Enhancing sustainable, productive and resilient
fisheries and aquaculture


The CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) made significant progress
in producing and disseminating a suite of research innovations for the sustainable development of fisheries and aquaculture across Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Message from Nigel Preston Chair of the Independent Steering Committee

Aquatic foods will play in the transformation of global food systems so that they provide people with healthier diets while sustaining the planet as a whole

Message from Michael Phillips Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH)

FISH operates at multiple levels, tackling global problems with a focus on solutions that can be grounded in the farming and fishing communities we serve.


Disseminating research innovations

The most prominent novel research results in 2019 address the productivity of aquaculture and the role that aquatic foods can play in sustainable and healthy diets and nutrition. A new digital tool allows us to gather detailed disaggregated data about the performance of aquaculture systems and the particulars of how they are being operated. Because it standardizes assessments, the tool allows us to compare different fish production systems in different countries, which will enable us to identify opportunities for improvement and focus on increasing the contribution of aquaculture to CGIAR’s key impact areas. This new performance assessment tool was developed in Bangladesh and Egypt, piloted in Myanmar and Nigeria, and is now being made available for use globally.

Complementing the digital performance assessment tool, our online epidemiology and health economics tools are ready for use at scale. Rapid disease diagnosis coupled with online therapeutic advice offers an efficient route to significantly improve management of risks to small-scale farmers from disease and improve farm productivity and incomes.

Our efforts to persuade policy makers to pay more attention to small-scale fisheries and the importance of aquatic foods took a great leap forward in 2019. We provided research for The Future of Food from the Sea report from the High-Level Panel for A Sustainable Ocean Economy, and its recommendations. Our ground-breaking research with partners to model the nutritional value of global marine fisheries clearly showed that diverting even a small portion of the micronutrients in the catch to local populations would produce large benefits for nutrition and health.

Generating new knowledge on fish

New molecular genetic tools target specific resilience traits in Nile tilapia. Disease resistance and feeding efficiency are vital for aquaculture productivity. In addition, climate change might result in lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, thus fish farmers need fish that can cope better with low oxygen. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip developed in 2018 permits rapid analysis of genetic differences associated with particular traits. This new tool will let us start the selection of tilapia with new resilience traits, a step change in the genetics of tilapia. In addition, tools and knowledge developed with tilapia are being transferred to new species, initially rohu and silver carp in Bangladesh, to produce new generations selected for better performance.

Similar technology underlies the Lab in a Backpack, which won the 2019 Inspire Challenge of CGIAR’s Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. The innovation puts advanced technology at the edge of the pond. It contains a miniaturized DNA sequencer that sends data to artificially intelligent software in the cloud. That diagnoses any problems and returns actionable results to pondside operators. This will improve productivity while also helping to stem the rise in antimicrobial resistance caused by the inappropriate use of antibiotics for disease treatment.

Another set of invisible data is being brought into the light by a project with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Duke University. Small-scale fisheries, despite their importance for food and nutrition security, are commonly hidden in policies at national and global levels. Illuminating Hidden Harvests developed an innovative method to assess the social, environmental, economic, nutritional and governance contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development. Information from 52 countries will feed into the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, ultimately supporting the development of socially and environmentally sustainable small-scale fisheries.

Informing global policies guides sustainable development

Research published in Nature with partners calculated for the first time the nutritional value of coastal marine fish catches. It reveals that many of the world’s poorest people would see huge benefits if only a small part of the micro-nutrients in coastal fisheries catches were diverted to local consumption.

We drafted Blue Papers for the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Panel’s report, The Future of Food from the Sea, shows that aquatic foods can make a much greater contribution to human well-being while being a climate-smart option for nutritious and sustainable food production that helps the world respond to the climate crisis.

Robust monitoring and evaluation guides learning and innovation

The Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Platform (MEL) is fully operational, enhancing our results-based management. We continue to work with other CGIAR Research Centers and Programs to refine and develop MEL as a widely applicable and accessible CGIAR tool.

At the same time, FISH is conducting more impact assessments and evaluations. Independent evaluations of the Fish Trade project in Africa and EcoFish in Bangladesh were completed, as well as several Outcome Impact Case Reports.

With the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands, we improved the Women’s Empowerment in Fisheries Index (WEFI). The index provides a rigorous framework to evaluate empowerment before and after interventions, helping us to achieve gender transformative change.

