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8. Mexico

8.1 The country

Mexico, the third largest North American country, is situated between the United States of America in the north and Guatemala and Belize in the south. The country has a population of 90208000 (1991), growing at a rate of 2.2% a year, an urbanization rate of 66.3% and a literacy rate of 90%. It has 1247 universities, second only to the United States in number. Its coasts are washed by the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. A federal republic made up of 31 states, the country has a total area of 1958201km2. The landscapes consist mainly of highlands 1000m above MSL, the low lying areas restricted to the coastal belts on either side of the mainland and the Yucatan peninsula. Nearly 5.5% of the national territory (0.107 million km2) is designated as national parks, biosphere reserves, protected areas for fauna and flora, national monuments and marine national parks. The main agricultural crops are coffee, corn, and cotton, and Mexico is one of the leading producers of salt, silver, crude petroleum products and lead. The GNP is $US156152 with an estimated annual growth rate of 1.4%.

8.2 Fishery resources

Exploitation of fishery resources from the seas and the inland water bodies has always been an important economic activity in the country. In recent years, because of the ongoing economic reforms and the world-wide stress on aquaculture, the country's aquatic resources and their utilization have been receiving special attention. Between 1992 and 1993, the fisheries sector grew by 5.3% against the growth of 0.4% for the economy as a whole. In 1993, the contribution of the fisheries sector to the total Gross Domestic Product was 0.3%.

Table 8.1

Fishery resources of Mexico


Resource size


11500 km

Continental shelf

358 000 km2


3 000 000 km2

Inland water area

2 900 000 ha

Lakes and reservoirs

988 000 ha

Aquaculture ponds

29 182 ha

Mexico's coastline of 11500 km, including that of the offshore islands, is considered to be one of the longest of any country in the world. The rich and varied marine fisheries resources of Mexico include tuna, sardines, anchovies, red snappers, mullets, snappers, sharks, dogfish, king mackerel, grunts, shrimps, lobsters, abalone, oysters, clams, sea snails, octopuses, sea cucumbers and sea urchins. The surface area of inland waters is estimated at 2.9 million ha, which includes nearly 1 million ha of lakes and reservoirs and 29000 ha of ponds (Table 8.1). The marine waters contain a number of economically important species including 154 fish, 29 crustaceans, 59 molluscs, 4echinoderms and 4 species of seaweed. Forty-seven species of native and exotic fish, which contribute significantly to the fish production, can be found in the lagoons, reservoirs and ponds of the inland areas.

8.3 Geographical regions

The country's location and its varying altitudes create a climatic diversity which provides conditions for a variety of aquatic species native to inland and marine waters in both tropical and temperate areas. Mexico has six major regions (Figure 20). The northern plateau and the central plateau regions provide ideal conditions for production of species such as catfish, red tilapia, ornamental fish and black bass. While the gulf coastal slope and the Caribbean area are suited for the production of oysters, shrimps, tilapia, catfish, red drum and marine fish, the Pacific coastal slope is suited for abalone, oysters, bay clams, mother of pearl, sea urchins, sea cucumber, shrimp, red tilapia and marine fish. Mountainous areas provide excellent opportunities for the culture of rainbow trout.

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8.4 Inland fisheries resources

8.4.1 Definition and classification of inland water bodies

Classification of the wide range of natural and man-made water bodies in Mexico is quite vague. Since water bodies are known by a number of names and located in regions with different kinds of land-use patterns, it is very difficult to bring all of them under common classification. The National Metropolitan University has classified the natural water bodies into lagos (lakes), lagunas (lagoons) and escurrimientos temporales, and the artificial ones into jaguey, bordo, and presa (Table 8.2). While the lakes and lagoons are used for drinking water, extensive aqua-culture, agriculture and recreation, the escurrimientos temporales are used mainly for aquaculture purposes. Jaguey are small, often household impoundments, usually less than 1 ha in size, made for watering animals and small agricultural farms. Bordos are small dams created primarily for irrigation purposes where aquaculture is usually practised. Sometimes small bordos are called microbordos and tagged along with jagueys. Presas are the large dams built for irrigation, hydroelectric power generation or city water supply. Embalse refers to all types of inland water bodies.

