Ecological, social and food-security dimensions of the Timor-Leste sardine fishery

Ecological, social and food-security dimensions of the Timor-Leste sardine fishery

Food insecurity and under nutrition, particularly in women and children, are widespread in Timor-Leste. Increasing fish consumption, through promotion of aquaculture and some increased production from wild capture fisheries, has been identified as a possible means to improve national food security and nutrition. While fishing pressure on in-shore coral reefs is high, reports suggest that pelagic fisheries in Timor-Leste may be comparatively under-exploited and may represent an opportunity to diversify coastal livelihoods, reduce pressure on coral reefs, and improve food security and nutrition in both coastal and non-coastal communities.

Sardines (mainly Herklotsichthys quadrimaculatus) are one of the most commonly caught and consumed fish species in Timor-Leste. They are highly nutritious, relatively affordable and may be an important food source at times when there are shortages of agricultural food crops. However, there is currently little to no documented information on this fishery. A better understanding of who is involved, current catch rates, the distribution of fish and consumption patterns at the household level is important to understand the current sustainability of the fishery and inform policies to guide future sustainable exploitation. In addition, sardine fishing is largely concentrated around river plumes, suggesting a possible association with rainfall. Therefore, research into the potential impacts of climate change is required to understand the extent to which this fishery can provide food security in the future.

This project proposes to address some of these information gaps by undertaking a multidisciplinary study of the Timor-Leste sardine fishery. The overarching objective is to gain insight into the ecological, socio-economic and food security dimensions of the fishery and contribute to understanding whether it can be developed in a sustainable manner to improve local food security and coastal livelihoods.

This PhD research will be conducted by Kim Hunnam, under the co-supervision of Natasha Stacey (CDU), Chris Fulton (ANU) and David Mills (WorldFish Centre), and in close collaboration with WorldFish Timor-Leste providing direct links to the Timor-Leste Government Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and other local fishery stakeholders. Funding and in-kind support have been generously provided by the North Australia Marine Research Alliance, WorldFish Timor-Leste, CDU and ANU. Kim is also the recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship from the Australian Government for 2016-2018.

Kim Hunnam's picture
Kim Hunnam
PhD Student

Primary research group

Natural Resources-Based Livelihoods


BSc (Hons) BA