FISH’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

FISH contributes directly to no poverty (SDG 1) and zero hunger (SDG 2) by increasing the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture to provide poor and marginalized women, men and youth with more food, nutrition and income. It also addresses a range of related goals targeting improved human health and reduced disease (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), decent work (SDG 8), reduced food waste (SDG 12), climate adaptation (SDG 13), life below water (SDG 14), sustainable ecosystems (SDG 15), effective institutions (SDG 16) and global partnerships (SDG 17). Within the CGIAR Research Portfolio, FISH makes unique contributions to protecting and restoring water-related, marine and coastal ecosystems (SDGs 6.6, 14.2, 14.5) and encouraging economic growth of small island developing States (SDG 14.7).

FISH in Numbers

62 private sector partnerships:
30 increase from 2018

62 private sector partnerships: 30 increase from 2018

240 active partnerships:
98 new for 2019

240 active partnerships: 98 new for 2019

177,474 people received short-term training,
of which 145,441 were women

177,474 people received short-term training, of which 145,441 were women<

47,314 households in 6 countries adopted
improved aquaculture and fisheries practices

47,314 households in 6 countries adopted improved aquaculture and fisheries practices

775 millions people highly dependant on marine fisheries, FISH evidence shows

775 millions people highly dependant on marine fisheries, FISH evidence shows

40 partners focused on scaling

40 partners focused on scaling

27 improved policies and investment decisions at various level

27 improved policies and investment decisions at various level

FISH research contributes directly
to 10 SDGs

FISH research contributes to aspects of 3 other SDGs

Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Where we work

FISH pursues an integrated body of research in six focal countries. Three are in Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia and Myanmar) and three are in Africa (Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia). In addition, the program focuses on Egypt as a research hub and training center for our aquaculture capacity development in Africa, and Solomon Islands as a hub for our learning networks on small-scale fisheries governance in the Pacific.

Successes and lessons learned from research are scaled with partners to achieve impact and are being progressively expanded to several countries. In 2019 that included cooperation in Angola, DR Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Timor-Leste, Uganda and Vietnam.


  • Informal trade across Africa plays a hidden but key role to supply fish widely across the region. Our research seeks to better understand and facilitate improvements in trade and market systems for fish and aquatic foods. Our research supported the inclusion of fish among the products that can be easily traded between Kenya and Uganda through the One Stop Border Post in Busia. Three-way trade among Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe likewise benefited from investment in the COMESA Green Card process, which certifies for traders that their smoked and dried fish meets sanitary and phytosanitary standards. 

  • To facilitate internal trade in Malawi, we worked with the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) to standardize quality evaluations of dried fish from small-scale fisheries. MBS is now able to certify fish dried in solar tents as safe for human consumption, allowing women fish processors to supply safe and nutritious fish to supermarkets. 

  • Our project on the Sustainable Transformation of Egypt’s Aquaculture Market System came to an end with significant sector-wide improvements. Almost 4500 households adopted Better Management Practices, as a result of which an additional 400,000 metric tons of fish were supplied with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Jobs and higher incomes benefitted 26,032 farming households, and amendments were proposed to law 124/1983 to permit integrated aquaculture on agriculture farms. 

  • Another project in Egypt, Youth Employment in Aswan Governorate, has led to demonstrable gains in incomes and empowerment for women, who gained new skills in processing and selling fish. Fish waste has been reduced and fish made more accessible to the general public. In consultation with the General Authority for Fish Resources Development and local fisheries associations, a management plan was prepared to cover 500,000 hectares of Lake Nasser behind the Aswan Dam. 

  • The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Aquaculture Compact continued to be a key partnership for scaling aquaculture research innovations in Africa. FISH worked with the government of Ghana to support the preparation of a loan from the African Development Bank to invest in aquaculture and fisheries and to support the Aquacultural Association of Kenya to formulate a petition that advocates for greater independence of the fisheries sector. Uganda’s government is also finalizing its National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy. Our research provided technical input to the National Aquaculture Policy draft, which will support a much-needed growth in aquaculture as well as internal and export trade.


  • Fish health is of huge importance to aquaculture globally. The Lab in a Backpack innovation will help to diagnose, monitor and treat outbreaks of fish diseases in small and larger-scale aquaculture farms. The effective management of aquaculture health also requires supportive policies. Our research provided scientific evidence on fish health management to the development of Bangladesh’s National Fish Health Management Strategy during 2019.

  • Cambodia is developing a ten-year strategic plan for fisheries conservation and management. Our research has demonstrated that co-management of community fish refuges can enhance fish production, nutrition, water security and resilience to climate change. In one year, the amount of fish caught increased by 30 percent and the proportion of young children under five eating small fish increased by 50 percent in communities adopting the community fish refuge innovation. Cambodia is now taking these results into account as the new strategic plan is finalized.

