The secretary general of the Fishing Industry Association of Tonga says the only way to for tuna exporters to beat rising costs is to add value to their product before it goes offshore.
The comment comes as the fisheries ministry declares its intention to boost the amount of tuna caught in Tongan waters as well as fisheries' contribution to the economy.
Tricia Emberson is one of two local operators fishing for tuna and says the weekly 20 tons she was exporting in the late 90s has dropped to two.
She says vaccuum packing loins is one way of making exporting sustainable.
"We've been traditionally exporting fresh chilled fish with the head on by air, well, that doesn't work anymore. We've really now had to say to our buyers of fish well, just because we've been doing it that way for 20 years, we can't continue to do it that way."
Tricia Emberson says vacuum packing at existing processing plants would be possible with only minor modifications.