As demand for cheap fish and shrimp ramped up, a gold rush began in Bangladesh, Southern India, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. “Worthless” swamp was converted into monoculture shrimp farms, fish processing camps sprang up, and the great freezer ships were always hungry for more. Hearing of work, poor families flooded into the Sundarban wilderness. Some people were able to make a fresh start, and some landowners working in fish and shrimp were honest and treated their workers well. But criminals were already using child slaves on fishing platforms out in the ocean, and for them it was an easy step to enslave more workers to rip out mangrove forests and farm the little wrigglers that would make such a fine profit.
As the people push in more trees are cut, more islands are taken over, and more children and adults are enslaved to do the work. Some act in desperation, others from greed, but the cycle means that more and more of the forests that protect both people and the rich ecosystem are destroyed.
The loss to nature is profound. Nearly half of the amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds living in mangrove forests are threatened with extinction. These animals, for the most part, aren’t found anywhere else: their range is restricted to the mangrove forests of Asia and Australia. At the current rate of forest loss, the forests and all they hold will all be extinct in one hundred years.
Blood and Earth, Modern Slavery, Ecocide and the Secret To Saving the World by Kevin Bales