  • Myanmar too is making progress in incorporating community fisheries management innovations into legislation. The 2019 reform of the Ayeyarwady fisheries law accepts the legal standing of community fishery associations, using findings from FISH research. Future research will help to ensure that fisheries are sustainably managed and that benefits are distributed fairly and equitably. At the same time, our research helped the government of Myanmar to extend the Nay Pyi Taw Agreement in furtherance of its Agricultural Development Strategy. As a result, small farmers can now convert part of their rice paddy to rice-fish production more easily, with state and regional governments now promoting such conversion and farm diversification. 

  • FISH pond polyculture innovations being scaled in Odisha State in India have demonstrated an increase in production of fish for market and the home, with concomitant increases in women’s incomes and family fish consumption. It is also creating a demand for improved fish seed stocks. We helped the Fisheries and Animal Resources Department in Odisha prepare an application to establish a multiplication center and hatchery for genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT). In 2019, construction of the USD 225,000 facility began at the government’s fish farm in Kausalyaganga, to begin operation in 2020.

  • Efforts to improve the formulation of locally sourced fish feed continued with research in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Myanmar, as well as Egypt, Nigeria and Zambia in Africa. In partnership with the global feed company Skretting, we are analyzing existing and potential feed ingredients with a view to compiling an open access database for low-cost feed formulation of tilapia feeds. In future, information on digestibility will be included to further improve feed formulation, and incorporated into a digital tool to help farmers adopt better fish feeding practices and overall improve fish pond productivity.


  • Small changes in technology post-harvest can reduce fish loss and waste and improve women’s empowerment and incomes. In the Solomon Islands, we have worked with women and solar-powered freezers. The freezers overcome the problems associated with the geographical isolation of small island villages. With them, women can store fish in good condition, improving the profit from sales and even rent out freezer space to others. The Provincial government now wants to extend similar initiatives to other communities within the country.

  • The Coral Triangle is a hugely important but little understood fisheries resource. Working with the Coral Triangle Initiative, we have supported Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste to create an independent Coral Triangle Atlas, building from WorldFish’s global ReefBase. The new database provides governments, NGOs and researchers within the region with access to open source geospatial solutions for greater decision making and resource sustainability.

  • Data management on a smaller but no less important scale is vital to manage small-scale fisheries. Our integrated data pipeline for small-scale fisheries won the Inspire Challenge of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture in 2018. That enabled us to pilot the devices, which track the location and activities of more than 300 fishing boats in Timor-Leste. As a result, Timor-Leste adopted the system, which went on to win the scaling-up award in 2019. The project is now being extended to small-scale fisheries in seven additional countries.

  • Community leadership and empowerment is essential to local actions to sustainably secure small-scale fisheries and manage the challenges of climate change. Using FISH learning from our co-management research, we worked with the Pacific Community and other partners to develop a guide, A New Idea for Coastal Fisheries: Asking the Right Questions to Enhance Coastal Livelihoods. The guide collates experiences from the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste to outline a practical and gender-sensitive participatory approach to guide conversations on enabling new livelihood opportunities in coastal fisheries communities.

Stories of Change

Stories of Change

Reduced Poverty

Fish from small-scale aquaculture makes a vital contribution to not only the diets of producer households but also for families who buy fish from farmers and local markets. Our goal for small-scale fish farmers is to sustainably improve the productivity and profitability of aquaculture. The combination of household fish and sales results in better nutrition and higher incomes. Bangladesh and Myanmar provide new results on small-scale aquaculture’s potential for poverty reduction.

Ecopond carp-based polyculture supports greater incomes, increased fish consumption and production

Aquaculture supports poverty reduction in Myanmar

Improved food and nutrition security for health

We know how important fish is for good nutrition, but if people are going to eat more fish, they need affordable access. Polyculture farming systems offers the chance to grow larger fish for the market and small indigenous species for domestic and local consumption. In Cambodia, community-managed fish reserves increase fish production, whilst sustaining rice yields. Polyculture ponds in Odisha have improved fish production and nutrition and are now being expanded under government programs with the potential to feed four million school children.

Cambodia sees the benefits of community fish refuges

Scaling nutrition sensitive fisheries technologies

Improved natural resource systems and ecosystem services

Aquaculture has huge potential to meet demand for fish in an environmentally efficient way. Aquaculture feed is a key constraint to productivity, but may bring its own set of problems. FISH research on nutritious ponds is paving the way for a more sustainable, more profitable approach to fish feeding in small-scale fish farming. Fish diseases represent a further risk and the spread of Tilapia Lake Virus, the first major disease epidemic of tilapia, is a key area of research intended to mitigate its impact and help to bring the epidemic under control.

