50 million
make their livelihoods from fishing and aquaculture
isles make up the Indonesian archipelago
illegal boats seized since INDESO was set up in 2014
Indonesia has set up a unique high-tech oceanography surveillance center to more effectively control marine ecosystems and combat illegal fishing. In three years, the country has become a leading defender of legal, rational and sustainable fishing.

How to monitor the economic and environmental activity of a territory as vast as Europe, both above water and underwater? Indonesia is in the process of taking up the challenge. With some 8 million km² of archipelago and its myriad of isles, Indonesia is one of the largest exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the world. EEZ are the maritime areas over which a State exercises sovereign rights. Indonesia’s zone is one of the largest reservoirs of marine biodiversity in the world, with considerable fisheries resources.

With 6 million tons a year and USD 3bn of exports, the country is the world’s second largest producer of seafood products after China, and fifty million Indonesians make their livelihoods from fishing and aquaculture… But illegal fishing has been booming since the 1990s, generating an annual shortfall of several billion dollars. It also leads to an increase in overfishing, which small-scale fishermen are the first to bear the brunt of.

Between economic and environmental issues, the sound management of resources and monitoring of waters under Indonesian control is a crucial issue for the authorities. With the support of AFD and high-level French technological partners, Indonesia has set up a National Spatial Oceanography Center that is unique in the world: INDESO.

It is not only a question of combating illegal fishing, but also of monitoring sensitive habitats, fish populations, and detecting accidental hydrocarbon pollution…

Dr. I Nyoman Radiarta, Director of the INDESO center
Indonesia, Indeso, control room, big screen
Indonesia, control room, screens, Indeso
Technological milestone with AFD
In the early 2010s, faced with illegal fishermen who play on flags of convenience and the vastness of oceans to pillage their resources, Indonesia decided to bank on state-of-the-art technologies. With the help of… space.

This ecological and commercial challenge aims to make Indonesia the leading fishing power in the subregion. It is from this reflection that the INDESO (Infrastructure Development of Space Oceanography) project was concluded with AFD in 2011. AFD is the only donor, with USD 30m, and provides technical assistance. 

Three years later, the French company CLS became the project manager for this ambitious program. CLS is a subsidiary of the National Centre for Space Studies in Toulouse and is the world leader in civil applications for land and marine monitoring. 

In 2014, the high-tech center in Bali was commissioned. CLS experts trained Indonesian operators in how to use data processing software. The experts from the Institute for Research and Development (IRD), a scientific partner of the program, trained them in how to model fisheries resources. In the same year, the teams started to be operational. 

Today, about a hundred scientists, engineers and project managers are working for INDESO. There have been very rapid results: the illegal activities of dozens of boats, generally operating under flags of convenience, especially for Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, are detected. The ships are seized by the coastguards and are subsequently sunk in front of cameras from all over the world. The message is clear: illegal fishing no longer has a place in Indonesia. 
Indonesia, Indeso, control room, Andy
Andy, the eye of the authorities
Andy, 35, has been working for INDESO for three years. On one of his countless control screens, small pictograms in the form of arrows are moving slowly forward: they are fishing boats. They are crossing the Celebes Sea, at about 1,500 km from his office. “That’s a boat operating under the flag of a neighboring country”, explains Andy, showing one of the signals. “It has been stopped for two days at the limit of the territorial waters. It might have broken down, but it might also be there waiting for a cargo from one or several other boats.”

In other words, a transshipment. “Transship out at sea”, the young man continues, “means transferring your catches to another boat. It’s strictly forbidden, as it allows people to launder catches or dispose of them in another country… So, we keep an eye on the area.” 

Every day, data from 25 satellites converge towards the INDESO center in Perencak, Bali. The high-resolution oceanography observation satellites provide information about the water temperature, the concentration of plankton, currents. 

The optical satellites, for their part, take photos of coastal and open sea areas with a very sharp resolution. Finally, with high-tech tools – radar satellites – precise imagery is sent to the INDESO teams day and night, whatever the cloud cover. 

In addition to this impressive arsenal, there is the GPS positioning of boats equipped with specific buoys, the radio signals from the “AIS” transmitters, which are mandatory on vessels over 20 meters in length, and the mandatory GPS positioning for commercial vessels. From changes in shoals of fish to the actions of illegal fishermen, nothing must now escape the monitoring of Andy and his colleagues. 
Indonesia, Indeso, control room, radars
Comprehensive ecosystem management tool
From its creation, INDESO was designed as a comprehensive ecosystem management tool: it is not only a question of combating illegal fishing, but also of being able to observe sensitive habitats (coral reefs, mangroves), detect accidental hydrocarbon pollution, model fish populations, or study the impacts of climate change.

“There are still things to be done to establish this work over the long-term and use all its potential”, points out François Henry, a fisheries engineer responsible for supervising the project at AFD. “But the recruitment and training have been exemplary. The Indonesian teams have acquired expertise which they did not use to have, particularly for data formatting, processing, information, the extraction and use of the complex CLS tools. There are now real local long-term capacities.”
Coral, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Keeping an eye on climate change

Certain parts of the Indonesian coast are very sensitive to the impacts of climate change. The deterioration of the coastline, the risk of submersion and coral bleaching are now well known, but are not subject to systematic analyses. 

INDESO will soon allow the most fragile sites to be identified and, thanks to modelling, it will possible to develop accurate evolution scenarios: 

By monitoring the impacts of the climate, we will have the possibility of more effectively determining public policies and, if possible, of preventing or mitigating the impacts of natural disasters related to this phenomenon”, confirms Dr. I Nyoman Radiarta. 

Working to protect coral

The Coral Triangle straddles six countries, including Indonesia, and accounts for 50% of global marine biodiversity. INDESO also supports the Coral Triangle Initiative, a program gathering these six countries to protect an area as large as Indonesia’s EEZ.

Indonesia, Indeso, headquarters
An INDESO for the neighbors?

“Indonesia has taken up the challenge of building a more transparent and legal fishing sector”, explains François Henry from AFD. “The neighboring countries, Burma, Vietnam, the Philippines, are considering similar projects. The entire sector is in the process of changing”.