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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

9 May 2005

Whale sharks and seabirds get added protection


Whale sharks and seabirds will be better protected thanks to new recovery plans unveiled today by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell.

The recovery plans outline ways to protect whale sharks and species of Australian seabirds that are listed as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

Senator Campbell said whale sharks were fully protected within Australian waters but they faced unsustainable hunting pressure in other parts of their migration range.

"Today marks an important day for the future existence of whale sharks in our own Australian waters and internationally, with the release of the recovery plan and the first international whale shark conference starting in Perth," he said.

"Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the sea, reaching an incredible 20 metres in length. During their lifespan of around one hundred years, these filter-feeding sharks migrate huge distances, both into and out of Australian waters."

The International Whale Shark Conference starting in Perth today brings together approximately 70 people from 23 countries where the shark can be found at various times during its migrations. The conference will focus on issues important to the survival of the whale shark, including improving our understanding of the animal's biology and ecology, along with promoting socio-economic alternatives to harvesting it such as whale shark based tourism - an activity in which Australia leads the world through whale shark tourism operations occurring in the Ningaloo Marine Park.

"The conference, along with the release of the recovery plan further enhances Australia's leadership in marine species protection," he said.

Senator Campbell said species of Australian seabirds had been grouped together in the recovery plan in recognition of the common threats they face from feral animal predators.

"The recovery plan for the 10 species of seabirds addresses this threat and aims to increase our understanding of some poorly-known species," he said.

Senator Campbell said the Australian Government had spent more than $2 million on whale shark and seabird conservation since 1997.

The Federal Environmental Law establishes a list of threatened species for which recovery plans must be developed within statutory timeframes.

Recovery plans set out recovery objectives for a species, the actions required to meet the objectives and ways in which the success of the plan can be measured. These binding plans are reviewed every five years and remain in force until the species are removed from the threatened list.

Further information about the whale shark and seabirds recovery plans is available at www.deh.gov.au/ or by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage on Freecall 1800 803 772.

Media contacts:
Renae Stoikos (Minister Campbell's office)   02 6277 7640 or   0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia