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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
21 May 2002
Today the 54th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted 24-16, with 5 abstentions in favour of Australia and New Zealand's joint motion for the declaration of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.
This is the largest majority (by one vote) that the South Pacific Sanctuary proposal has ever achieved.
Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, led the debate, calling on IWC members to respect the wishes of South Pacific nations calling for the Sanctuary.
"This is the third time that Australia and New Zealand have presented the case for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to the IWC and today's vote represented an increase in support for the motion," Dr Kemp said.
"However, IWC rules require a three quarters majority to create a Sanctuary and this was not achieved today."
Dr Kemp welcomed the increased support for the Sanctuary demonstrated by today's vote, saying that reluctance to endorse this motion at previous IWC meetings had been based on a purported lack of evidence of regional support.
"South Pacific nations have demonstrated by their actions and political declarations, their support for the Sanctuary. Other IWC nations must eventually respect this and declare the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary," Dr Kemp said.
"In recent weeks, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia and Niue have declared their waters as whale sanctuaries.
"Almost 40 per cent of the area is now protected by our national laws. But even if all of us declared sanctuaries the area protected would only be about 50 per cent. We need support from outside the region to achieve our goal.
"Our motion recognised the new reality about whales: that their economic value comes from their preservation rather than their destruction.
"The decision by other IWC members to vote against the Sanctuary is bad news for whales and a slap in the face for the people of the South Pacific.
"However, we will not be deterred. Our campaign to protect the whales does not end here. We will continue the fight at the 55th meeting of the IWC in Berlin next year," said Dr Kemp.
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400