Date of Award

Summer 8-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Geology

Committee Chair

George Raber

Committee Chair Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 2

Clifton Dixon

Committee Member 2 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 3

David Cochran

Committee Member 3 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 4

Carl Reese

Committee Member 4 Department

Geography and Geology

Committee Member 5

Matthew Schwartz

Committee Member 5 Department

Geography and Geology


This manuscript examines the expansion of Ecuador’s shrimp aquaculture industry since 1970 and the implications of this expansion on coastal residents’ food security and livelihood options. Shrimp aquaculture expanded from essentially nothing in 1970; to account for 26% of all Ecuadorian private exports by 1998. The rapid expansion of shrimp aquaculture in Ecuador’s estuaries has caused a fundamental shift in livelihoods among those who live and work in the immediate vicinity of the newly created shrimp farms. This research not only details the important land use change that has occurred within Ecuador’s estuaries during the transition from mangrove estuary to shrimp-farmed estuary but also examines the change in the human condition through a series of interviews with residents who are dependent on the estuary. Research findings indicate that, despite massive investment in the shrimp industry of Ecuador and the relative success of the industry in terms of export dollars generated, local livelihood options and economic wellbeing have actually decreased in the aquaculture regions during the aquaculture boom. The pathway from the growth of a giant new export industry to a decrease in local economic opportunity are based on environmental, ecological, and economic alterations that have occurred in the coastal communities of Ecuador during the period of aquaculture expansion.