FISHERY COUNTRY PROFILE Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
REV. 4

February 2000
PROFIL DE LA PÊCHE PAR PAYS Organisation des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture
Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación



Land Area:

756 280 km²

Continental Shelf (until 200 m):

185 000 km² approx.

Length of Coastline:

5 300 km approx.

Population (1998):

15 062 000

GDP at purchasers' value (1998):1

US$ 72 949 million

Fishing GDP (1998):

$US1 104 million

Private consumption per inhabitant, (1998):

$US 3 218 million


Commodity balance (1998):




Total Supply

Per Caput Supply

'000 tonnes liveweight equivalent


Fish for direct human consumption

1 450,0





Fish for animal feed and other purposes

2 375,0


2 271,0



Estimated Employment (1998):


(i) Primary sector:
Industrial fleet:
Artisanal fisheries:

9 000
45 700

(ii) Secondary sector:

27 000
13 000

Gross Value of Fisheries Output (1995):

Trade (1998):


Value of imports:

US$ 37 million

Value of exports:

US$ 1 673 million


Chile occupies an important place in world fisheries being the third country of the globe, for what concerns landings of fishing products, after China and Peru. The development of this sector is based on the effort of the private sector and the existence of a regulatory line, the General Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture, which main goal is the adequate conservation of the hydro-biological resources. During 1998 this sector registered a landing of 2 745 378 tons.

Description sectors

Industrial fishing sector. Is constituted by the industrial fishing vessels and its owners, who have to be registered in the National Industrial Fisheries Register in order to have the rights described in the fishing authorizations of the Fisheries Sub-Secretary. It must be pointed out that during 1998 an important number of substitutions and transference was registered which shows a variation in the number of vessels ready to operate. That is why during 1998 the number of industrial vessels, landing during 1998, reached 494 vessels, from a total of 596 registered vessels, which, all together, accumulate a hold capacity equivalent to 198 976 m2 and to 168 461 gross register tons.

Artisanal fisheries sector. Is constituted by the artisanal fisheries and their vessels, that must be registered in the Artisanal Fisheries National Register in order to develop their extractive activities. During 1998 this sector registered landings of 622 626 tons, including the collect of seaweeds, with a total of 13 825 artisanal vessels, that is, vessels with a length up to 18 m and up to 50 tons of gross register.

Aquaculture fishing sector. In 1998 there were 823 aquaculture centres, which collected, during that year, 361 430 tons, destined to direct consumption or to raw material; they can be divided as follows: 71,9 per cent fishes; 9,2 per cent molluscs and 18,9 per cent seaweeds. This sector has grown at an annual tax of 18,4% from 1994 to 1998.


The total landings during 1998 reached 3,8 million tons, which is about 39 per cent lower than the landing observed during 1997 and about 47,9 per cent inferior to the mean of the period 94-97. This decrease is directly related to the decrease in the catches of Chilean jack mackerel and anchoveta (Peruvian anchovy) which are the major part of the national capture. In the case of the Chilean jack mackerel the catch started to diminish in 1997 as a consequence of the over-exploitation in the years 94, 95 and 96, when landings were greater than the mean of the previous years. The fishing of anchoveta was affected in 1998 by the climatic changes of the phenomenon el Niño.

Fishes represent 87,9 per cent of the total 1998 landings being the remaining 7,0 per cent of seaweeds, 2,9 per cent of molluscs, 1,1 per cent of crustaceans and 1,2 per cent of other resources.

The industrial sector (captures and aquaculture) represented 83,7 per cent of the total landings with 3,2 million tons, formed, in its majority by pelagic resources, of which the Chilean jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi), anchoveta (Peruvian anchovy) (Engraulis ringens) and Chilean sprat (Clupea bentincki) represent 55,5 per cent, 18,0 per cent and 10,9 per cent respectively.

The main demersal resources which influenced the total number of landings were Chilean hake, (Merluccius gayi) and New Zealand hake ( Merluccius australis).

Aquaculture sector

General line. In Chile, this sector has been characterized for being one with bigger dynamics and importance of the national fishing sector, and for having reached a high development which began in the 80's, mainly based in the culture of salmonoids and, at a lower level, molluscs, clams and seaweeds.

It develops mainly in national marine spaces of public use, that can be accessed through a legal term "the aquaculture concession". Even so, it takes place in scales that go from a subsistence economy to an enterprise economy aiming the industrial production.
The 823 aquaculture centres operating during 1998 for the direct consumption or for the elaboration of products, collected 361 430 tons, distributed as follows: 71,9 per cent fishes; 9,2 per cent molluscs and 18, per cent seaweeds.

Collects and production. During 1998, the aquaculture sector reached levels of about 361,4 thousand tons, which is 3,6 per cent lower than in 1997 and about 32,7 per cent above the average of the period 1994-1997; in general, the aquaculture sector increased at an annual tax of 18,4 per cent from 1994 to 1998. The decrease in the global levels of the catches is due to the strong decrease of Gracilaria spp, because of the low prices at the beach. The decrease of the collect of this species is so big that it does not allow the understanding of the increase in the catches of fishes (4,8 per cent) and the strong increase of the molluscs (37,5 per cent) relative to 1997. The main item is related to fishes, which amount to 71,8 per cent of the total capture.


