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Six-month permits aimed at lifting economy

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 22, 2008) - After 11 years of closure, Tonga has lifted its ban on the fishing of sea cucumbers but only for a limited six months period per year, confirmed the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Fisheries ΄Ulunga Fa΄anunu today.

The Ministry has awarded nine local companies licenses for the fishing of the sea cucumbers in Tongatapu, Vava΄u and Ha΄apai, and they will be mainly for export to Asian countries such as Hong Kong.

He said the Tonga Cabinet passed a new Fisheries Management (Conservation) Regulation 2008 in July lifting the ban on sea cucumbers fishing between April to September but banned it for the remaining six months from October 1 to March 31 during the sea cucumber reproduction season.

In 1997 Tonga banned the fishing of sea cucumbers because it was overexploited and the move to protect the species had allowed for the stock to rebuild over the years.

Fa΄anunu said because of the current status of the Tongan economy they looked at re-opening the industry, which may help in terms of exports, but only for a limited period so as to ensure its sustainability.

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