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

19 June 2003

Conserve not Kill Whales the Message from IWC 2003


"The International Whaling Commission has called on Japan to stop its scientific whaling program and has disputed the validity of such programs," Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today from the IWC meeting in Berlin.

"Australia has consistently argued, based on sound science, that so-called scientific whaling is an affront to the Commission in light of the non-lethal research methods available and the global ban on commercial whaling which has been in place since 1986.

"The IWC called on Japan to stop "scientific whaling" in the Southern Ocean and North Pacific, and on Iceland to shelve its plans to commence a similar program. This sends a strong message that to understand whales it is better to conserve, not kill whales."

The Australian Government's Australian Antarctic Division undertakes non-lethal research on whales through surveys and DNA analysis of whale faeces to determine their diet. This was influential in the unprecedented declaration by the well-regarded IWC scientific committee that there was no scientific basis for lethal scientific whaling.

The Antarctic Division's research involves collecting and analysing samples of whale faeces using DNA technology to identify what whales have been eating. The research shows DNA testing is more effective than killing whales to determine their diet.

"Australia strongly endorses the statement by 40 experts from the IWC Scientific Committee, which criticised Iceland's proposal as technically deficient and unwarranted. Scientific whaling programs are just thinly disguised commercial whaling, done in breach of the moratorium on commercial whaling, " Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp said the two resolutions against "scientific" whaling follow a number of successes for Australia - which has been at the forefront in protecting and conserving whales - at the IWC meeting in Berlin.

"Australia is proud to have been one of 20 sponsors of the Berlin Initiative, a milestone in the evolution of the International Whaling Commission," he said.

"The Berlin Initiative recognises that the Commission has evolved from a closed whaling club to an organisation committed to the conservation of whales. The establishment of a conservation committee acknowledges this evolution. Australia, a co-sponsor of the resolution, was delighted that it passed by a margin of 25:20.

"Whilst there was also a record number of co-sponsors for Australia and New Zealand's proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, the three-quarters majority needed was not achieved. The IWC voted 24:17, with 4 abstentions, in favour of the motion to declare the Sanctuary.

"Australia recognises that proposals of this kind often take considerable time. For example, it took 10 years of debate before the ban on commercial whaling was adopted.

"But the Australian Government will continue to fight vigorously for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to be established at the IWC."

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

whale protection in the south pacific - map
Commonwealth of Australia