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

20 January 2005

Efforts to understand whale strandings a priority


The release today of findings from a conference on whale strandings is an important step in understanding more about why these mammals strand.

The national Marine Mammals Stranding Conference, held in May 2004, was co-hosted by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said it was vital we try to understand why mass strandings occur and how we can minimise whales' suffering.

"Why whales strand themselves is an issue at the hearts of most Australians and causes community distress," Senator Campbell said.

"The release of the conference findings is timely following the number of strandings on our coastline, particularly off Tasmania, in recent months."

More than 70 scientists, veterinarians, museum staff, industry, government and non-government representatives from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA attended the conference.

The group concluded that while States and Territories have their own procedures in place, three important initiatives should be introduced to ensure better consistency and coordination.

These include a national set of protocols for the collection and storage of information about stranded marine mammals, the creation of a central, national database for information on strandings, and the establishment of an Australasian Marine Mammals Strandings Network.

"The Australian Government is already funding the establishment of a national whale strandings database and now we are working towards the development of a marine mammal strandings network," Senator Campbell said.

"The Australian Government is also working towards developing a national standard for the collection of scientific samples to assist in research into the causes of marine mammal strandings.

"Because this issue needs a cooperative approach, I contacted the New Zealand Conservation Minister following mass strandings off Australian and New Zealand coastlines late last year, to initiate a trans-Tasman exchange of information on whale strandings.

"I am pleased the New Zealand Government has welcomed this initiative and offered the expertise and experience of the government," he said.

IFAW Asia Pacific has also applauded the Australian Government's leadership in helping our whales.

IFAW's Darren Kindleysides said: "Now the foundation has been laid, we look forward to the Australian Government's continued commitment as we work together to address whale strandings."

Meetings to progress these initiatives will be held in February. The first steps in this new approach will be to work with state agencies and the community to ensure that we build on existing successful approaches so we can enhance our information and responses to stranding events.

The conference findings can be accessed online at: http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/dfiles/file_505.pdf

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

Commonwealth of Australia