WorldFish strengthens ties with tech sector to boost small-scale fisheries in Africa and Asia

New agreement will take innovative data collection system to fisheries in seven more countries 


Pioneering work to better understand stocks and catches from small-scale fisheries could soon be taken to Africa and other parts of Asia, following a new agreement between WorldFish and US-tech firm Pelagic Data Systems.

The Memorandum of Understanding, signed at a special ceremony at WorldFish headquarters in Penang, Malaysia, recently, follows a world-first pilot project in Timor-Leste that began in 2018.

The project mounted over 350 of the pocket-sized, solar-powered GPS devices - designed and produced by Pelagic Data Systems - on the boats of participating small-scale fishers, to combine vessel movement data with catch data in near-real time.

The system quickly highlighted previously-unknown fishing areas, patterns and productivity, and now forms part of PeskAAS, the official fisheries monitoring system of the Timorese government. The information is being used by fisheries officers, researchers and local stakeholders to prioritize areas for fisheries extension services, and spot opportunities to boost sustainable production and improve the efficiency of fish value chains.

The new agreement provides the framework for WorldFish and Pelagic Data Systems to further develop and provide access to innovative data collection solutions for fisheries. This includes testing the system in seven additional countries in Asia and Africa in what could bring new understanding to small-scale fisheries production globally.

“This is a very exciting moment for WorldFish,” said Dr. Alex Tilley, Scientist – WorldFish. “Working closely with innovative partners in the private sector – especially the tech sector – can help us generate more and better data, which in turn can mean our research has a greater impact in supporting some most vulnerable people in the world.”

David Solomon, Chief Executive Officer of San Francisco-based Pelagic Data Systems, said: “Working with WorldFish means that our devices can provide much-needed geospatial data to underpin research and inform the development of new policies to support sustainable small-scale fisheries and fish-based livelihoods. 

“The expanded partnership means WorldFish scientists will join our global network of entrepreneurs who can bring innovative thinking, fresh approaches and continuing innovation to help improve food and nutrition security for fishing communities around the world.”

The work of WorldFish in Timor-Leste is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH). The pilot project using the solar-powered tracking devices was funded by The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, and developed further under an Inspire Challenge award from the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.