Lake Maracaibo goes from producing oil to shrimp

The Maracaibo lakethe largest in Venezuela and symbol of the oil boomis becoming the favorite stage of fishermen and shrimp processors leaving aside the main activity in the area, oil drilling, for a business that, it is estimated, exports close to 300 million dollars a year.

The president of the main employers’ association of Venezuela (Fedecamaras) in Zulia state, Ezio Angelini, explained to Efe that the region continues to be an oil company, but the fishing
and shrimp processing
is outperforming that industry right now.

“Yes, I think that at this moment shrimp is surpassing oil. In the state of Zulia we did not manage to produce (more than) 120,000 or 130,000 barrels of oil. It is less and less and those who produce are external companies. It is complex” , commented.

Angelini explained that, for several years, the eprivate companies have begun to invest in the state for shrimp production and considers that this can be increased in the medium and long term.

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A similar opinion is held by the manager of the shrimp processing company Prodelmar, Ender Campos, who assured that, currently, the production of shellfish and oil “is equal”, because “a lot of shrimp” is being exported and small and medium producers are mobilizing to invest more resources in the sector.

trade between contrasts

Constantly, environmental organizations in Venezuela denounce the contamination of Lake Maracaibo, either by the garbage that reaches its waters or by oil spills, which threaten marine life.

Last November, the Education, Production and Environment Project (EPA), a network dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the environment, denounced that 90% of the shores of the lake “are full of garbage”, largely due to the plastic dragged by the 40 ravines that flow into its basin.

“Lake Maracaibo has (the) 90% of its shores full of garbage, (the) 80% is plastic dragged by the 40 ravines that flow into the basin, without any prior treatment. To this is added high levels of phosphorous which limit the amount of oxygen“, the network published on its Twitter account in which it asked the Government to attend to the emergency that it considers to be living.

He also said that the oil spills “have caused serious damage”, causing “mortality to native marine species” of this area.

Due to these spills, the “great fishing resource” that was in the lake – “and was used as a fundamental pillar in the country’s economy” – is contaminated.

Employee of the shrimp farm in Lake Maracaibo./EFE

However, this image contrasts with what is exposed by businessmen installed on the shores of Lake Maracaibo, where they also assure that “the best” shrimp are found in its western zone.

The manager of Prodelmar pointed out that his plant, located 74 kilometers from Maracaibo, the country’s second largest city, has installed capacity to produce 40,000 kilos of shrimp per daywhich represents a monthly average of 260,000 kilos or “8 or 9 containers for export to Europe, Asia and the United States.”

Prodelmar receives the cargo of shrimp directly from the farms or the fishermen. After that, a quality inspection begins, then they go to a conveyor belt where there is a discard process.

Subsequently, the staff that works there begins to remove the shrimp that go to the European or local market, depending on the specifications of the clients.

The manager indicated that now what they ask for the most is whole shrimp, although they also process tail shrimp.

Likewise, he stated that with the installed plants and farms, the state of Zulia produces 30% of the country’s shrimp.

“Us data from Insopesca (Socialist Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture), which is our regulatory body, last year 20,000 kilos of shrimp were produced, it represents something quite good,” said Campos.

hope in oil

Ezio Angelini welcomes the growth of the shrimp industry in Zulia, where the lake is located, because it generates jobs and “welfare for the community” and for the state in general.

However, he believes that the region will once again focus on the oil sector, once it recovers its production levels.

“Oil generated too much (a lot) of employment, production was very high, this was a purely oil state”he insisted.

But he maintains that for Zulia to resume its oil activity, it is necessary to go through some previous steps, including a change in economic policy and the modification of the current hydrocarbon law in the Caribbean country.

“But I see it very difficult,” he concludes.

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