Fishing is mainly from double-outrigger canoes, both paddled and with outboard motors. A number of fiberglass mono-hull vessels using outboards have also been provided under an aid programme. Many of the country’s larger fishing vessels were destroyed in the fighting at the time of separation from Indonesia, but a dozen or so are now operational. These tend to fish more on south coast, in the Timor Sea, which is much shallower and suitable for trawling. There is reported to be a lot of illegal fishing in this area.

 

Inland fisheries resources include introduced tilapia and some endemic species. There is some aquaculture of Eucheuma seaweed; in the past prawns and milkfish have been cultured. The Government is promoting diving and sport fishing as tourist attractions.

 

Fisheries is not the mainstay of the economy – agricultural production for local consumption and growing coffee for export are the main economic activities. However, there are estimated to be some 20,000 artisanal fishers (more than many Pacific Island countries) and fish is important for food security.

 

The government also benefits from royalty payments for oil, which is collected directly from oilrigs in the Timor Sea under a resource-sharing agreement with Australia. Maritime boundaries have not been agreed on either side, and are a contentious issue.

 

The Fisheries Directorate was formed after independence from a core staff of 13 who had been employed in the sector under the Indonesian administration. Australian technical assistance was provided during the first few years. The staff numbers have now grown to 115. The Fisheries Directorate has 10 observers on the payroll, trained in Indonesia and in Australia. The Director plans to deploy these observers on five foreign tuna longline vessels that will start operations soon under a licensing arrangement.

 

Maritime surveillance is primarily the responsibility of the Navy, which has a base at Hera, a few kilometers outside Dili, using the harbor that was originally built as a commercial fishing port. There is a committee dealing with maritime security which includes Fisheries, Border Security and Customs officials. A number of vessels have been arrested for illegal fishing in recent years.

 

 

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For more information, please contact Mike Batty, Director of the SPC Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystem Division

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 May 2011 16:14
 

 


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