Table 8.2

Types of inland water bodies in Mexico

Category Type Purpose/Use
Lakes, lagoons Natural Drinking water, agriculture, aquaculture, recreation
Escurrimientos temporales Natural Aquaculture
Jaguey (microbordo) Artificial Small impoundments for family crops and domestic animals
Bordo Artificial Small irrigation impoundments
Presa Artificial Large dams

Since inventory and production data on inland fisheries maintained by the authorities do not have the above classification, it is difficult to make a separate study on the small water bodies such as jagueys and bordos. Therefore, this study is based on the available information on lakes and reservoirs. Some details on the distribution and fish production trends of presas are given in respect of a few states where direct observations were possible.

8.4.2 Inventory of inland water bodies

The landscape of the Mexican upland is dotted with a large number of man-made and natural lakes covering a total surface area of 2.9 million ha. However, many of these lakes, especially those lying in the protected areas, are either not available or not suitable for fisheries purposes. The national register of inland water bodies has at least 2029 entries, of which more than 500 are reservoirs. Apart from these, there are numerous small water bodies which are less than 10 ha in size. Hernandes et al. (1993, Aquila II) classified the 13 935 water bodies in the country into five size categories, 84% of them smaller than 10 ha in size (Table 8.3).

Table 8.3

Reservoirs and lakes in Mexico by size





<10 ha

11 771

30 077

10-100 ha

1 589

48 243

101-1 000 ha


146 243

1 001-10 000 ha


305 968

>10 000 ha


632 530


13 935

1 163 051

More than one-half (54%) of the water surface area is accounted for by only 23large lakes. Tomasini (1992, Aquila II), however, lists 24 large lakes covering an area of 671000 ha (Table 8.4). A total of 13200 water bodies fall under the 10-100 ha category. An overwhelming majority of Mexican reservoirs are very old, some dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. The Yuriria Lake of Guanajuato State and the Santa Cruz Lake of Zacatecas State were created in 1550 and 1602 respectively. While nine of them were constructed in the 18th century, more than one hundred reservoirs can be traced back to the 19th century. Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and Jalisco have the highest concentration of ancient reservoirs. Eighty-five percent of the reservoirs of the country were impounded well before the first half of the 1900s. Many of the old reservoirs are shallow and heavily infested with weeds, rendering them unsuitable for fishery development. Furthermore, many have been declared protected areas for conservation of flora and fauna.

The Mexican authorities have identified 613 reservoirs and 95 lakes in 30 states, with a total water surface area of 988008 ha, as suitable for extensive aquaculture. Jalisco, Michoacan, Nuevo Leon and Zacatecan have the highest number of reservoirs, while lakes are concentrated in the States of Chihuahua, and Tabasco. More than one-half of the inland water area falls within the States of Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Chiapas and Michoacan (Table 8.5). Intensive aquaculture, practised under controlled conditions, is mostly for oysters and marine shrimp. The total water area used for intensive aquaculture is estimated to be 29182 ha. Thus, for all practical purposes, inland fisheries in Mexico consist solely of the extensive aquaculture of reservoirs and lakes.

Table 8.4

Large lakes and reservoirs of Mexico

Name of the lake




(m + MSL)

