With its 2,816 km (1,750 mi) of open coast, Venezuela has vast fishing potential. Fish and fish products currently play a relatively minor role in Venezuela's international trade, but fish are extremely important domestically. Venezuela has the highest per capita fish consumption in Latin America, about three times that of the US. The principal fishing areas are La Guaira, the Paraguaná peninsula, and the Cariaco-Margarita-Carúpano area. The total catch in 2000 was 391,255 tons, up from 284,235 tons in 1986.
The fish-canning industry, begun in the 1940s, has had difficulty finding a market, since there has long been a preference for imported canned fish of higher quality. In recent years, however, exports to the United States, the Netherlands Antilles, and other countries have increased. Tariff protection and improvements in quality have helped the industry.