Fishing and Forestry
Although Libya possesses nearly 1,800 kilometers of coastline and the second largest continental shelf in the Mediterranean, its waters are not particularly rich in the plankton needed to sustain highly productive fishing waters. In 1977 Libya's fishing catch stood at 4,803 tons. By 1981 it had risen to 6,418 tons--still one of the smaller national catches in the Mediterranean. Most of Libya's fishing fleet was located on the western half of its coastline, especially around Tripoli, because the country's eastern and central coasts possessed less attractive fishing grounds. Estimates in 1979 put the number of fishing boats at 325, of which 13 were trawlers; the rest were small and medium-sized boats. Approximately 1,000 to 1,200 people were thought to be professional fishermen in 1981. The government has been encouraging fishing activities and attempting to stimulate a demand for fish. In 1986 a new fishing port was under construction at Zuwarah, and numerous ice plants have been built at several coastal sites. Agreements for joint development of fishing have been signed with several countries, including Tunisia and Spain.
Sponge fishing has been monopolized by Greek fishermen who have been licensed by the Libyan government. A tiny percentage of the harvest has been obtained by Libyans using small boats and skindiving equipment from the shallow waters inshore. The Greeks have used modern equipment to exploit the deepwater beds where the best sponges lie. In an experiment begun in 1977, the government has established freshwater fish farms in several inshore locations.
For commercial purposes, the country has no forests. Although the government designated more than 62,400 hectares as woodland or forest, of this land is covered with scrub and minor vegetation.
During the 1960s, the government actively pursued an afforestation program; these activities were accelerated in the 1970s. An estimated 213 million seedlings had been planted by 1977, about 33 million of which were fruit trees. Most of the reforestation has been in western Libya. During reforestation efforts, scientist have experimented with a petrochemical spray that is sufficiently porous to allow the occasional rain to trickle and seep through, yet sturdy enough to prevent the seedling from being blown away during one of the country's frequent and severe sandstorms. The government's long-term goals for the massive planting program include the growth of enough trees to meet its domestic lumber needs, which in the past had been met by imports. Short-term goals include soil conservation and reclamation, and the creation of windbreaks for crops and settlements.
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