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CGIAR Platform/Research Program
CGIAR Big Data Platform
CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems (FISH)
Geographic scope
Contact person
Alex Tilley, Big Data Platform and WorldFish


A digital monitoring system, developed by the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems (FISH) and supported by the CGIAR Big Data Platform, has been adopted by the Government of Timor-Leste, enabling a better understanding of fishing activities in the country. This system is allowing for better management of fisheries, and the realization of their potential for food and nutrition security.

The “Integrated data pipeline for small-scale fisheries” was developed by FISH partner, WorldFish, in Timor-Leste in response to a need for information on fisheries and fishing activities. The Government of Timor-Leste did not have a system to monitor how many boats were active in the country, where they were fishing and what they were catching, which was partly due to a lack of funding resources, but also to a historical prioritization of farming practices over fishing. However, fish was highlighted in the National Strategic Development Plan (2012-2030) as a critical resource in combating severe malnutrition in the country.

This innovation has produced the first useful dataset with which to benchmark and monitor the impacts of climate change on coastal livelihoods.

To support data-driven science-based decision-making, WorldFish scientists worked alongside government fisheries officers to develop a digital catch reporting system that could gather fisheries information from remote sites around the country in near real time. Through an innovative partnership with a United States private sector firm, Pelagic Data Systems, WorldFish also gathered high-resolution spatial information about fisheries and fishing behavior, which was combined with catch data to provide much more accurate measures of relative fish abundance.

Canoe fishers in Adarai, Viqueque, Timor-Leste. Photo by A. Tilley/WorldFish

The initial extrapolated data from this system allowed for the first calculation of national fisheries production, including small-scale fisheries. The Timor-Leste Fisheries Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries hired 11 new fisheries landings enumerators, one for each municipality of the country, and in May 2019, the Government announced the launch of PeskAAS – the official national monitoring system of Timor-Leste. The transparent co-creation of the system with the Fisheries Directorate was important in building local ownership of the system, and greatly enhances its sustainability.

The development of this system has enabled capacity development of the Fisheries Directorate, which supports more effective management of marine resources in the country, and data-driven decision-making related to intervention and extension prioritization.

This innovation has produced the first useful dataset with which to benchmark and monitor the impacts of climate change on coastal livelihoods. It will also be used to evaluate fisheries as an important buffer to climate variability and events affecting pastoral and livestock farming in Timor-Leste.

Header photo: Fish farmer Roberto Bau Maria in Balibo village, Timor-Leste. Photo by K. Bevitt/WorldFish