Year of construction

Chapala 126 195

1 500

Bavicora 28 000

2 500

Cuitzeo 25 000

2 000

Catazaja 20 000


Del Corte 20 000


Balacar 17 900


Catemaco 12 000


Patzcuaro 10 500

2 000

Encinillas 10 000

1 800

La Angostura 64 000


Presidente Aleman 50 000


Vicente Guerrero 46 783


Adolfo Lopes Mateoz 40 000


Marte Gomez 32 500


Netzahualcoyotl 30 000


Falcon (International) 27 520


Venustiano Carranza 19 800


La Boquilla 17 500

1 248

Lazaro Cardenas 15 000

1 535

Amistad (International) 13 400


Miguel Hidalgo 12 000


Plutarco Elias 11 400


El Humaya 11 362


Alvaro Obregon 10 155


Total 671 015
Table 8.5

Reservoirs and lakes of Mexico


Number of units

Total Area

% Area





Jalisco 107 8


154 498

Tamaulipas 34 1


127 489

Chiapas 4 5


120 600

Michoacan 59 5


96 824

Chihuahua 31 23


87 053

Oaxaca 5 0


56 300

Sonora 17 0


47 708

Sinaloa 25 0


47 279

Campeche 0 4


28 500

Durango 19 1


27 420

Coahuila 19 0


26 100

Guanajuato 58 0


25 942

Tabasco 0 16


22 230

Veracruz 2 4


21 300

Quintana Roo 0 8


20 275

Tlaxcala 7 2


16 834

Mexico 35 4


13 862

Hidalgo 21 2


9 882

Nuevo Leon 50 0


8 322

Puebla 8 2


5 806

Zacatecas 45 0


4 834

Aguascalientes 17 -


4 675

Guerrero 8 2


4 040

Queretaro 16 0


3 280

San Luis Potosi 18 0


2 670

Colima 1 2


1 450

Baja California 3 1


1 225

Morelos 1 2



Nayarit 2 1



Baja California South 1 2



Total 613 95


988 008

Others (<10 ha) - -

13 228

177 043

Grand Total - -

13 936

1 165 051


8.5 Organization of inland fisheries activities

A number of Mexican agencies, including the state, federal and local governments, cooperatives and the corporate sector, as well as individual entrepreneurs, are involved in fishery activities. Therefore, information on fishery resources, management norms, fish production trends and other related aspects is widely scattered. The problem is further compounded because norms for land tenure, ownership of water bodies, exploitation policy, licensing and crop sharing systems, and other vital parameters vary widely in different parts of the country. Many states have their own fisheries departments and laws, and are engaged in seed production and distribution and the collection of revenues. At the national level, the Secretariat of Fisheries (Secretaria de Pesca) was responsible for fisheries development until the recent formation of SEMARNAP. When both state and federal laws are in effect, the federal agency assumes an advisory role.


A new federal Secretariat for Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries, Secretaria de Medio Ambiente, Recursos Naturales Y Pesca (SEMARNAP), was formed in 1995 as part of a holistic approach to natural resources and to their sustainable development. A number of federal agencies dealing with environment, forests, wildlife, water resources, fisheries, etc., were merged into a new organization in order to minimize conflicts between environmental and development agencies. SEMARNAP has three directors general dealing with various aspects of fisheries and aquaculture, i.e. the directors general of aquaculture, fisheries management, and international fisheries cooperation, all situated in Mexico City. Fisheries officials posted in the federal delegations of SEMARNAP at the state headquarters work in close liaison with the director general of aquaculture. The national database on fisheries located at SEMARNAP headquarters in Mexico is linked up with all the state delegations through a computer network. In the reorganization, the National Commission for Water, Comision Nacional del Agua (CNA), which is responsible for water resources development projects, was placed under SEMARNAP. Other national institutes involved in the process of fisheries development are:

8.5.2 Organization of fishing groups

In a limited number of reservoirs in each state, fishing groups are organized by SEMARNAP, while the other water bodies are managed by local communities. There are also many lakes and reservoirs that remain totally unmanaged. In Mexico, the systematic development of lakes and reservoirs through extensive aquaculture was initiated by SEMARNAP in order to increase the number of water bodies managed and to augment the productivity of those already managed. A proposal for organizing fishing groups in a reservoir is introduced by local community leaders, a group of local fishers, the state government or SEMARNAP. Sometimes, the suggestion originates from the National Water Commission as a part of its commitment to the rehabilitation of people displaced during dam construction.

Each proposal for organizing a fishing group is first sent to the National Institute of Fisheries (INP) for assessment of the existing fish stock of the lake in question. The INP decides the mesh size and quantity of nets to be used in the reservoir. It is also mandatory for the proposal to be evaluated by the National Institute of Ecology (INE) for an environmental impact assessment. Finally, the proposal goes to the Fisheries Management Group of SEMARNAP which issues the necessary permission and licence. More often it is the state delegation that organizes a cooperative society for the fishers of a reservoir and provides assistance such as stocking support, financial aid to buy nets and boats, and the creation of infrastructure facilities.

Inland production systems can be broadly classified as three types – restocking aquaculture, rural aquaculture and high yield aquaculture. Restocking aquaculture is a national development activity fostered by SEMARNAP in a number of reservoirs all over the country, while rural aquaculture is a poverty alleviation and rural employment programme aimed at improving the nutritional and economic standards of the rural poor. The major emphasis in high yield aquaculture is on the production of fish, crustaceans and molluscs through intensive culture under controlled conditions. As intensive culture entails heavy investment in the form of capital and infrastructure development, the private and corporate sectors are encouraged to take part in this venture. Mexico offers tax advantages to make investments in aquaculture more competitive. This includes a 50% concession on income tax for individuals, cooperatives and firms involved in aquaculture and reimbursement of value-added tax when the producer pays duty on inputs. An accelerated depreciation or a write-off of up to 62% on initial investment and 89% on machinery and equipment is allowed.

