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By Thomas Kilala

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 30, 2001 – The National)---Fisheries access agreements are important for PNG's foreign relations with other countries, besides being a source of income for the country, the acting managing director of the National Fisheries Authority, Michael Batty, told a conference on tuna fisheries in Port Moresby.

In that respect, "the national tuna management plan provides the framework for the management and development of Papua New Guinea's tuna fishery, one of the largest and most productive in the Pacific," Mr. Batty said at the two-day Tuna Consultation last week.

"The current plan was drawn up in 1997 and since then there have been some important changes in the fishery in the last four years," he said.

Mr. Batty added that the tuna fisheries sector has been one of the fastest growing sectors of PNG's economy over the past five years.

During the conference, Keith Bigelow of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) discussed the total allowable catches in PNG zones, and said that although catches in recent years have not exceeded the recommended limits, there is evidence of a decline in the yellowfin tuna population. There is concern over the status of the bigeye tuna stock as well, he said

The meeting approved the formation of a consultative committee charged with presenting the views for the fisheries industry and provincial administrations to the National Fisheries Authority.

Meanwhile, there will also be consultations with other government departments and stakeholders before any revision of the Tuna Management Plan is submitted to the National Fisheries board for approval.

Other key issues discussed were:

There was also a brief on changes in regional tuna management, which was presented by Len Rodwell and Les Clark from the Forum Fisheries Agency.

The conference was sponsored by the International Waters Project of Global Environment Facility.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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