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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp

18 June 2003

Support for South Pacific Whale Sanctuary Maintained

Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp MP, today welcomed the maintenance of support in the IWC for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. The Sanctuary requires a three quarters majority at the IWC to be established.

Minister Kemp made his comments overnight when the IWC voted on Australia and New Zealand's proposal at its 55th annual meeting, in Berlin, Germany.

"I am encouraged by the deepening level of commitment to the Sanctuary initiative by many members of the IWC," Dr Kemp said.

"This year, a record 19 members of the IWC signed up to co-sponsor this proposal. By doing so, all these countries were claiming this cause as their own."

The IWC voted 24-17, with 4 abstentions, in favour of the motion to declare a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

"It was expected that the vote would fall short of the three-quarters majority that is needed to establish the Sanctuary. History shows that, in the context of the ebb and flow in the IWC, motions are rarely adopted until the proposals have been tabled for a considerable time.

"The moratorium on commercial whaling, for instance, was first put forward in 1972 although it was not adopted until a full decade later," Dr Kemp said.

"I thank those members that did support our proposal for their efforts to promote whale conservation.

"Disappointingly a bloc vote of pro-whaling members has again prevented the people of the South Pacific from getting the Sanctuary they want.

"Yesterday, the IWC adopted the Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda, which I consider was the best sign in many years that the IWC is moving into the 21st Century. The Sanctuary vote shows that the IWC still has a way to go to prove its conservation credentials.

"Make no mistake, the Australian Government will not let up on this important conservation issue. We will continue to promote the establishment of the Sanctuary at the IWC and to further the conservation of whales through discussions with our South Pacific neighbours.

"I call on those members that opposed the Sanctuary today to listen to the region and reconsider their position before the IWC next meets."

The next annual meeting of the IWC will be held in Sorrento, Italy in 2004.

Commonwealth of Australia