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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

8 November 2002

Australia Opposes Japanese Whaling

The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today called on Japan to stop its so called scientific whaling program scheduled to start in the Southern Ocean later this month.

It has been reported that the five-vessel Japanese fleet will leave port today on a six-month trip to Antarctica, where they plan to kill up to 440 minke whales in waters south of Australia and New Zealand. This is despite resolutions passed in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) urging Japan to refrain from issuing scientific permits in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

"The Australian Government leads international condemnation of this position at the IWC in questioning Japan on the scientific validity and necessity for their lethal research program," Dr Kemp said.

"The fact remains that whaling is also cruel and inhumane. Whales that have been harpooned often die painful and protracted deaths, as they may live for several minutes, and sometimes much longer before death occurs."

The Japanese claim that it is necessary to kill whales in order to study their diet.

Australian scientists have developed methods to determine whale diet by analysing whale faeces. These methods provide better results than killing whales, as the non-lethal means is repeatable over time, whereas lethal methods only provide a snapshot of whale diet at one moment in time.

The IWC is yet to revise its estimate of minke whale numbers in the Antarctic, after agreeing that the previous estimate was no longer correct, and was likely to be much smaller than previously thought.

Australia supports a strong international agenda for whale protection including continuation of the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, pursuing the declaration of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, and the recent successful listing of whale species under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) which will now encourage regional agreements to protect migratory whales.

"Australia was successful in having 6 great whale species listed under the CMS, at a meeting in Bonn, Germany in October this year. This is a major step forward for whale protection in our region.

"The Government is also strongly opposed to Japan's effort to decrease protection for several whales species at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting currently taking place in Chile. If this effort were to be successful, it would enable Japan and other countries to trade in the whale meat they take from Antarctic waters," Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp said Australia and Japan have good relationships over most environment programs, such as the conservation of migratory shorebirds, but whale protection is one issue on which we differ.

Media contacts:
Media contact: Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia