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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
13 February 2003
Australia's contribution to non-lethal international research on whales will be given a significant boost, with a pledge of $50 000 from the Commonwealth Government's $2.7 billion Natural Heritage Trust to the well-regarded South Pacific Whale Research Consortium.
"This grant will encourage research that will give solid, science-based information to South Pacific island states considering whale sanctuaries in their domestic waters," Dr Kemp said.
The funding, which will be committed at the Consortium's annual meeting in New Zealand this week, recognises the valuable role of the Consortium in the study of whales in the area of the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.
"This is the latest in a series of large grants to support scientific research on whales. It is further proof of the Government's commitment to quality cetacean research which underlies Australia's strong stance at the International Whaling Commission to maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling and support for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.
"It also puts the lie to allegations that Australia's policy is based on emotion rather than science," Dr Kemp said.
The South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, constituted in 1999, gathers regional experts on the biology and ecology of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), shares the latest findings from the region and sets research and training priorities. Field reports this year will cover Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The Consortium relies on the contributions of governments, universities, private scientists as well as the financial support of the non-government community, such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The Australian Government is committed to supporting effective whale research. Late last year Australia committed $80 000 in Natural Heritage Trust funding to the Southern Ocean Cetacean Ecosystem Program (SOCEP), funding a six-week voyage to locate whales in the Antarctic area of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
The SOCEP is collaboration between Australia, the International Whaling Commission and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (USA), and this research documented the sounds of various whale species and identifies their location more precisely. A unique feature of the program is its deployment of special digital recording equipment that monitors the area long after the researchers return to harbour.
"This type of non-lethal research, with a minimal impact on whales and their ecosystems, enriches our knowledge about these species in the icy Antarctic, which is the major summer feeding ground for the whales that breed in the area of the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary," Dr Kemp said.
Peter Poggioli (02) 6277 7640 or 0412-970-063