Fishing and Forestry
The fishing and forestry industries were important producers for both domestic consumption and the export market during the communist era. For both industries, however, the resource base had begun to shrink noticeably by the end of the 1980s.
The fresh-water fishing industry is concentrated in the numerous lakes of northern Poland. Fishing fleets also operate along the 528-kilometer Baltic coast and in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. The deep-sea fleet, developed in the 1970s to serve the new official emphasis on fish as a cheap source of protein, had grown to 101 trawler-factory ships and ten supply and service vessels by 1982. Besides fishing in the North Atlantic, Polish fleets fished off Africa, South America, Alaska, Australia, and New Zealand. Activity in the more distant fisheries involved much higher expenses, however, especially for fuel. In the 1980s, the Baltic fishery, which provided about 25 percent of the total catch, was plagued by shortages of supplies and storage facilities. At the same time, pollution in the lakes caused fresh-water catches to decline rapidly. In 1990 Poland exported about 123,000 tons of fish and fish products.
Large forested areas are located in the western, northeastern, and southeastern parts of Poland, but the only remaining stands of old forest are in the northeast. Conifers dominate in the far north, the northeast, and at higher elevations, and deciduous species dominate elsewhere. Under the communist regimes, 82 percent of forested land was state-owned, with the remainder held by individual farmers or groups of farmers. The 8,679,000 hectares of forest supported total commercial lumber production of 22,675 cubic decameters in 1989. Already in the early 1980s, however, cutting rates exceeded replacement rates, and heavy demand for wood products prevented meaningful reduction of exploitation. A long-term afforestation program was initiated in the communist era to increase total forest cover to 30 percent of Poland's land surface. This increase would amount to slightly more than 1 percent more than the cover remaining in the 1980s. Poland's forests support the export of significant quantities of lumber, paper, and wood furniture.
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