Feed the fish and the pond

Taking steps to control a global disease epidemic

Crosscutting impacts

Crosscutting impacts

Climate change

Climate change directly threatens the living conditions of people who depend on aquatic resources, through temperature change, flooding, storms and saline intrusion. Although aquaculture has less impact on climate than many other systems of food production, even that impact must be reduced. Two FISH projects show how we improve resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to both climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fish production in Egypt

Securing the hilsa ecosystem in Bangladesh

Gender and youth

Although women and youth are often aggregated as vulnerable groups of people, FISH research recognizes their specific needs and constraints. The results of our comprehensive survey of youth engagement in fisheries, aquaculture and value chains was published in 2019, highlighting both the challenges and the opportunities. The survey is informing policy advocacy and our own youth strategy. In Bangladesh, through the Suchana project, we focus nutrition-sensitive interventions on women and children in their first 1000 days. Roughly halfway through the project, we are seeing evidence of improved nutrition and women’s empowerment in more than 40,000 households.

Understanding youth in aquaculture and small-scale fisheries

Empowering women to improve nutrition and livelihoods

Capacity development

In 2019, FISH continued to give special attention to capacity development in Africa. The continent has the fastest growing aquaculture sector in the world, albeit from a very low base. Capacity development is thus essential to improve fish supplies in Africa, which in turn will increase consumption and reduce imports, leading to greater sustainability. To that end, among other activities, we are promoting high-level innovative planning in Nigeria and ensuring that the latest research gets into the hands of people who can put it to use through training courses in Abbassa, Egypt.

Improved innovation for aquaculture in Nigeria

Developing a new generation of aquaculture entrepreneurs


Communications and Knowledge Sharing

Communication is a way for us to share knowledge and deliver research evidence to a variety of audiences, including fishers, farmers and traders, policymakers, extension agents and the scientific community. We focus on three areas, with the aim of enabling others to translate our science into action:

Practitioner guidance to enable adoption of technologies and management practices, for example on improved fish feeds or measures to reduce loss and waste in the value chain.

Evidence, learning and exchange on technologies and innovations shared via peer-reviewed literature, outcome stories and evidence-based narratives focused on FISH generated science. For peer-reviewed research publications, we encourage our scientists to publish in open access journals. In those instances where publishing in fee-paying journals is preferred, FISH endeavors to cover open access costs. Of the 63 peer-reviewed articles published in 2019, 46 were open access.

Policy dialogue demonstrating the value of fisheries and aquaculture to address national and regional food and nutrition security and poverty reduction goals, and evidence to support the analysis of policy alternatives, including foresight modeling and scenario analysis.

Raising our digital profile

We provide publicly accessible reporting on our progress, demonstrating accountability and transparency toward investors, partners and beneficiaries. Supporting this is our growing digital presence, which is helping to raise the profile and reach of our work beyond our traditional stakeholders.

In 2019, we saw significant growth in reach and audience through the dedicated FISH social media channels, following the implementation of a new strategy in 2018. The FISH website also had a marked increase in visitors and pageviews, evidence of the value of an improved website and user-centric approach. By the end of the 2019, we had reached more than 1.94 million people on social media and increased the number of new followers by 145 percent.

Supporting quality science dissemination

We regularly share our knowledge and research evidence at scientific conferences and other strategic events. To support our scientists, who are the (co-)producers of our research and ambassadors of our brand, we developed a suite of FISH-specific tools and materials that ensure we are making the case for fish in agri-food systems in the strongest possible way.

In addition, we jointly developed training tools and communication materials with our CGIAR partners on the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Platform (MEL) and provided these to all FISH researchers, which enhances the effectiveness of our reporting and understanding of Program impacts.


of the
FISH website

1.94 million

people reached on
social media
216% more than 2018


downloads of
FISH publications


increase in total followers on:


peer-reviewed articles published:


open access.

Our Partners

Our Partners

We work with an extensive network of partners, including international, national, regional and local governmental institutions, universities, private sector organizations and NGOs, who share our commitment to creating positive change for the millions who depend on fish in the developing world.

In 2019, FISH was engaged in 248 active partnerships, 98 of which were new. A substantial percentage of these were with academic and research organizations (27 percent). However, there was significant growth in partnerships with the private sector (25 percent), and national agriculture research systems and governments (20 percent), the latter particularly reflecting the more significant policy contributions of FISH in 2019.

Scaling partnerships featured prominently in 2019. Sixteen percent of FISH partnerships in 2017 were focused on aspects of scaling, with the majority (41 percent) focused on the discovery phase within the impact pathway. By 2018, 35 percent of partnerships within FISH were focused on scaling, but this has grown in 2019 to an estimated 67% of partners, a shift intended to enable delivery of innovation at greater scale within FISH focal and scaling countries.

