Rapid development of shrimp farming may lead to unrecognized and undesirable changes of land cover/land use patterns in coastal areas. Of special concern is the loss of mangrove forest in coastal areas such as Quang Ninh, Vietnam, which is adjacent to the World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay. Understanding the status and changes of land cover/land use for coastal shrimp farms and mangrove forests can support environmental protection and decision-making for sustainable development in coastal areas. Within this context, this paper uses the 1999/2001 Landsat ETM+ and the 2008 ALOS AVNIR-2 imagery to investigate the contraction and expansion of shrimp farms and mangrove forests in coastal areas of Ha Long and Mong Cai, which now have a high concentration of intensive and semi-intensive shrimp farms. Images were separately analyzed and classified before using post-classification comparisons to detect land cover/land use changes in the study area. The results of this study found that the area of mangrove forest has been reduced by an estimated 927.5 ha in Ha Long and 1,144.4 ha in Mong Cai, while shrimp farming areas increased by an estimated 1,195.9 and 1,702.5 ha, respectively, over the same period. The majority of shrimp farms in Mong Cai were established at the expense of mangrove forest (49.4 %) while shrimp farms in Ha Long were mainly constructed on areas previously occupied by bare ground (46.5 %) and a significant proportion also replaced mangroves (23.9 %). The remarkable rate of mangrove loss and shrimp farming expansion detected in this study, over a relatively short time scale indicate that greater awareness of environmental impacts of shrimp farm expansion is required if this industry is to be sustainable, the important estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems are to be protected over the long term, and the capturing and storing of carbon in mangrove systems are to be enhanced for global climate change mitigation and for use as carbon offsets.