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Victim of Prawn Success

CALATAGAN The Filipina zoologist, whose research on breeding the black tiger prawn became a manual that revolutionised the aquaculture industry, is now concerned that her life's work might have indirectly accelerated the destruction of fish nurseries.

Jurgenne Primavera now worries that fish farming is will become the butt of law suits, brought about by environmental concerns.

A report by AFP says that local conservationists concerned about 66 hectares (163 acres) of brackish water fishponds near a seaside town south of Manila have filed a landmark suit against the owner, a wealthy lawyer accused of killing off mangroves. These marshy coasts serve as vital nurseries for the young of open-sea fish species.

"The law bans cutting of mangroves, but he (the fishpond owner) skirted that by building dikes that cut off the seawater, until the trees eventually died," said Jessie de los Reyes, a local marine ecology advocate. "Now the community is suffering because their ground water has turned salty and their access to fishing areas has been cut," de los Reyes added. The case is pending.

Despite cheap government loans and generous land leases in the 1970s, prawn culture failed to reach its full potential in the Philippines, where the ponds turned out to be better suited for growing milkfish, said Primavera of the Philippines-based Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre.

But the industry took off elsewhere, creating new wealth for many of the pioneers who fed the world with prawns.

"Mangroves were cleared for prawn farming in countries that did not have a long tradition in aquaculture, such as Thailand, Vietnam and Ecuador," said Primavera.

View the AFP story by clicking here.