The exports of the aquaculture sector show a progressive increase concerning its participation within the total fishing exports of the country. The last numbers, in august, show that this sector contributed with more than US$ 535 millions, which represents 46,5 per cent of the total exported.



The imports of fishing products during 1998, reached US$ 37 millions and represent a volume of about 27 800 tons.

Fishing exports 1994-98. During the period 1994-1998, the value of the national fishing exports presented a net increase of 22,5 per cent, from US$ 1 366 millions in 1994 to US$ 1 673 millions in 1998. Such an increase in value is due to an increase in the prices; in reality, the prices increased about 110,5 per cent, which can be verified by the fact that in 1994 the medium price was US$ 852,8/ton, while in 1998 it reached a value of US$ 1 795,5/ton. For what concerns the evolution of the exported quantities, it presented a deficit, during the same period, decreasing about 41,8 per cent, from 1,6 millions of tons in 1994 to only 932 thousand tons in 1998.

These results were partially conditioned by the evolution of the exports of fish meal and oil, which strongly influenced both the increase of the prices and the deficit of the exports; while 1994 is among one of the periods of bigger pelagic species landings, 1998 showed all the natural effects of a long period of prohibition and a deteriorated state of the pelagic fisheries, which is the basis for the production and exports of the national industry. Another element which is determinant in the global result of this period was the increase of the lines with a greater aggregated value like the freezing lines and the chilled ones (mainly oriented to the salmonoid resources). The strong increase of the exports compensated the decrease of the prices.

During the 5-year period, the exports of the artisanal sector represented about 20 per cent of the total exports, reaching a value of US$ 324 millions.

Destination markets

The evolution presented by the several economical groups in terms of values during the 5-year period 1994-1998 shows that the group APEC (without NAFTA) were the leaders of such groups; undoubtedly, it must also be stressed out even if its status of main market does not recognize bigger competitors within the rest of the groups, its participation since 1995 started decreasing, once it can be observed that while in that year they had about 51,3 per cent, in 1998 it only reached 46,1 per cent. In absolute terms, within this period this group had an annual growth tax of about 2 per cent, increasing from US$ 700 millions to US$ 771 millions.

The groups NAFTA and U.E. were in second and third places, after APEC. In effect, while in the period 1994-1995, U.E. occupied the second place, after 1996 the group NAFTA managed to overcome it and from that date the difference in favour of this last group increased, managing, during 1998 to maintain a difference of 8.5 percentile points ahead U.E. This can also be verified comparing the annual mean growth taxes of both groups; while U.E. had about 0.9 per cent (the lowest of all the groups), the group NAFTA reached about 12.8 per cent.

On the other hand, the group MERCOSUR, had the biggest annual mean growth tax in that period (26.6 per cent), even if its participation within the total was always under 5 per cent, it has to be stressed out that it was the group with less number of countries, being Brazil and Argentina those who participate more in our exports; it is then more important to point out this group because of the growth levels reached than for its contribution within the total exports.

The group Other countries that joins the rest of the non-associated countries to some economical group, maintained its participation of about 10 per cent during that period, reaching an annual mean growth tax of about 5.9 per cent.
Observing now the behaviour of these groups in terms of exported volume, their generalized decrease is obvious, except for MERCOSUR, which shows, not only an increase in value, but also an annual growth tax in volume of 21.6 per cent, which breaks the tendency shown by the rest of the groups, showing decreases in their volumes of 9.9 per cent for the group APEC, 7.9 per cent for NAFTA, 23.4 per cent for U.E. and 12.7 per cent for Other countries.

Economic role of the fishing industry

Chile occupies the 3rd place of the landings in the world, after China and Peru. This fishing sector is the third exporting sector of the country, after the mining and forest sectors and represents 11 per cent of the external sales, around US$ 1 700 millions.
Situation of the national fishing industry

The Chilean jack mackerel fisheries is the basis of the fishing sector industry in the central and south zones of the country representing, sometimes, half of the national catches. Because of the climatic phenomena of El Niño current and the over fishing of this resource during the period 1994-1995, where the catches reached more than 4 000 million tons, a remarkable decrease of the biomass of this resource was verified. The Government applied successive prohibitions during the years 1998-1999, which reduced dramatically the fisheries and the enterprise activity was strongly affected. In this scenario and aiming to solve this crisis the Government implemented a modification to the current Fishing Law in order to apply a global fishing quota for Chilean jack mackerel of 800 thousand tons for the year 2000, which is considered an indispensable number to avoid the over exploitation of this species, and that could be recovered in 3 years. At the present moment, the project is being discussed at the Senate of the Republic.


