4 April 2008
Australia's proposals to strengthen global whale protection would be a key feature of the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting in Chile this June, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said.
Mr Garrett said the Australian Government's constructive proposals to modernise the Commission attracted strong support from many member nations and non-government organisations at the intersessional meeting in London in early March.
"One argument in particular struck a chord - that the unilateral killing of whales in the name of 'science' remains the greatest barrier to the Commission moving forward," Mr Garrett said.
"While the London intersessional was not a decision-making meeting, Australia's delegation tabled substantial proposals to bring the IWC into the 21st century, with a focus on whale conservation.
A sperm whale in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania. Image courtesy Rick Eaves.
"First, Australia put the case for agreed conservation management plans to make real progress in protecting whale populations, many still struggling to recover from decades of unfettered commercial hunting.
"The meeting identified two species as priorities: the North-West Pacific grey whale and the Southern Hemisphere southern right whale.
"Secondly, Australia proposed a system of regional collaborative research partnerships, working together with other IWC nations to share good science and improve whale conservation, management and recovery. Australia will now bring forward a proposal for a Southern Ocean Regional Research Program to the IWC's Chile meeting.
"Third, we argued for the wholesale reform of the highly divisive scientific permit process - the loophole that allows the unilateral killing of whales in the name of science. We want all scientific research under the IWC assessed against priorities and criteria agreed by the IWC, not self-allocated by individual countries.
"Australia believes that IWC members have a genuine opportunity to transform the Commission into a 21st century conservation body.
"While we understand significant reforms cannot be achieved overnight, this past week's meeting is a vital step forward. The Australian Government will spare no effort in its long-term commitment to a new course in whale conservation," Mr Garrett said.
A whale off Byron Bay, New South Wales. Image courtesy Dave Paton.
Australia has urged the Governments of Iceland and Norway to respect the International Whaling Commission's global moratorium on commercial whaling.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said reports that Iceland was considering issuing commercial whaling quotas for 2008, on the back of Norway's recent decision to approve a quota, were of great concern.
"Whale protection requires binding rules that apply to all countries. Unfortunately, a small number of countries are opting out of Commission rules or using loopholes to continue hunting whales", Mr Garrett said.
"In early March, IWC members met in London to discuss how to improve collective efforts to protect whales. This cooperative work is undermined when governments award themselves unilateral whaling quotas.
"At the London meeting, Australia tabled constructive proposals to modernise the IWC, which were met with strong interest from other countries. Australia's proposal specifically identified the practice of countries 'opting out' of the moratorium as a critical issue to be addressed.
"Both Norway and Iceland argued they are entitled to hunt whales because they lodged an objection to the moratorium on commercial whaling.
"Norway sets its own annual quotas, using criteria that are not endorsed by the IWC or its Scientific Committee. The quota was recently increased to almost double the number of whales killed by Norway a decade ago.
"I urge the Governments of Norway and Iceland to stop commercial whaling, and to work with the international community on initiatives to improve the conservation and management of whales."
Biodiversity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Image courtesy GBRMPA.
The Australian Government will invest $2.25 billion over five years on a new program to restore the health of Australia's environment and build on improved land management practices.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said that the Caring for our Country programme would deliver funding to local communities through a simple, 'one-stop shop' covering the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Landcare, Environmental Stewardship and Working on Country programs.
"The $2.25 billion package represents a new, coordinated approach to environmental management in Australia built on transparent and consistent national targets," Mr Garrett said.
"It recognises that the previous system was not working efficiently, with funding scattered across the country to individual projects, often working in isolation from each other.
"Caring for our Country will be backed by an annual business plan to ensure the investment is targeted to deliver the best results for the environment.
"It will also cut excessive administration costs and instead allow more funding to be provided directly to farmers and other land managers.
"The program will focus on the key goals of a healthier environment, which is better-protected, well-managed and more resilient against the challenges of climate change."
Projects will match six national priorities:
- Australia's national reserve system;
- Biodiversity and natural icons (including weeds, feral animals and threatened species);
- Coasts and aquatic habitats;
- Sustainable farm practices and Landcare;
- Natural resource management in remote and northern Australia; and
- Community skills, knowledge and engagement.
The new program will deliver on key Rudd Government election commitments including:
- The $200 million Great Barrier Reef rescue plan;
- A strengthened Landcare;
- The $50 million expansion of Indigenous Protected Areas;
- The employment of an additional 300 Indigenous Rangers;
- $10 million to save the Tasmanian Devil;
- An extra $2 million to fight the cane toad menace;
- $100 million to protect and repair fragile coastal ecosystems; and
- $5.25 million to improve water quality in the Gippsland Lakes.
