Fishing, which has been a major industry since the 1930s, is centered in Agadir, Safi, and Tan-Tan. In some years, Morocco is the world's largest producer of the European sardine (Sardina pilchardus). Coastal fishing accounts for about 86% of production; deep-sea fishing, 13%; and algae cultivation and aquaculture, 1%.
Landings from coastal waters totaled 896,620 tons in 2000, twenty-fourth in the world and the highest in Africa. Sardines accounted for 539,785 tons (62%) that year. The waters off Western Sahara are particularly rich in seafood. Coastal fishing supplies the Moroccan fish processing industry, which is concentrated in the southern cities of Layoun, Tan Tan, Tarfaya, and Agadir. The canning industry processes mostly sardines and to a lesser extent mackerels and anchovies. Many of the plants use obsolete equipment, and there is currently no government support to develop and introduce new technology to the industry.
The deep-sea catch consists mostly of cephalopods (such as octopus, squid, and cuttlefish), hake, sea bream, sole, and shrimp. Cephalopod deep-sea landings in 2001 included 46,896 tons of octopus, 8,504 tons of squid, and 14,474 tons of cuttlefish. Nearly all deep-sea production is sorted, frozen in vessels, and exported upon arrival; Japan is the major buyer of Moroccan octopus.
Aquacultural production consists mainly of seabass, sea bream, oysters, tuna, and eel, which are produced for export to Europe. The principal aquaculture farms are located in Nador and Hoceima on the Mediterranean Sea, Oulidida on the Atlantic Ocean, and Azrou on an inland lake.
Much of the fish catch is processed into fish meal, fertilizer, and animal fodder. In 2000, $950.4 million of fish products were exported primarily to the EU nations, Japan, and the US. Deep sea fishing is expected to become more important, because the EU is committed to reducing its fishing fleet size. Moroccan fish companies are expected to play a larger role in the world cephalopod market in the future. There is concern, however, that overfishing during one year may result in smaller catches in the future.