With 1,016 species of fish within Chilean waters, its commercial fisheries have long been important. The low temperatures and Antarctic current supply the purest and most oxygenated marine waters in the world. Since 1959, their growth has been rapid, largely owing to the development of a fish-meal industry, centered around Iquique. Anchovies are predominant along the northern coast, whiting and mackerel in the central waters, and shellfish in the south.
Leading fish and seafood caught commercially are Spanish sardines and yellow jacks, as well as anchovies, whiting, eels, sea snails, mackerel, and mussels. Tuna fishing has increased, as have catches of clams and lobsters. The total fish catch soared from 340,000 tons in 1960 to 1,237,000 tons in 1976 and 4,300,160 tons in 2000, but down from 7,720,578 tons in 1994. Chile is ranked fifth in the world in total landings of fish. In 2000, Chile contributed 3.2% to the world's exports of fish products, valued at $1.78 billion. Exports of fish and fish-meal account for about 9% Chile's total exports.
Increasingly, salmon production is playing an important role in Chile's fishing industry. The Chilean salmon and trout industry consists of more than 70 companies employing directly and indirectly over 40,000 workers, mostly in Regions X, XI, and XII. Aquaculture is conducted in 234 coastal operations for which the companies pay user fees to the government. In 2000, exports of salmon and trout products were valued at $545.7 million.