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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

22 May 2003

The Berlin Initiative: New Effort to Protect Whales


Australia, in conjunction with a number of key members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), has developed a proposal to move the IWC into the 21st century as the leading multilateral body responsible for the conservation and safeguarding of the world's whales.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today announced Australia, along with Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the USA, has submitted a draft resolution for consideration at the Berlin meeting of the IWC titled the Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda of the International Whaling Commission.

"The Berlin Initiative recognises the primary objective of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the convention that establishes the IWC, is to conserve whale stocks for the benefit of all mankind and for future generations," Dr Kemp said.

"Over the last 25 years of the IWC, increasing attention has been given to conserving whales and also putting in place arrangements to assist the recovery of whale species, such as the majestic Blue Whale which is the largest animal on earth today, that were hunted to the brink of extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries.

"The Berlin Initiative brings together all the conservation advances of the IWC and proposes the IWC establishes a Conservation Committee to safeguard these advances and continue the conservation momentum of the organisation.

"Given the importance of this proposal, and the other priority issues for Australia such as opposing commercial and so-called scientific whaling, and the proposals to establish two additional sanctuaries, I will attend the Berlin meeting and put forward the strongest possible cases to provide leadership for the IWC's conservation agenda."

Australia, along with New Zealand, will once again propose the establishment of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

"It is especially pleasing to me that support for the Sanctuary has increased both within the region and within the IWC with the proposal attracting more co-sponsors than ever before," Dr Kemp said.

"However, the misguided pro-whaling countries, deaf to the desires of the people of the South Pacific, will still have a blocking minority for this proposal so I call on them to be sensitive to what is wanted by the people who have the most to gain from the establishment of the Sanctuary and vote accordingly.

"Another key priority for Australia at the Berlin meeting will be to continue the fight against so-called 'scientific whaling'. Given the innovative non-lethal methodology Australian scientists use to research the diet of whales, including at the Australian Antarctic Division, lethal research is, frankly, out-dated, ill-conceived and cruel. It is an outrage that endangered species such as the sei whale are being commercially hunted in large numbers under the guise of science."

The IWC meets for the 55th time from 16 to 19 June 2003 in Berlin, Germany.

Media Contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia