Fishing and Forestry
The fishing subsector as a whole provided over one-tenth of the total output of the agricultural sector by the late 1980s. For a country with a 2,800-kilometer coastline, a shallow continental shelf of some 9,000 square kilometers, and a network of more than 1,000 rivers, Venezuela was slow to exploit its coastal and inland waterway resources. It was not until the mid1980s that a minor fishing boom took place. In 1975 the government established a National Fishing Enterprise to upgrade the traditionally undercapitalized fishing industry. During this period, the growth of domestic shipbuilding and a general industrial expansion benefited fishermen. From 1983 to 1988, the catch of the nation's anglers grew by 54 percent, reaching 354,185 tons. A 300 percent increase in the tuna catch ranked Venezuela as the world's fourth largest producer. Most tuna, however, was sold at sea and did not reach local markets, where meat was still the dietary preference. By contrast, river fishing remained underdeveloped.
Forests covered an estimated 34 percent of Venezuela's land area. During the 1980s, the timber industry modernized and consolidated; from a collection of small saw mills, it developed into several large integrated wood pulp and newsprint plants, especially in the Guayana region. Joint ventures with foreign companies sought to harvest several hardwood species for wood products and chemical derivatives. The government's forest protection service wielded little regulatory authority, prompting some concern over the pace of deforestation.
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