Country Listing

Mexico Table of Contents



Some 9 percent of Mexico's territory consists of forest or woodland, 59 percent of which is in the tropics, 15 percent in the subtropical zone, and 26 percent in the temperate and cool zones. Forests cover some 49 million hectares, almost one-third of which are open to logging, mainly in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Michoacán. About 9 percent of forests are on state or federal lands, 19 percent on ejido lands, and 72 percent on municipal or private lands. Although the tropical trees of the southwest rain forests are the most numerous, the coniferous pine forests of the temperate and cool regions are commercially more important, providing pulpwood for processing in Mexico's paper mills. More than 65 percent of Mexico's forests consist of hardwoods, and the rest are softwoods. The major timber stands are mahogany, cedar, primavera (white mahogany), sapote, oak, copa (yaya), and pine.

In 1992 forestry provided 6 percent of total agricultural output but a negligible 1 percent of overall GDP. Lumber production declined by 5 percent in 1990 and by 3 percent in 1991. Lumber companies attributed lower output to more intense foreign competition as a result of trade liberalization. Exports of wood products were valued at US$14 million in 1988.

In the late 1980s, the forestry sector suffered from overexploitation, insufficient investment and planning, and the disappearance of certain species, as well as from forest fires and insect damage (see Environmental Conditions, ch. 2). Deforestation resulted in the loss of some 370,000 hectares annually as land was cleared for cultivation and livestock grazing.


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

Country Listing

Mexico Table of Contents