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AVARUA, Cook Islands (February 27, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Last year's disease outbreak that caused the deaths of young oysters at the Manihiki pearl farms in the outer Cook Islands is expected to cost the industry US$ 34 million dollars in loss revenue over the next five years.

Ben Ponia, an aquaculture specialist in Nouméa, said it will take five years before the industry recovers to normal production levels.

Ponia proposed a grid system last year for Manihiki lagoon to allow better regulation and monitoring of pearl farms.

Under this system, growers would be able to farm as many as four million pearls, which is far more than the current level.

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

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