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EcoViva: Coastal Resources Management in El Salvador’s Mangroves

The most extensive remaining mangrove forest in Central America is located in the Bay of Jiquilisco in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador. At 632 square kilometers, the Bay of Jiquilisco is El Salvador’s largest wetlands complex and protected area, designated as both a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Bay of Jiquilisco contains nearly three-fourths of the country’s wetland forest, with 19,449 hectares of mangroves. However, El Salvador has lost 60% of its forest cover since 1950, and continues to lose mangroves at a rate of 681 hectares per year. Climate change, deforestation, pollution, large-scale agricultural development, and over exploitation of natural resources continue to threaten this critical ecosystem.

Mangrove forests provide valuable ecosystem services and play a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. This ecosystem provides a refuge for biodiversity including nurseries for commercially important species, nesting habitat for migratory birds, and breeding grounds for endangered sea turtles. Mangroves provide economic benefits and livelihood opportunities. Many community members, up to 30%, rely exclusively on the mangrove forests for sustenance and do not have alternative sources of income. With the support of the Waitt Foundation, EcoViva will provide funding, alliance-building and technical support that strengthens local leadership abilities to enforce and expand clear, community-based regulations for mangrove forest protection. This locally driven community-based management will ensure the conservation of critical mangrove habitat and protect the livelihoods of the people who depend on it for survival.

This project will promote and expand the Local Sustainable Resource Use Plan (LSRUP), a coastal management tool that provides the scientific and legal framework necessary to enable locally-driven community-based management of important fisheries stocks, based on agreed-upon catch quotas and specific restrictions on protecting primary nursery habitat for fish, crabs, shellfish, and shrimp in an area encompassing 4,000 acres of critical mangrove forests. Beginning in 2010, communities in the Bay of Jiquilisco dependent on the mangrove ecosystems for their livelihoods developed LSRUPs to self-regulate their extractive behaviors. They actively solicited input from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) to give them legal status to carry out their self-devised management plan. EcoViva, in collaboration with local grassroots NGO Asociación Mangle, seeks to replicate this model in other parts of the Bay of Jiquilisco, as a grassroots strategy to conserve and legally protect important mangrove areas and the ecosystem services they provide.

With less than three years left of El Salvador’s current government administration, one that is open to progressive social and environmental policy, the time to act is now. EcoViva and Asociación Mangle are in a unique position to achieve real policy change in El Salvador´s coastal zone – with reverberations across Central America. During the past 20 years, our partnership has led to the consolidation of a growing democratic movement spanning one of Central America´s richest coastal resources. Together with actors like EcoViva, this movement advocates for positive change in local and national rural policy in El Salvador through concrete alternatives to persistent local problems and a clear, principled vision for sustainable development and environmental conservation. Today, with EcoViva’s support, community members are active in the management and conservation of the Bay of Jiquilisco’s mangroves and estuaries, working alongside scientists and conservation practitioners to ensure a just, equitable and sustainable way of life for the people of El Salvador.

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