The World Heritage programs and others related to it will be overseen by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett and Landcare will be overseen by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke.
"The regional natural resource bodies will remain central in delivering Caring for our Country, with a guaranteed share of program funds. In fact, Caring for our Country will offer many regional bodies significant new opportunities," Mr Garrett said.
"Regional bodies will receive guaranteed funding of at least 60 per cent of historical average funding to secure their operations.
"They can then access additional funds for projects which will help to deliver on key national priorities, or for extra assistance in adapting to the program," Mr Garrett said.
The Government will provide an annual report card on progress under Caring for our Country.
For more information see www.nrm.gov.au - or ring the hotline on 1800 552 008.
HMAS Sydney II. Image courtesy Royal Australian Navy.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett has announced a provisional declaration over the final resting places of HMAS Sydney II and German raider HSK Kormoran.
The vessels were discovered by the Finding Sydney Foundation and under the Historic Shipwrecks Act (1976).
The declaration gives legal protection to these historically significant vessels and relics, including their crews, from damage, disturbance or removal. Under the declaration, unauthorised intrusion into the sites of these final resting places is prohibited.
Mr Garrett said the declaration would ensure respect for the war dead of both Australia and Germany.
"The declaration will not prevent further documentation of the site by the Finding Sydney Foundation or another appropriate research body. However my approval under a Commonwealth permit will be required", Mr Garrett said.
"HMAS Sydney II sank after a fierce battle with the HSK Kormoran on 19 November 1941. All 645 crew were tragically lost in what was Australia's worst naval disaster. Over 80 German sailors also died.
"For more than 66 years the fate of the HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran has been the subject of public speculation and heartache. We will preserve and honour their resting places, ensuring that the final chapter of this tragic story is complete," Mr Garrett said.
For more information about the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 visit http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/shiplaw.html
For more information about the wrecks, visit http://presspass.findingsydney.com/
Loading the Deep Ocean Tsunami Detection Buoy and equipment. Image courtesy Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Australia's tsunami detection capability has been boosted with the installation of a second deep ocean tsunami detection buoy in the Coral Sea.
"The new buoy was deployed in the Coral Sea and is monitoring changes in sea levels for signs of potential threat from the South Solomon and New Hebrides trenches to the east coast of Australia," Minister for the Environnment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said.
"The sooner that people can be alerted to the chance of a tsunami the greater the likelihood that they can take action and survive."
Strategically placed tsunami buoys provide real-time tsunami detection as waves travel across the open sea.
The Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) buoy is the second to be installed as part of the $68.9 million Australian Tsunami Warning System. Last week's installation follows the successful installation of a DART buoy 1200 km off the south-east coast of Tasmania in April 2007.
The DART buoys consist of a bottom pressure sensor that is anchored to the seafloor and a companion moored surface buoy. An acoustic link transmits data from the bottom pressure sensor to the surface buoy, and then satellite links relay the data to warning centres for scientific analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology.
An ornate or tropical rock lobster from the Torres Strait rock lobster fishery. Image courtesy CSIRO.
The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke has introduced legislation into federal Parliament to boost the nation's powers to fight illegal fishing.
Mr Burke said the Fisheries Legislation Amendment (New Governance Arrangements for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and Other Matters) Bill 2008 would help to protect our $2 billion fishing industry.
"It gives stronger powers to our border protection officers to apprehend ships involved in illegal fishing and creates new offences for Australian citizens involved in poaching overseas," Mr Burke said.
The new powers relate to officers working for the Australian Customs Service, the Australian Defence Force or the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.
The legislation would:
- allow officials to pursue and seize vessels supporting illegal fishing activities (by providing fuel, freezer storage or other support), rather than just pursue the primary vessel involved;
- require unlicensed foreign vessels moving through the Australian fishing zone to stow their fishing equipment - making it harder for them to fish illegally;
- ensure that Australian citizens engaged in illegal fishing in other regions can be prosecuted under our laws; and
- deliver on an election commitment to convert AFMA to a fisheries commission under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and a statutory authority.
"Illegal fishing is a dangerous and damaging activity which costs our fishing industry, puts pressure on fish stocks and can spread pests or disease," Mr Burke said.
It is anticipated that the new AFMA arrangements would be in place by 1 July 2008.