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Timor-Leste Completes First National Census of Fishing Boats

Sustainability Technology & equipment Politics +3 more

TIMOR-LESTE - Timor-Leste has completed its first ever national census of fishing vessels, an achievement which will greatly facilitate the sustainable management of the nations fisheries resources.

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Between October 2011 and October 2012, a Mobile Licensing Service visited 192 fishing centers in all 11 districts throughout the country. There they gathered information on almost every fishing boat currently operative in the country. A total of 2,865 boats were registered during the process, of which 1,324 were issued licenses. Information on all the boats has been entered into a publicly accessible online system ( where if forms a national census of fishing effort.

The service was operated by the Department of General Fishing Inspection of the National Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture (NDFA) in partnership with the Spanish-funded Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme for South and Southeast Asia (RFLP) which is executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Mr Lourenco dos Reis Amaral, the Chief of the NDFAs Department of Fisheries Inspection said: This is a major achievement for Timor-Leste. By facilitating a simpler and more effective process we now know how many fishing boats we have, where they are based and the type of fishing gear they use. This data will greatly facilitate better planning and management for the sustainable use of Timor-Lestes fisheries. At the same time by visiting communities the mobile licensing team has also helped build better relationships between the authorities and fishers.

Mr Man Ho So, FAOs Representative to Timor-Leste said: This is an excellent example of how a relatively small-scale, but well targeted activity can deliver concrete results that will have very real and long lasting benefits for the people of Timor-Leste.

The information gathered during the process has also been put to practical use during search and rescue missions for missing fishers. For example when an empty boat washed ashore on Atauro Island on 29 May 2012, the registration number on the boat allowed authorities to quickly find out exactly where it had come from and who the owner was. A search and rescue operation was launched along the route the boat had travelled, and although unfortunately the fisher was not found, the boat was returned to the fishing household.

Under Timor-Lestes fishing law certain fishing boats (those with engines) are required to obtain a license. However the process to obtain one was complex, time consuming and expensive. As a result, prior to the census only eight vessels were licensed.

In response, the NDFA, with support from RFLP, decided to form a mobile licensing team in order to make the procedure simpler by providing a one-stop service much needed by fishers. The team registered all boats (motorized and non-motorized) and issued licenses to those requiring them.

RFLP helped equip the team with basic equipment including a generator, laptop, printers, a laminator, and geo-referenced camera. RFLP also helped the team coordinate its visits with that of an awareness raising team. They visited the communities a week before the mobile licensing team and explained to communities the need for basic fisheries management to help fishers better understand the need for licensing.

When the mobile teams visited the fishing centres, they helped every fisher with a boat to fill out a form detailing basic characteristics such as the owner/operators name, vessel length, year built, type/materials, fishing techniques used etc. A registration number was then marked on every boat: spray painted for non-motorized canoes and with an acrylic plate for motorized boats. A photo of the boat and owner was then taken with a geo-referenced enabled camera, making sure that the registration number was clearly visible.

For the motorized boats requiring licenses fishers pay the $5 fee and are issued a receipt. They were helped to fill in the license application which was officially stamped and the license issued on the spot.

On their return from the field the information gathered was entered into the National Fisheries Statistical Database that was established with RFLP support where it is publically available. The geo-referenced photographs boats/owners are also uploaded into Google Earth, so that their exact location can be recorded and seen.