17 Oct 2011

Tonga government hopes for rejuvenation of the tuna industry

8:02 pm on 17 October 2011

The Chief Executive of Tonga's Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forest and Fisheries hopes the entry of a significant fishing operator will inspire others to return to the tuna trade.

Dr Vailala Matoto says the recent decline in the catch rate combined with global financial trends have forced the industry into decline over the last few years.

Dr Matoto says the tuna trade was lucrative from the late 90's till mid 2000's but then costs started to out strip returns.

He says a local company is aiming to have a sizable vessel in the water in the next few weeks and eventually hopes to have a fleet of five ships in action.

"I suppose the long term will very much depend on the performance of the first vessel. That's why they have kept one to run now."

Dr Matoto says the current tuna catch rate is higher than normal but the enthusiasm of fishing operators to take advantage of this is lower than he hoped for.