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

21 January 2005

Beaked whale stranding - Rottnest Island, WA


Attempts to save a Gray's beaked whale that stranded itself on Western Australia's Rottnest Island on Wednesday have failed.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said Murdoch University was performing a comprehensive necropsy (autopsy) on the dead whale to try to uncover any evidence for the stranding.

"Unfortunately, attempts to rescue the whale and release it back into the open ocean were unsuccessful, and I am saddened to learn this animal re-stranded yesterday and died," Senator Campbell said.

"We are still learning about this unique species, which grows to around 5.6 metres and is usually found in the cool, temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere. Most of the information we have has been gathered from the 19 other Gray's beaked whale strandings in WA over the past two decades.

"The reason behind whale and dolphin strandings remains a mystery. The Australian Government is very concerned about this issue and I am eager to assist researchers in their quest to find answers to these tragic events."

Findings were released yesterday from the national Marine Mammals Stranding Conference, held in May 2004. The conference was co-hosted by the Australian Government through its $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The Australian Government is now investigating the development of a set of protocols for collection and storage of information, the creation of a central, national database and the establishment of an Australasian Marine Mammals Strandings Network.

"The Australian Government is working hard to develop and design a comprehensive national database that will assist states and researchers dealing with these events," Senator Campbell said.

"I have also invited New Zealand to participate in this work so we can benefit from our shared experiences and knowledge, and the New Zealand Government has agreed to work with us on this most important project.

"The Government is also examining potential models for a national research network on strandings.

"The Australian Government will continue to take a leadership role to uncover the reasons behind whale and dolphin strandings to protect and conserve these majestic mammals of the deep," Senator Campbell said.

The findings of the National Whales Strandings workshop are available 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