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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
26 April 2002
Dr David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, today welcomed a new Declaration setting the future direction for ocean conservation and management in the Asia-Pacific region. All 21 APEC members at the first APEC Ocean-related Ministerial Meeting held in Seoul, Korea, 22-26 April 2002, agreed to the Declaration.
Australia's initiative on better management of coral reefs was supported by many countries, in particular the United States, Indonesia and Thailand.
"The largest area for coral reefs with the highest biological diversity is under threat. Some 34 percent of coral reefs in South East Asia have already been lost. Given their importance to our economic, social and environmental well being, our countries have a key responsibility to address this continuing and alarming trend urgently," Dr Kemp said.
The Seoul Ocean Declaration focused on the sustainability of marine and coastal resources in the Asia-Pacific Region. The meeting discussed sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, marine environment protection and improving the scientific basis for resource management in the APEC region.
"The Pacific Ocean is at the very heart of APEC. It is appropriate and timely that Ministers from the region should meet to discuss the importance of our ocean environment for food security, economic prosperity and social and environmental well being.
"This regional meeting will contribute to strengthening cooperation on sustainable oceans management and development," Dr Kemp said.
Dr Kemp committed Australia to an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management.
"Some have said that whale numbers should be reduced because some whales eat fish," Dr Kemp said.
"Sustainable fisheries are very important. But so too are all aspects of our marine biodiversity. The decline in fish stocks is not the fault of the whales. It is human actions that are at fault. We must have an ecosystem based approach to the management of fisheries that recognises that whales should not be the scapegoats for the overexploitation of fisheries."
Dr Kemp affirmed Australia's commitment to improved arrangements for conservation of the biodiversity contained in the deep oceans and areas beyond national jurisdiction.
"The high seas contain rich, diverse and unique biodiversity and habitats. They are just as susceptible to human impacts as inshore environments. Australia will be hosting a meeting in 2003 to look at how better to conserve high seas biodiversity," Dr Kemp said.
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400