Ethiopia's many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs and its
approximately 960 kilometers of Red Sea coastline are
fertile fishing grounds. However, fishing contributed less
than l percent of GDP in l987. The ten-year plan in l983/84
estimated that the country had the potential to produce more
than 92,000 tons of fish--66,000 tons from the Red Sea and
the remaining 26,000 tons from lakes and rivers. But actual
production in l983/84 was estimated at 600 to l,200 tons.
Fresh fish are consumed along the Red Sea coast, in Asmera,
and in the vicinity of the Great Rift Valley lakes. Outside
these areas, however, the domestic market for fish is small.
Two factors account for this low level of local fish
consumption. First, fish has not been integrated into the
diet of most of the population. Second, because of religious
influences on consumption patterns, the demand for fish is
only seasonal. During Lent, for example, Christians who
abstain from eating meat, milk, and eggs consume fish.
There was considerable commercial fishing activity in the
Red Sea prior to l974, chiefly consisting of private foreign
companies that exported most of their catch after processing
the fish onshore. For instance, in l970 private companies
exported about 9,l40 tons of fish. After the l974
revolution, most commercial fishing companies left Ethiopia,
which reduced fish exports.
The Mengistu regime encouraged the establishment of fishery
associations and cooperatives along the Red Sea coast and in
the Great Rift Valley lakes area. In l978 the government
established the Fish Production and Marketing Corporation
(FPMC) to help improve the Ethiopian fish industry. The
following year, the Ministry of Agriculture created the
Fisheries Resources Development Department to help improve
fish breeding, control, and marketing. The FPMC received
loans from the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank
and aid from the European Economic Community (EEC) to
purchase various types of transportation equipment and to
establish modern shops and cold storage.
In late 1990, the Red Sea Fishery Resources Development
Project, which is managed by the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO), received funding
from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
Capital Development Fund to purchase motor boats, fishing
nets, and other accessories for five fishermen's
cooperatives in Aseb. The government hoped this equipment
would help increase production and eventually enable the
five cooperatives to extract 450 tons of fish annually.
Nevertheless, the 1988/89 fish production of sixty tons fell
by more than half in 1989/90 because of security problems in
Data as of 1991