8.5.3 Fish seed production and stocking

Since stocking is an essential step in reservoir fisheries management, SEMARNAP has begun the process of creating a network of fish seed production centres all over the country to meet the fish seed requirements of the reservoirs it controls. At present, SEMARNAP owns 39 seed production centres situated in 23 states (Table 8.6).

Table 8.6

Fish seed production centres in Mexico under the public sector


Number of Hatcheries



Baja California South 2 -
Baja California 1* -
Sonora 2** 1
N. Leon 1 -
Tamaulipas 1 2
Oaxaca 2 1
Yucatan 1 -
Aguascalientes 3 1
Jalisco 1*** 2
Federal District of Mexico 1 -
Chiapas - 3
Tabasco - 1
Veracruz - 5
San Luis Potosi - 1
Morelos - 2
Mexico - 1
Guerrero - 2
Michoacan - 3
Colima - 3
Hidalgo - 1
Guanaguato - 1
Zacatecas - 1
Nayarit - 1
Coahuila - 1
Durango - 1
Chihuahua - 2
Sinaloa - 2
Puebla - 1
Total 15 39
* Given to private sector
** Oyster
*** Given to university

The total number of fish seed produced in these centres in 1994 was 144902, of which 58% was tilapia, 25% was carp and 3% was trout. While most of the centres produce tilapia, carp is bred mainly in the States of Hidalgo, Durango, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes. Out of the total 36 million carp fry produced in the country, 32 million come from the 11 land-locked states. Most of the trout seed are produced in the States of Mexico and Michoacan. A few centres produce grass carp, common carp and indigenous fish (Table 8.7).

Many of the hatcheries produce surplus seed which are sent to stock the reservoirs of the states in short supply. Durango and Aguascalientes are the main exporters of carp, while Morelos and Colima have excess tilapia seed for interstate transfer. The two fish seed production centres of Morelos, i.e. Fernando Obregan and Zacatepec, produce 6million fish fry a year which are more than the requirements of the state. These two farms have a total land area of 4 ha with 0.13 ha of water area including ten broodstock ponds and seven nursery ponds.

The State of Queretaro depends totally on other states for the fish seed requirements of its 32 reservoirs. In 1994, 2951460 fish fry were brought in from various states. Durango, Aguascalientes and Hidalgo supplied 634000, 468000 and 216000 carp respectively. While Aguascalientes was the main source of Lobina (black bass), the 200000 prawn juveniles stocked in Rio Conca and Estanques reservoirs originated from Guerrero.

Table 8.7

Fish seed production in Mexico during 1994








Sonora -





Sinaloa -

31 695



31 695

Nayarit -

4 171



4 260

Jalisco 808

1 630



2 438

Colima -

4 520



4 520

Michoacan 2 123




3 023

Guerrero -

2 026


4 893

6 919

Oaxaca -

5 275



5 275

Chiapas 862

4 213



5 075

Tamaulipas -

1 590



2 131

Veracruz -

9 894

1 156


11 050

Tabasco -

4 735



4 735

Agua-scalientes 1 417

4 266



6 567

Coahuila 7 593




8 193

Chihuahua 500



1 200

2 500

Durango 8 890




9 516

Guanojuato 835





Hidalgo 9 101



6 692

15 854

Mexico -


1 517

3 813

5 330

Morelos -

6 637



6 637

Puebla -


1 291


1 291

S. Luis Potosi 4 034




4 034

Zacatecas -

2 528



2 528

Total 36 163

84 806

4 736

19 197

144 902

8.5.4 Use of fish seed

Most of the fish seed produced in the country are used for stocking reservoirs. In 1994, 100% of the black bass seed, 90% of the carp seed and 75% of the tilapia seed produced were used for stocking reservoirs. Trout seed (95%) and freshwater prawn seed (100%) were used mainly in intensive aquaculture. While the seed produced in SEMARNAP centres are mainly used for free stocking in the reservoirs, the hatcheries run by state governments are mainly involved in producing fish, prawn and oyster seed for intensive aquaculture. With the increased competitiveness of intensive aquaculture, the seed production units for this segment have become commercial ventures. The fish seed produced in the state government farms is often sold to the aquaculture companies or entrepreneurs. Some hatcheries, such as the one in Baja California State, have been sold to private sector agencies. Stocking rates differ in the various states and reservoirs. SEMARNAP tries to follow a more or less uniform stocking rate as shown in Table 8.8.

