FISHERY COUNTRY PROFILE Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rev. 2

May 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:

916 445 km²

Continental shelf (up to 200m):

25 000 km²approx.

Length of Coastline:

2 813 km

Population (1998):

22 136 284

Gross Domestic Product (1998):

$US 94 911 million

Agriculture GDP (1998):

$US 4 368 million

GDP per caput (1998):

$US 312

US$ 1,00 = 548,2 Bolívares


Commodity balance (1998):





Total supply

Per caput supply


'000 Tonnes liveweight equivalent


Fish for direct human consumption






Fish for animal feed and other purposes






Estimated employment (1998):


(i) Primary sector:

50 800

(ii) Secondary sector:

6 000



Gross Value of Fisheries Output (1998):

US$ 537 millions

Trade (1998):


Value of imports:

$US 32 983 millions

Value of exports:

$US 93 015 millions


Fishing fleet

The fishing fleet is approximately composed by 14 907 vessels. 94 per cent is directed to the small-scale artisanal fisheries, 2 per cent to midwater fisheries and 4 per cent operate in the deep-sea industrial fisheries. The tuna fleet is composed by 31 purse-seiners with a transport capacity superior to 900 tons, 25 of which operate in the East Pacific ocean, being the third fleet directed to tuna fisheries, operating in this zone.

In 1996 16 305 vessels, of which 64 per cent operate in the coastal zone and 36 per cent in river bays composed the small scale fishing fleet. 404 shrimp trawlers composed the midwater fleet and 257 vessels captured snappers and dusky groupers. The deep-sea fleet had 231 vessels among which there were handliners, purse-seiners and longliners.


Although this activity showed a high potential for its exploitation, the present development of aquaculture in Venezuela is insignificant and compared with other countries, is an activity with low productivity. Undoubtedly, and considering its slow evolution, the aquaculture production in Venezuela went from 516 tons in 1983 to 4 153 tons in 1994. In that year this sector produced 2 227 tons of marine shrimps (several species of the gender Penaeus), the activity with the biggest increase. Other species with a reasonable production are the trouts and the cachama, of which 618 tons were produced in 1994. The sea mussels culture disappeared as such since 1991. The peneidae shrimp culture had a considerable development, with a cultivated area of 897 hectares in 7 farms, with a mean production of 1.200 Kg/ha/year for new projects and 1 800 Kg/ha/year for the already established enterprises. Based on this projection for 1994 the production was 1 800 tons superior to the estimated number. The shrimp culture for internal consumption, had a production of 5.000 tons for 1998. For what concerns tilapia the increase is very expressive, going from 127 tons produced in 1991 to 2 280 in 1998, which means an increase of 51 per cent, being followed by the marine shrimp with a much more modest production.

Utilization of the catches

In 1998 the by catches production was 515 917 tons, representing, the marine species, 89 per cent and the river ones 9 per cent. The exports were approximately 120.189 tons. The total catch was divided by the following groups: Tunas: the landings of the different species of tunas reached 89 478 tons; 45 000 tons of this volume, were exported as frozen and canned tuna and the remaining was directed to the internal market, mainly canned; Shrimp: the production in this activity, which has the main species of the bottom trawl fisheries, was 6 910 tons, of which 3 000 tons were destined to the United States market, representing important incomes to the national industry; Sardine: 186.060 tons were captured this year in the different fishing states of Venezuela. From them, the major proportion was canned for the internal market, and the exports were only 20 000 tons; Marine demersal fishes: this group participated in the grand total with a capture of 128.630 tons, being fresh fish the major proportion, destined to the internal market, and a small proportion consumed as dry/salted fish; Continental species: the production in this region reached 46 378 tons, and the most important species caught were the coporo (15 367 tons) and the catfishes (11 046 tons), being both totally destined to the internal consumption as fresh fish; Various molluscs: its capture was 14.990 tons, destined to complete the internal demand; Pepitonas: the production of pepitonas that had been increasing, reached 27 981 tons, totally directed to the internal consumption.

Situation of the industry

In Venezuela, the fishing transforming products industry appears as a consequence of the development of the different fisheries, together with the comparative advantages of the country for what concerns electric energy, geographic situation and hydro-biological resources abundance, hydro-carbonates and iron. The national industry was maintained operational thanks to the co-existence of the artisanal and industrial fisheries. The artisanal type fisheries has shown, as fundamental characteristics, a scarce organization, dispersion, weak support and financing structure, having the product a deep national tradition; while the industrial fisheries is a more solid sector, with a better organization and better relations abroad, which develop the local economies, specially to the most poor regions of the country. On the other hand, the national artisanal fisheries has become very important for creating employment and for having catches slightly bigger than the productions of the industrial fisheries. Nowadays, the artisanal fleet operates mainly with vessels with engines with internal combustion, built with materials based on synthetic fibres; undoubtedly, the technical principles, mainly the gears and the manoeuvres had small changes, maintaining its autochthonous character.

In 1998 there was a total of 55 registered enterprises processing the fishing products within the national territory, with an installed capacity prepared to process 1 141tons a day, which are a source of direct employment for about 170 steady technicians and about 5000 persons working on piece-work. 41 of these enterprises processed frozen products (shrimp, fish fillets, frozen wet fish, red shrimp and squids) and 14 processed canned tuna, sardine, pepitonas, crabs, octopus and shrimp. The factories for canning and frozen products had the highest level of industrialization and the biggest installed capacity.

The industrial park is geographically concentrated very near the landing places: 53 per cent in east region, 40 per cent in the west zone and the remaining 7 per cent in the central zone of the country. The majority of these factories have a great socio-economic mean for being a source of employment in the less favoured regions. In 1993 industry processed 132 041 tons of raw material, an increase of 88 per cent relatively to 1989.

