this paper. Conversion of mangrove areas to intensive aquaculture projects results in an array of complex ecological problems, and negative impacts on the economically crucial fishing industry. Immediate regulation of this conversion process is hampered by there basic factors: the lack of a centralized environmental agency or interagency cooperation, lack of enforcement capabilities, and unsustainable management practices at the local level. International efforts are hindered by similar factors. Economic incentives for sustainable management practices are suggested as a possible future direction.

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