Table 8.8

Stocking density followed by SEMARNAP


Stocking density

Large reservoirs
Oreochromis mossambicus,

1 fish/10 m2

O. niloticus & O. aureus
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix,
Aristichthys nobilis,
Ctenopharyngodon idella &
Cyprinus carpio
Micropterus salmoides

10 fish/10 m2

Small reservoirs
All species

20 fish/10 m2

8.6 Fish production trends

The lion's share of fish produced in Mexico, comes from marine capture fisheries. In 1994 marine capture fisheries contributed 86% of the total national fish catch of 1260019t. The remaining 171389t of fish came from brackishwater, marine and freshwater aquaculture systems. Fish production from inland sources is classified as intensive and extensive aquaculture, the latter including the culture-based fisheries of reservoirs and lakes. In national fisheries statistics there is no separate provision for the capture fisheries of large inland water bodies, which are accounted for in extensive aquaculture.

Table 8.10

Aquaculture production (t) in 1994 by culture systems

Culture system


Large man-made lakes (presas)

56 822.09

Lakes and lagoons

55 048.71

Small reservoirs (bordos)

7 523.40

Small water bodies (jaguey and abrevadero)


Earthen ponds

19 369.59

Cemented ponds


Irrigation canals



1 721.04

Oyster beds

25 435.56

Other systems (cages, rafts, trays, racks, etc.)

3 881.90


171 388.55

Table 8.9

Distribution of fish production (t) in Mexico 1994



Total aquaculture

Total fish







2 513

2 606

5 940



18 159

18 848

23 726



2 617

2 665

7 838

Freshwater prawn




3 507



1 465

1 470

1 598


2 775

72 766

75 541

92 891


1 869


1 966

4 721

Total inland

5 506

97 658

103 164

140 221

Marine shrimps

13 138


1 138

76 324



33 329

33 479

36 699

Total marine

13 288

33 329

34 617

113 023

Other species


1 023

1 109

787 828


1 025

19 474

20 499

218 947

Grand Total

19 905

151 484

171 389

1 260 019

* Catch not included in the official register
** Include tilapia

In 1994 extensive aquaculture produced 97658t of fish, mainly carp, tilapia and mojarra (Cichlasoma spp. and Lepomis spp.), catfish and charal (Chirostoma spp.), which accounted for less than 8% of the total fish production. Intensive culture, still in its infancy, is largely dominated by brackishwater culture (marine prawns) and mariculture (oysters). It contributed only 19905t (approximately 1.5%) of total fish production in 1994. The distribution of aquaculture production among different culture systems is shown in Table 8.9. Extensive aquaculture of the large man-made lakes (presas), lakes and lagoons produced 111870t of fish in 1994, which is equivalent to 65% of total aquaculture production. These large water bodies along with the small reservoirs (bordos) account for more than 70% of inland fish production (Table 8.10). The relative importance of carp in total fish production is increasing although the share of tilapia remains more or less constant. This is discernible from the catch data for the two groups for a ten-year period from 1983 to 1992 (Table8.11).

Table 8.11

Relative increase of tilapia and carp from 1983 to 1992












1983 122 148

57 558


7 235


1984 144 039

63 569


10 088


1985 133 309

53 724


16 549


1986 151 124

65 568


20 921


1987 174 385

75 093


26 170


1988 184 339

74 843


27 056


1989 181 697

73 766


22 504


1990 190 065

83 815


27 214


1991 171 408

75 174


28 220


1992 174 626

76 964


28 393


Culture fisheries has registered a comparatively faster growth during the last ten years than total fish production. While the production from culture increased from 133300t in 1985 to 171400t in 1994, total fish production increased from 1246000t to 1260000t during the same period. Aquaculture increased at an annual growth rate of 2.8%, compared with 0.1% growth of national fish production (Table8.12). Fish from reservoirs and lakes being the main components of aquaculture production, much of the growth in the fisheries sector is attributable to these inland water bodies.

