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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

19 November 2002

Australia Champions Marine Species Protection at International Conference


The Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp today said Australia has shown strong global leadership at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Chile, which concluded on the 15 November by successfully putting on the international stage issues of illegal fishing, whaling and exploitation of sharks.

“I am also very pleased to have worked closely with a number of nations in particular, Chile and Ecuador in achieving success at CITES”, Dr Kemp said.

Australia worked hard at the Conference of Parties to highlight the plight of Patagonian Toothfish and the impact illegal fishing is having on this species. Australia withdrew a proposal on this issue but worked with Chile to instead put forward a strong resolution that has successfully been passed by CITES.

“We have achieved success in putting significant pressure on toothfish pirates and will continue to work with other nations and in cooperation with the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to address this issue in the future,” Dr Kemp said.

Australia also achieved success in highlighting unsustainable shark trade issues, fuelled by concern over increasing levels of international trade in shark products and the lack of progress by CITES nations in implementing the International Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks.

“I am pleased that all CITES countries have recognised that to be fully effective, the conservation and management of sharks requires action from all nations with active shark fisheries. Australia and Ecuador have been successful in highlighting the need to take immediate action and for CITES to critically review progress towards implementing the International Place of Action for sharks by major fishing and trading nations,” Dr Kemp said.

Successful listing of Whale Sharks and the Basking Sharks on Appendix II of CITES has been a great boost to efforts to ensure sustainable trade in fish species and work to provide greater protection to these particular magnificent fish,” Dr Kemp said.

Nominations by the Philippines and India for the Whale Shark and the UK for Basking Shark initially looked as if they might fail but following tough lobbying which included the Australian delegation, these proposals succeeded.

In another important move, after strong opposition from Australia and other countries Japan withdrew its bid to downlist the minke whale which would have allowed some countries to resume trade in this species. Japan issues permits for its own vessels to kill minke whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary for scientific purposes.

Norway hunts minke whales in its own waters under a reservation to the moratorium on whaling by the International Whaling Commission but would like to sell the blubber to Japan and Iceland as this product is not favoured by consumers in Norway. Under current CITES listings, this is difficult if not impossible.

“The voting in Chile reflects Australia's strong stance on pursuing an international ban on commercial whaling and the quest to have all oceans of the world as a sanctuary for whales,” Dr Kemp said.

Another significant outcome from CITES was the success of the United States of America’s proposal to include seahorses (Hippocampus sp.) in Appendix II. Appendix II protection by CITES will reinforce the domestic measures Australia already has in place.

Media contact:
Catherine Job Dr Kemp’s office (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia