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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon. Dr David Kemp MP
19 August 2003
Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today welcomed the passage of legislation in New Caledonia to create a whale sanctuary in its waters.
"We welcome New Caledonia's commitment to protect whales within the 1.36 million square kilometres of its Exclusive Economic Zone," Dr Kemp said.
"This is an important step forward in ensuring the protection of whale populations that were devastated by rampant whaling during the 19th and 20th centuries, and are only recovering slowly."
The Congress of New Caledonia approved the Government's decision to declare its entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a whale sanctuary on 13 August 2003.
"The New Caledonian whale sanctuary covers a large expanse of water to our east. It begins at the boundary of the Australian whale sanctuary, which was declared in 2000 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999," Dr Kemp said.
"Moreover, the New Caledonian sanctuary forms a crucial link in what is now an uninterrupted zone of national-level whale protection, stretching over 8000 kilometres all the way from Australia to the easternmost point of the EEZ of French Polynesia.
"The borders of the new sanctuary end where the recently-declared whale sanctuaries of Vanuatu and Fiji begin. This area is known to be used by migrating whales for breeding and calving, and is a welcome step towards achieving the South Pacific's goal of 20 million square kilometres in small island state whale sanctuaries by 2008.
"Sanctuary for whales afforded by the island states of the South Pacific now amounts to approximately 13.5 million square kilometres."
Dr Kemp said New Caledonia's announcement came as welcome support for Australia's promotion of whale protection in the South Pacific, at international, regional and national levels.
"At the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission held in Berlin in June 2003, I called on the IWC to honour the region's enthusiasm for whale conservation, as demonstrated by national sanctuary declarations, by creating an international South Pacific Whale Sanctuary," he said.
"New Caledonia's decision demonstrates that the resolve of the peoples of the South Pacific remains firm.
"This good news from the South Pacific coincides with the deeply regrettable launch of Iceland's whaling season in the North Atlantic. On the weekend, Iceland started to hunt whales, despite criticism of its so-called 'scientific' whaling program from leading researchers.
"Iceland should comply with resolution 2003/2 from the recent IWC meeting in Berlin, which called on Iceland to shelve its whaling plans. Australia will make joint diplomatic representations in an attempt to convince Iceland to recall its whaling fleet."
Australia worked closely with New Caledonia and other island states at a South Pacific Environment Programme meeting earlier this year, discussing regional marine mammal conservation. See attached map of whale protection in the South Pacific.