Table 8.12

Growth of aquaculture in relation to total fish production in Mexico for the last 10years


National production

Aquaculture production

Share of aquaculture

('000 t)

('000 t)


1985 1 246 133.3 9.7
1986 1 453 151.1 9.4
1987 1 447 174.3 10.7
1988 1 517 184.3 10.8
1989 1 394 181.6 11.5
1990 1 465 190.0 11.5
1991 1 357 171.4 11.2
1992 1 246 174.6 12.3
1993 1 200 165.0 12.0
1994 1 260 171.4 12.0
Average annual growth rate




8.7 Legal framework for inland fisheries

The inland fisheries activities of Mexico are governed by the new Fisheries Law and its Regulations of June 1992, which replaced the Federal Fisheries Law of 1986 and its Regulations. Under Articles 2 and 3 of the Law, the Secretariat of Fisheries had the authority to enforce the regulations in all waters under federal jurisdiction. Later this authority was given to SEMARNAP. According to the present law, licences, permits or authorizations are necessary to undertake any fishing activity other than that for domestic consumption. SEMARNAP has the authority to issue such authorizations, besides setting methods and measures for the conservation of fisheries resources and the restocking of fishing areas, regulating the creation of refuge areas to protect aquatic species requiring protection and establishing closed seasons and areas. It is also authorized to regulate the introduction of species of aquatic flora and fauna in bodies of water under federal jurisdiction and define technical sanitary standards to guarantee the healthy development of aquatic organisms.

Regulations on aquaculture are defined in Article 44 of the Law, which sanctions the role of SEMARNAP as promoter of aquaculture activities by establishing coordination between state governments and various national institutions. SEMARNAP is also required to provide technical and financial support to the aquaculture ventures of entrepreneurs. Only a permit is required to initiate an aquaculture venture while an authorization is needed for the introduction of exotic species. Article 51 stipulates that those parties authorized to collect organisms from the natural environment and aquaculturists who obtain their supplies from them are bound to restock the natural environment according to the terms and conditions as laid down by SEMARNAP.

Although the current federal law and its regulations provide a necessary framework for fisheries development in inland water bodies, their enforcement is not very consistent for many reasons. Apart from the inadequacy of SEMARNAP, in terms of human resources and infrastructure, to monitor fisheries in widespread water bodies, the socio-economic realities at the grassroots make it difficult to enforce many regulations effectively.

As regards the land distribution pattern in the country, only 20% of the total area is federal land where federal regulations can be easily implemented on the water bodies. Only 10% of the land is owned by private individuals and the remaining 70% is community-owned. There are two types of community land, the ejido land and the community farms. Ejidos, a legacy of the revolution, are large tracts of land allotted to the community for joint cultivation. The members of the community use the land as common property, without partitioning individual shares for the members. On community farms, on the other hand, members are allotted their respective portions of land. Ejido land is managed by elected representatives of the community, and often there are disputes with the federal agencies over the right to issue permits, the implementation of regulations and sharing of profits. Ejido leaders often question the right of individual fishers to their earnings, as the land, and by implication the water, belongs to the community as whole.

8.7.1 New provisions to promote aquaculture development

Recently, new amendments have been made in the provisions of the Fisheries Law to foster the growth of the aquaculture sector. The new law provides legal security, makes long-term investments possible, and promotes the inflow of investment resources. Currently, licences are issued for a period of up to 50 years, renewable for an additional 50-year period. The duration of a licence depends on the amount, period of maturity and recovery of the investment in the particular project. The new promotional activities launched by the Secretariat of Fisheries are focused on relaxing regulations imposed by other government agencies. One of these measures allows the possibility of foreign investors to own up to 100% of aquaculture enterprises. Under the new law, no licences are required by aquaculture producers interested in the development of sea farms or floating cages in inland water bodies.

One of the obstacles to the reform of land distribution has been the regulation that prohibited the fragmentation of ejido land, which prevented farmers from obtaining and transferring titles for the land. This law was amended in 1993 to allow the selective distribution of land among farmers, but the process, riddled with procedural delays, achieves only slow progress. In Sinola State where 90% of the land is ejido, the coastlands are unsuitable for agriculture, but potential exists for large-scale shrimp culture. Development in this direction is very slow owing to the problems involved in procuring land.