The fishing activity in Chile has an enormous future potential. It is the third exporting sector of the country and represents 11 per cent of the external sales, about 1 700 million US dollars, which is a number that is expected to triplicate at a medium term with an adequate administration of the resources, improvement in the production, incorporation of the aggregated value to the products and commercialization.
The national fishing is a highly regulated sector of the economy. In the extractive sector, individual transferable quotas have been applied with success in new fisheries, like the Patagonian tooth fish (Dissostichus eleginoides), and in fisheries that are being recovered like the Pleuroncodes monodon and the Cervimunida johni. The adjudication of property rights has been done by public auctions.

The access to fisheries in full exploitation is restricted through the control of the fleet holds capacity. In the pelagic fisheries, the freezing of the fleet did not have the expected results, and that is how the Chilean jack mackerel fishery had a drastic decrease in the last years.

In order to guarantee the sustainability of the fisheries activity, the Government of Chile proposed a reform to the 1991 Aquaculture and Fisheries Law that tries to establish a new way to regulate the main fisheries in the country. It offers individual fishing licences, which are transferable, indefinite, and able to be transferred or rented, for the fisheries declared in "Regime of Full Exploitation", that is, those that reach such a level of exploitation that, with the capture of the authorized extractive units, there will be no species production in excess nor over capacity of the fishing fleet. This is the major modification of the Fishing Law ever implemented, once it tries to establish a new form of regulation for the main fisheries in the country, leaving the decision of the size of the fishing fleet to the private sector.

Undoubtedly, aquaculture offers the country a high development potential, because of the favourable natural conditions they have and the sector's administration policy which considers fishing and aquaculture as complementary activities. The salmonoids culture maintains a high growth potential, not only concerning the future catches of the authorized centres but also concerning the projections, the important number of centres which are not yet operating in regions X and XI. If they eventually start working, the Chilean salmon culture can largely exceed the present production. This fact undoubtedly shows the possibility for the country to maintain the second place as a world producer of salmonoids, connecting to the market conditions in the future, with a scenario where not only Chile has an important offer but where also participate countries like Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the United States with its offer of chinnok salmon from Alaska.

If there will be an extension of the sector, it is necessary to consider the importance of aggregating value to the products. This becomes clear observing the increase of the exports of products like filets, filets without spines, pieces, "steaks", hamburgers, smoked, salted, among others. This development, is due not only to the need of giving a greater value to the exports, but also to the entry, in the sector, of high technology processing factories which can process such products, according to the most restricted norms of quality.


The Sub-secretary of Fisheries has the responsibility of the national main fisheries, pelagic and demersal fishes, crustaceans and bentonic fishes. For that, funds reaching 1.7 millions of US dollars were assigned by the official budget Law. This important task is under a contract with the Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP).

The Fondo de Investigación Pesquera (FIP) which depends on the Ministry of Economy finances the researches in order to adopt measures of fishing administration. The research annual plans are attributed by public application. The fisheries and aquaculture enterprises have the option to pay previously their fishing and aquaculture patents to the FIP. In 1998 US$ 3.3 millions were collected.

The Fondo de Fomento al Desarrollo Científico (FONDEF) and Tecnológico del Conicyt (Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica) and the Fondo de Innovación y Desarrollo (FDI) of the CORFO (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción) finance technological development projects in all the sectors. During 1999 an ammount of US$ 8 millions was financed to the projects of the fishing sector, most of them in the aquaculture sector.


The Government of Chile under signed the following International Agreements regarding the fishing sector:

  • Agreement for the Regulation for the catch of Whales, adopted in December, 2 of 1946.

  • Protocol to the Convention for the Regulation for the catch of Whales in 1946.

  • Agreement on the Release of Licences for the Exploitation of the Richness of the South Pacific, adopted in 1954.

  • Second Protocol of the Convention about of the Prohibition of the Fisheries with Large Floating gillnets in the South Pacific, adopted in 1990.

  • Convention for the Protection of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources, adopted in 1980-01-01.

  • Protocol for the Conservation and Administration of the Marine and Coastal Areas of the Southeast Pacific, adopted in 1989.

  • Convention for the United Nations on the Rights of the Sea, CONVEMAR and their Annexes.

  • Memorandum of Understanding on the Fishing Co-operation between the Government of the Republic of Chile and the Government of the People's Republic of China, subscribed in 1995.

  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Sub-Secretary of Fisheries and the Japanese Fishing Agency, signed in 1992.

  • Agreement on Technical Co-operation between the Government of Japan and the Government of Chile, 1978.

  • Agreement of Scientific and Technical Collaboration between the Instituto de Fomento Pesquero and the Instituto del Mar of Perú, subscribed in 1992.

In the multilateral domain, the Government of Chile participates in a regular way in the meetings of the FAO Fishing Committee, of the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific, CPPS, of the Commission for the Conservation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources, with the National Marine Fisheries Service of USA, and in the Commission of the Continental Fisheries for Latin America, FAO.


Sub-Secretary of Fisheries:

Instituto de Fomento Pesquero:

Servicio Nacional de Pesca:

Sociedad Nacional de Pesca :email:,

webpage :

Asociación de Productores de Ostras y Ostiones: email :

Asociación de Productores de Salmón y Trucha de Chile, email: : chilesal@netline.c




$US 1 = $Ch 460,29