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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

23 May 2002

Australia Takes Whale Fight to New Forum

Australia is disappointed with the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) failure to support a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary but will continue its campaign at two important international whaling meetings over the next 12 months.

Australia will nominate 6 new whale species for protection under the Bonn Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals at a meeting in Bonn in September. Australia and New Zealand will also take the proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Berlin next year.

Dr Kemp returned today from the 54th meeting of the IWC in the Japanese port of Shimonoseki, where the Australian and New Zealand co-sponsored proposal for a sanctuary fell short of the required three quarters majority vote with 24 votes in favour, 16 against and five abstentions.

"We are obviously disappointed by this result," Dr Kemp said. "However, we were heartened that we achieved the most votes yet for the proposal. We held and improved our position on Japan's home turf and next year we will take the proposal to Berlin.

"We should recognise that the conservation-minded nations also had some hard-won victories. A motion to end the existing Indian Ocean Sanctuary was withdrawn by Japan, a motion to abolish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was defeated, and Iceland's push to become a full-voting member, even though they do not support the moratorium, was knocked back."

Dr Kemp also responded to calls by Masayuki Komatsu, Japan's IWC Commissioner, that Australia and New Zealand should leave the Commission and that the Commission was never intended as a protectionist organisation.

"Article V of the Convention specifically refers to the development of whale sanctuaries as a critical instrument to allow for the conservation of whale resources. Over time, as many whales have been hunted to the verge of extinction, the focus of the Convention has shifted more towards the conservation end of the spectrum," Dr Kemp said.

"Despite their differences, each party on the IWC must be able to come to the debate in good faith and have its case heard by other countries."

Dr Kemp also announced at the meeting that the Australian Government has nominated six species of great whales for inclusion in Appendix II of the Bonn Convention to complement efforts within the IWC to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. The Conference of the Parties to the Bonn Convention (the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals) will consider the nominations in September this year.

The species to be nominated are the Antarctic Minke Whale, Bryde's Whale, the Fin Whale, the Pygmy Right Whale, the Sei Whale and the Sperm Whale.

"Listing of whale species under the Bonn Convention would provide the basis for the development of a regional agreement between South Pacific countries on the protection of whales, and I urge member countries of the Bonn Convention to support the nominations," Dr Kemp said.

"Australia and other countries of the South Pacific are taking action to protect whales in our region, but these measures can only go so far. The peoples of the Pacific call upon the IWC to show leadership in the international arena and vote positively next year to create a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary."

Dr Kemp thanked non-government conservation groups for their contribution to the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary campaign. "I look forward to working with conservation groups over the next 12 months to pursue the campaign before the next meeting of the IWC," he said.

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

Commonwealth of Australia