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

29 March 2005

Minister calls for new whale watching guidelines

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today wrote to his State and Northern Territory counterparts seeking support for a national review of regulations relating to human interactions with whales and dolphins.

"We need to make sure all the states have a coordinated approach to the way we manage the human interaction between whales and dolphins," Senator Campbell said.

"Not only will this provide clarity for the whale watching industry, it will also help protect whales and dolphins and ensure that people can continue to enjoy watching these creatures."

The current national standard is the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council National Guidelines for Cetacean Observation, published in February 2000.

"Since the publication of the Guidelines, public interest in whales and dolphins has continued to expand and this has led to an increase in the number of tourism operators focusing on whale watching activities," Senator Campbell said.

"The whale watching industry has also grown from the observation of mainly humpback whales to include other species of whales and dolphins.

"There is now a need to review the guidelines, concentrating on those issues where jurisdictions have encountered problems or where differences in approaches are forming.

"Whale watching is estimated to benefit Australia directly to the tune of $30 million a year, with indirect benefits close to $300 million.

"As well as economic benefits, whale watching also helps raise awareness and appreciation of whales and their habitat, and highlights the importance of protecting our oceans.

"That's why it's so important to get the guidelines right, so that we can continue to reap these rewards sure in the knowledge that we are not harming whales or dolphins."

State and Territory governments have their own legislation or guidelines relating to whale and dolphin protection, including whale-watching regulations.

"Consistent and coordinated regulation of whale watching activities between the States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Government will assist with enforcement of laws protecting these wonderful animals," Senator Campbell said.

Once an agreement for a review has been reached, a meeting will be convened to plan the way forward. Stakeholders, including the whale watching industry, will be closely involved in the review. Revised guidelines will be put before the Natural Resources Management Ministerial Council for endorsement.

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

Commonwealth of Australia