Forestry and Fishing

Colombia Table of Contents

Numerous types of tropical forests covered Colombia; most, however, remained unexploited for commercial use. In the late 1980s, commercially viable forest tracts may have covered as much as 78 million hectares, with between 500,000 and 1 million hectares logged each year. Although more than 1,000 types of tree grew in Colombia, only 30 types had commercial value. Replanting occurred infrequently, and in the late 1980s only one hectare in ten received any type of restoration treatment, largely because of poor government regulation of the logging industry.

Colombia produced wood in the late 1980s for construction and crafts and also supplied fuel wood and wood pulp for heating and printing. Lumber production was, however, a minor industry in Colombia, limited in part by the country's terrain.

The vast Amazon region of southeastern Colombia was one of the most heavily wooded areas in the country. Large-scale logging had not yet been very successful, however, because of the low value attached to most tropical woods and because usable trees grew among less valuable ones. Nonetheless, because of the development of new processes to make cardboard and other stiff paper products from some tropical trees, such as the cecropia, loggers became more interested in opening new areas of the Amazon for logging in the late 1980s. Once initially logged, these areas could then be replanted with a single type of tree for future exploitation.

Colombia still supported only a fledgling fishing industry despite long coastlines on two oceans and extensive inland river and lake networks. In 1984 approximately 100,000 tons of fish were caught, more than half from freshwater inland sources. The fishing industry constituted less than 1 percent of GDP and did not meet the domestic demand for fish. Commercial fishing for export was restricted to small businesses pursuing shrimp and oysters. Most canned commercial fish, such as tuna and sardines, were consumed domestically.

Despite its lack of development, ocean fishing represented one of the most promising industries in Colombia. The government targeted Buenaventura, a large port on the Pacific coast, for expanded facilities to support both domestic and foreign fishing vessels. Planned development included the addition of docks, refrigerated storage facilities, and canning and oil-processing plants. The potential ocean catch was estimated to be as large as 240,000 tons, or ten times the amount of fish caught in 1986.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress