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Mexico: Fishing
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Agriculture > Fishing


Mexico has some 11,500 kilometers of Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean coastline, and its inland waters cover more than 2.9 million hectares. The country's coastal fishing grounds offer a rich variety of fish and other seafood. The Pacific coast has thirty-one ports and produces nearly three-quarters of Mexico's total catch; the states of Sonora and Sinaloa alone account for 40 percent of the total catch. Mexico's Pacific fishing grounds produce mainly lobster, shrimp, croaker, albacore, skipjack, and anchovies, while its Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean waters produce shrimp, jewfish, croaker, snapper, mackerel, snook, and mullet. The Gulf of Mexico is an especially important source of shrimp. Certain species -- such as shrimp, lobster, abalone, clam, croaker, grouper, and sea turtle -- are reserved for the country's more than 284 fishing cooperatives, which together have more than 39,000 members. The state-owned Mexican Fisheries (Pesqueros Mexicanos) markets about 15 percent of the total catch. In 1989 the fishing subsector employed 288,000 people. The total fishing fleet grew from 48,000 boats in 1984 to 74,000 boats in 1989.

Until about 1970, the relative distance of urban markets from the coasts depressed commercial production of seafood. During the 1970s and 1980s, the government fostered the construction of new plants for freezing and processing fish. The national catch more than doubled after cooperatives were organized. The government's US$5 billion expansion program helped the fishing industry to increase output by more than 30 percent between 1985 and 1990. Despite these efforts, however, Mexico's catch accounted for less than 10 percent of the total catch taken from waters off Mexico's coasts by United States, Canadian, and Japanese boats.

In the late 1980s, Mexico's fishing output averaged a disappointing 1.4 million tons per year, equivalent to just 0.3 percent of GDP. Production increased from 1.1 million tons in 1983 to 1.6 million tons in 1990. Output fell slightly in 1991 as the United States and Europe embargoed Mexican tuna because of concerns about inadequate protection of dolphins. The Salinas administration's National Fishing Plan for 1990-94 promised higher public investment in the fishing industry, despite the government's stated intention to sell Mexican Fisheries to private owners.

In 1992 Mexico produced 251,500 tons of California pilchard (sardine), down from more than 600,000 tons in 1991. The yellowfin tuna catch rose from 116,400 tons in 1991 to 122,200 tons in 1992. Mexico produced 3,400 tons of Californian anchoveta in 1992, down from 12,100 tons in 1991. Output of marine shrimp and prawns declined from 70,600 tons in 1991 to 66,200 tons in 1992. Mexico exported two-thirds of its catch, especially frozen shrimp, prawns, and other shellfish from the Gulf of California and Bahía de Campeche, mainly to the United States. Export earnings amounted to US$389 million in 1989. In 1992 Mexico produced 77,000 tons of cichlids and 88,100 tons of other freshwater fish.

Data as of June 1996

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Mexico Main Page Country Studies Main Page

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