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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (February 16, 2000 - Radio Australia's Pacific Beat)---Tonga's Ministry of Fisheries and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are working together on developing guidelines to better manage the kingdom's tuna fishing industry.

Ministry officials want to better exploit as well as sustain Tonga's tuna resources by implementing a new national management framework.

"The plan really sets the guidelines for the exploitation of the resource," said Dr. Len Rudwell, the Solomon Islands-based agency's manager of economics and marketing. "It also provides guidance on policy measures that might be taken to facilitate the growth of the industry."

The plan, which is still in draft form, will take several months to be finalized.

The plan would limit the number of vessels that would be permitted to fish in Tongan waters, prioritize fishing licenses and look at the investment climate within the industry.

"Our role is to assist Pacific Island member countries in the management and development of their fisheries," he said. "The industry itself here is still developing. I don't think there's a problem of exploitation of the resource. It's simply a matter of setting up a framework so that future problems can be avoided."

An initial draft is expected to be given to government and industry officials for discussion by the end of the week.

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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