240 active partnerships

Of which 98 new in 2019

Investors and Financials

Investors and Financials

The 2019 financial plan provided USD 6.23 million of W1/W2 funding, which combined with a 2018 carry-over provided FISH with USD 6.29 million of W1/W2 funding for the year. The expenditure of W1/W2 funds for 2019 was USD 5.64 million (90 percent), and the W3/bilateral expenditure was USD 22.1 million. A total of USD 656,086 W1/W2 funds have been carried over to 2020. The sourcing of bilateral funds increased during 2019 beyond that predicted in the FISH proposal, with a final budget of USD 29.2 million, of which around 76 percent was spent. The allocation of bilateral funding represents an increase beyond that predicted in the FISH proposal, allowing in particular enhanced investment in research, outcomes and impacts across the Program.

Planned budget 20191
W1/W2 W3/bilateral Total
FP1 Sustainable Aquaculture 2,309,839 23,057,380 25,367,219
FP2 Sustaining Small-Scale Fisheries 998,238 6,134,652 7,132,890
Cross-program investments 1,694,097 1,694,097
Carry over funding 434,072 434,072
CRP management and support costs 855,987 855,987
CRP total 6,292,233 29,192,032 35,484,265
Actual budget 20192
W1/W2 W3/bilateral Total
FP1 Sustainable Aquaculture 2,286,650 15,785,904 18,072,554
FP2 Sustaining Small-Scale Fisheries 943,604 6,297,402 7,241,006
Cross-program investments 1,582,421 1,582,421
Carry over funding
CRP management and support costs 823,472 823,472
CRP total 5,636,147 22,083,306 27,719,453
W1/W2 W3/bilateral Total
FP1 Sustainable Aquaculture 23,189 7,271,476 7,294,665
FP2 Sustaining Small-Scale Fisheries 54,634 (162,750) (108,116)
Cross-program investments 111,676 111,676
Carry over funding3 434,072 434,072
CRP management and support costs 32,515 32,515
CRP total 656,086 7,108,726 7,764,812
1 Planned budget 2019 = 2019 CGIAR System Management Organization final approved Budget USD 6.233M + 2018 carryover of USD 0.059M.
2 Source: Audited lead and participating center financial report.
3 Additional investment of W2 made available in Nov 2019, carried over for priorities in 2020
Fish People

Fish People

FISH governance involves members of developing and developed country institutions, such as national research institutes, the private sector, fisher organizations and international organizations. The Program has a wide upstream and downstream reach that includes participants and institutions with a key role in defining the fisheries and aquaculture development agenda.


Nigel Preston, ISC Chair, University of Queensland, Australia
Editrudith Lukanga, Environmental Management and Economic Development Organization, Tanzania
Gareth Johnstone, WorldFish, Malaysia
Ian Cowx, University of Hull, United Kingdom
M.A. Sattar Mandal, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Bangladesh
Marian Kjellevold, Institute of Marine Research, Norway
Mark Smith, International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka
Dr Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Global Commission on Adaptation
Tony Haymet, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Australia


Michael Phillips, MC Chair, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems and Aquaculture and Fisheries Sciences, WorldFish
Ban Swee Tan, Research Finance Manager, WorldFish
Cristiano Rossignoli, Monitoring and Evaluation Leader, WorldFish
Cynthia McDougall, Gender Research Leader, WorldFish
David Shearer, Director of International Partnerships and Program Delivery, WorldFish
Emily Khor, Program Lifecycle Performance Manager, WorldFish
Essam Yassin Mohammed, Climate Change Research Program Leader, WorldFish
Harrison Charo Karisa, Country Director, Egypt and Nigeria, WorldFish
Johan Verreth, Head of the Chair Group Aquaculture and Fisheries, Wageningen University & Research
John Benzie, Sustainable Aquaculture Program Leader, WorldFish
John Linton, Commercial Director, Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich
Marc-Antoine Baïssas, Director of Finance and IT Systems (interim), WorldFish
Marion Barriskell, Director of Finance and IT, WorldFish
Michael Akester, Country Director, Myanmar, WorldFish
Philippa Cohen, Resilient Small-Scale Fisheries Program Leader, WorldFish
Paola Reale, Research Programs Manager, WorldFish
Shakuntala Thilsted, Value Chains and Nutrition Program Leader, WorldFish
Sonali S. Sellamuttu, Head of Southeast Asia Office, International Water Management Institute
Tana Lala-Pritchard, Director of Communications and Marketing, WorldFish
Terry Hughes, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Managing Partners Institutions