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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

2 November 2000

SOUTH PACIFIC LEADERS SUPPORT WHALE SANCTUARY


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill said whale protection is a step closer today thanks to renewed support by South Pacific leaders for a whale sanctuary in their region.

Senator Hill welcomed a statement from the Pacific Islands Forum supporting the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

"The 31st Pacific Islands Forum was held in Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati, from 27-30 October 2000. Heads of State and Government representatives from 16 nations in the Pacific region, including Australia, attended," Senator Hill said.

"The Forum concluded that the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would protect the breeding grounds of the great whale species of the Southern Hemisphere, such as the Humpback Whale, while also adding economic benefits through the possibilities for whale-watching enterprises."

Australia and New Zealand proposed a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary during July at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, held in Adelaide. Most members of the commission supported the whale sanctuary but it failed to obtain the required three quarters majority. Australia and New Zealand will again propose the establishment of the South Pacific Sanctuary at the next meeting of the commission in London next year.

"I hope the Forum's renewed support for the Sanctuary will encourage all IWC members to respond to the wishes of the people of the region by backing the proposal when it is reconsidered at the next meeting in July 2001," Senator Hill said.

"The endorsement by the Pacific Islands Forum follows strong support for the Sanctuary by the Environment Ministers at the recent South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) meeting. I hope other small island developing states in the IWC register this message from the region. Caribbean states that did not support the Sanctuary earlier this year can no longer ignore the aspirations of the Pacific Island countries.

"The decision by leaders in the South Pacific to support a whale sanctuary in their region reinforces the strong stance Australia and New Zealand have taken on the issue of whale protection."

Media Enquiries:
Senator Hill's Office Belinda Huppatz (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364
Environment Australia Miranda Brown (02) 6274 1810

Commonwealth of Australia