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TARAWA, Kiribati (February 9, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---A decline in the number of airline seats going in and out of Kiribati is disrupting tourism, as well as delaying the transport of goods and services.

The problem is so bad that Japan Tuna Fishing Company, which employs Kiribati fishermen, has begun chartering an Air Pacific Boeing 707 to fly its Kiribati fishermen to Japan.

Air Nauru and Air Marshall Islands are the only international airlines currently serving Tarawa, said Timeon Ioane, chief of staff for Radio Kiribati.

"Japan Tuna has no choice but to charter because Air Nauru and Air Marshall are always fully booked," Ioane said. "This is the first time Japan Tuna has chartered an aircraft to fly out its fishermen from Kiribati."

The lack of airline seats flying into Kiribati has also affected tourism and basic goods and services from abroad.

"We receive very few tourists from outside the country," he said. "And needed emergency supplies take time to arrive because of the problems with the two airlines."

The government is currently working with the airline industry to add more flights into Kiribati, Ioane said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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