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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

15 September 2002

Australia to Propose Whale Protection at Bonn, Germany: The Convention for Migratory Species


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today appealed to members of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) to support the listing and protection of six great whales under the global conservation treaty.

"I am pleased to announce that Australia is proposing to protect the Antarctic minke, Bryde's, sperm, pygmy right, fin and sei whales, and the Orca under the CMS. In addition we are seeking the Convention's protection of the great white shark," Dr Kemp said.

"It is important that these species are listed under the Convention as this will mean that all great whales will have the same protection as migratory species. This is critical to help recover great whale population levels to what they were before over hunting by whalers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

"If these nominations are successful, I will take steps to initiate a regional agreement for marine mammals in the South Pacific Ocean. Such an Agreement would include all marine mammal species found in the South Pacific, including whales, small cetaceans and dugongs.

The nominations will be discussed next week in Bonn, where the 80-member Convention will hold its 7th meeting. While Australia's great whale nominations have been criticised by those who continue with commercial whaling, they are not the first listing proposals for great whales under the CMS. The blue, humpback, bowhead, southern right and northern right whales are already listed under Appendix I of the Convention.

Appendix I lists species which are endangered, or likely to become endangered, while Appendix II lists migratory species which would benefit from conservation measures developed and implemented in a regional manner given that these species often migrate through a number of coastal countries.

"Many whale species have been the subject of whaling in the past, which has significantly reduced their populations, while others are still the target of so called 'scientific' whaling. However, the threats facing migratory great whales extend beyond whaling. Migrating whales are subject to shipping strikes, pollution, habitat degradation, and unregulated interaction with tourists. With these threats in mind, we are proposing to list the great whales under both appendices of the Convention" Dr Kemp said.

"While the International Whaling Commission (IWC) provides us with an avenue for the global regulation of whaling among its 48 member countries, the CMS provides us with the opportunity to collaborate with many smaller nations, on a regional level, to conserve and manage our migratory animals.

The South Pacific Ocean covers a vast area and is the location for a large number of small island states, many of which are developing countries. The cooperation achieved through a Regional Agreement under the Convention would facilitate conservation goals on a regional scale. Cooperative research would provide increased knowledge of the species in the region, and habitat critical to the survival of the species could also be identified and managed.

Currently there are no Regional Agreements under the Convention with a focus on the South Pacific. By developing a South Pacific Agreement on Marine Mammals this instrument could raise awareness in South Pacific countries of the importance of conservation measures targeted at migratory species.

"Since Australia joined the CMS we have been a driving force behind the agreement for Southern Ocean albatrosses and petrels and the agreement to protect marine turtles of south-east Asia and the Indian Ocean. I am confident that Australia can also provide real assistance to marine mammals in the South Pacific region." Dr Kemp said.

CMS

To view Australia's listing nominations, please visit the CMS web site: http://www.wcmc.org.uk/cms/

Media contact:
Devena Wahlstrom (02) 6277 7640 or 0412 257 334

Commonwealth of Australia