8.8 Fish species

Of the total 48 species of freshwater fish, 12 are exotic species which were introduced to augment production. There are also six species of prawns and three species of crayfish, caught or cultured in the inland waters, of which four are purely freshwater forms. The five regions of Mexico in relation to distribution of fish are as follows.

Region I Baja California, Baja California South, Sonora, Sinaloa

Region II Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Chiapas

Region III Tamaulipas, Veracruz

Region IV Tabasco, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatan

Region V Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila,Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala, Zacatecas (Figure 21).

8.8.1 Major species of economic importance


Cambarellus montezumae, Astacus cambarus, Procambarus clarkii.

Cambarellus montezumae: distribution in Region V; maximum size 7 cm; average size 3cm; fished the entire year; no restrictions; total annual catch 33 t; catch shows a decreasing trend.


Ictalurus punctatus, I. pricei, I. furcatus, I. melas, I. ochoterenai, I. dugesi and I. balsanus.

Ictalurus punctatus: distribution in Regions I, II, III & V; maximum size 132 cm (30 kg); average size 30 cm; marketed fresh filleted, fresh and frozen; catching season from 1September to 30 April; annual catch 2000 t; catch increasing.

Ictalurus dugesi: catch restrictions in Michoacan State; fishing in Chapala Lake with cueveo method not allowed.


Three varieties of Cyprinus carpio, i.e. var. specularis, var. communis and var. rubrofuscus; gold fish (Carassius auratus); grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella); silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix); bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis); and, black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus).

Cyprinus carpio specularis: distribution in Regions II, III & V; maximum size 80 cm (32kg); average size 60 cm (3 kg); fished the entire year; no restrictions; annual catch increasing.


Lepisosteus osseus, L. platostomus, Atractosteus tropicus and A. spatula.

Lepisosteus osseus: distribution in Regions III & IV; anadromous; maximum size 183 cm; average weight 25 kg; caught during the whole year; no restrictions; catch stable.

w7560e14.jpg (59385 byte)

Figure 21 The five zones of fish distribution in Mexico


Chirostoma patzcuaro, C. grandocule, C. jordani, C. labarcae, C. chapalae, C. bartoni and C. attenuatum attenuatum.

Chirostoma chapalae: distribution in Regions II & V; maximum size 14 cm; average size 5 cm; maximum weight 12 g; fishing season from May to February; closed season March to April (these restrictions are only for C. chapalae in the Chapala lake); decreasing trend.

Freshwater prawn

Macrobrachium rosenbergii, M. acanthurus, M. americanum, M. carcinus, M. olfersii and M. tenellum.

Macrobrachium rosenbergii: distribution in all regions; maximum size 32 cm males, 26.5cm females; average size 15 cm; maximum weight 40 g; average weight 15 g; fishing season November to July; closed season August to October; no restrictions for the introduced species, M.rosenbergii; catch increasing.

Lobina (black bass)

Micropterus salmoides: distribution Regions I, II, III & V; maximum size 97 cm; average size 40 cm; maximum weight 10 kg; average weight 2 kg; fishing season June to March; closed season April to May; restrictions in sport fishery (maximum catch 10 kg/day, and minimum catch length 20 cm); fishery stable.

Pescade blanca

Chirostoma estor estor, C. estor copandano, C. lucius, C. compressum, C. sphyraena, C.humboldtianum.

Chirostoma estor estor: distribution Regions II & V; endemic to Jalisco and Michoacan States; maximum size 42 cm; average size 30 cm; maximum weight 540 g; average weight 250 g; fishing season April to January; closed season February and March (these restrictions apply for C.sphyraena only in Chapala lake in Jalisco); decreasing trend.


Tilapia rendalli, Oreochromis aureus, O. mossambicus, O. urolepis hornorum, O. niloticus.

Tilapia rendalli: introduced fish, found in all regions; maximum size 45 cm; average size 25cm; maximum weight 2.5 kg; average weight 300 g; no restrictions; increasing trend in catch.


Oncorhyncus mykiss and O. fontinalis

Oncorhyncus mykiss: found mostly in Region V; anadromous; maximum size 114 cm; average size 60 cm; maximum weight 12 kg; average weight 0.8 kg; no restrictions in fishing; increasing trend in catch.

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