The existent harbour installations, as well as the available facilities in the ports, piers and landing places where landings of the captures are done, offer services for the mobilization of increasing volumes of marine and river species, answering in a satisfactory way to the requirements of the fishing fleet. The most affected one, due to an inadequate infrastructure in its landing places is the marine and river small scale fishing.

Economical function of the industry

Considering the high contribution given by the oil production sector to the Gross Domestic Product and the small contribution of the agriculture (which includes, in this case, the fishing sub-sector), the quota of participation of the fishing industry is not very important. Undoubtedly, it is important to stress out, that the fishing sub-sector shows a non typical characteristic in Venezuela, once it is the only primary productive sub-sector with a favourable commercial balance in opposition to the agriculture commercial balance, traditionally in deficit. The economical function of the industry in these last years has been diversified, and it is possible to differentiate the activity dedicated to satisfy the fish internal demand that has been increasing, based on the sustained growth of the feeding disposability of marine products for human consumption, from the export activity, which has also had a moderate increase. Between 1993 and 1998 the Venezuelan exports increased US$ 11 758 thousand. The species that contributed for this increase are mainly tuna, shrimp, and sardine, which sells reached approximately, US$ 210 Mill in 1998. Another important function of fisheries in the country is the generation of employment in less developed areas of the national geography; it is estimated that about 30 000 families depend directly on small-scale fisheries and that about 350 000 persons depend direct or indirectly on this activity.


The Venezuelan fishing sector had a relatively fast development, its growth has been vertiginous since the middle 70's, having its production been multiplied by four in a period of thirty years. The result is that a good part of the main species of the commercial fisheries, both pelagic and demersal is in a relatively high state of exploitation; however, the deep water resources like tuna, round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) having great landings and the shrimp from the trawl fisheries, are subject to legal regulations, which managed to maintain the captures at a sustainable level. The quality and variety of the processed products have improved enormously in the last years, existing now a diversified internal market, with greater export possibilities from a more and more specialized industry.

A vast program in aquaculture has been contemplated to contribute to the national nourishing plan to the agro-industrial development and to the promotion of the enterprises, taking into account the needs of the country to incentive the exports program, the self-supply and the creation of employment. The orientation is to take profit of the existing potential in the country. The objective is to stress out the integration of the aquaculture in the production, encouraging the private participation in the development of enterprises in this area and to promote the increase of the aquaculture products consumption levels, in order to improve productivity. Even if the national aquaculture is not yet prepared to export, the progresses reached allow a promising perspective.


The studies to determine the fish demand at a national level have not been done in a homogeneous way. The fish and seafood sectors show disposability indices with a positive growth, above the real consumption (37 per cent superior in 1994). The fish consumption grew from 11.8 g per inhabitant in 1990 to 14.1g per inhabitant in 1994.


For what concerns fishing and fisheries wealth, and the physical, chemical and biological processes that influence them, the studies made in Venezuela were concentrated in those zones that, due to its characteristics, allowed the development of important marine species communities and the consequent fisheries they sustain. Up to now, the Northeast zone has been the most studied. Venezuela made important researches in the fishing sub-sector of aquaculture. The Fondo Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias - FONAIAP (Agriculture and Livestock Research National Fund) , which now depends on the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología (Science and Technology Ministry), has worked together with the fishing administration, recently aggregated to the Ministerio de la Producción y el Comercio (Production and Commerce Ministry), developing researches on resources sustainability, fishing statistics and development of the great pelagic fisheries (tunas, peces pico and sharks) among other fisheries of the Central-West Atlantic.. Besides that, it participates actively in different international forums and working groups dedicated to regional studies on the different species behaviour. The Universidad Central de Venezuela (Central University of Venezuela) and the Universidad de Oriente (East University) with its Oceanographic Institute, as well as several public and private institutions make researches both in the fishing and aquaculture sectors. The scarcity of resources allocated to studies and research and the budget reduction of the majority of the State organizations make very difficult the development of the scientific researches, the conclusion of the studies, the practical application of the results and the development of policies according to the real needs.


The present Venezuelan Government received FAO assistance concerning the data collect and processing systems for the Servicio Autónomo de los Recursos Pesqueros y Acuícolas (SARPA) (Autonomous Service of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources). Between 1996 and 1997 pilot tests on the FAO/ARTFISH System were carried out. In that same period the project on genetic Improvement of tilapia (TCP/VEN/6611) was approved and applied. The research activities related with the project called Reducción del Impacto de la Pesca de Arrastre del Camarón Tropical sobre los Recursos Vivos por Medio de la Adopción de Técnicas y Prácticas que Respeten el Medio Ambiente (Reduction of the Impact of the Tropical Shrimp Trawl Fishery on the Living Resources through the Adoption of Techniques that Respect the Environment), sponsored by FAO and by the Fondo para el Medio Ambiente Mundial (Fund for the World Environment) of the PNUD took place during 1998 and 1999.

Future needs

It is expected to deepen the research works through the available technical personnel, who participated in several events and training works organized both internal and externally. Among the organizations that supported the fishing and aquaculture research in Venezuela with more emphasis is FAO; the qualified technicians of the different national scientific-technological centers could consolidate their knowledge participating in the forums promoted by that organization. It is possible that the technical assistance, according to the recent political policy of the Government, is equally directed, including the institutional organization and the fishing planning.




Instituto Oceanográfico de la Universidad de Oriente

Instituto de Zoología Tropical de la Universidad Central de Venezuela -


Universidad del Zulia

Servicio Autónomo de fauna PROFAUNA

Ministerio del Ambiente y de los Recursos Naturales Renovables