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Bait for bucks.

With a few notable exceptions, Latin American nations should take a holiday and "go fishing." It might be the most rewarding holiday of their history.

The region is finally beginning to look seaward toward its maritime resources. But to date few countries have truly availed themselves of the marine bounty waiting off their beaches.

The exceptions to this situation provide brilliant examples of what could be. Chile, the world's fifth largest exporter of seafood with a fleet of 16,000 fishing boats, caught a total 129,000 tons of sardines, anchovies, conger eel, crab and swordfish in 1989.

Peru has the world's sixth largest fishing industry. Per capita consumption of shellfish in that Andean republic is approximately 35 pounds a year. Much of the Chilean and Peruvian production of anchovies is processed into fish flour. Not to be outdone, Mexico in 1989 exported 185,000 tons of maritime products valued at U.S.$521 million. According to Clara Judisman, Mexico's undersecretary of fishing, Mexico has an annual export potential of up to U.S.$1.5 billion.

Ironically, 24 of the 26 South and Central American republics have access to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and/or the Caribbean Sea, the exceptions being Bolivia and Paraguay. And yet only Chile, Peru and Mexico are exploiting their territorial waters with any degree of efficiency. Latin America currently accounts for only 13 percent of the 100-million-ton annual world seafood catch, with Chile, Peru and Mexico accounting for 75 percent of that amount. In contrast, four major world powers--Japan, the Soviet Union, China and the United States--account for 41 percent of the worldwide total. Brazil and Argentina, each of which possesses vast ocean resources, have almost insignificant fishing fleets in relation to their population.

Judisman attributes the slow development of the fishing industry in Latin America to the emphasis placed by Spain on agriculture and stock breeding in its colonies. Other factors include insufficient funding and an absence of seafood in traditional eating habits.

With the world's traditional land resources expected to dwindle in coming years, however, observers note that Latin America is stepping up exploitation of its vast ocean resources. Leading the way, they say, are Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba, with other countries not far behind.
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Title Annotation:Americas: !Ojo!; exploitation of Latin American marine resources
Author:Goethals, Henry
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:374
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