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

Friday, 1 April, 2005

AM Programme

Japan planning to expand its kill of whales for scientific research

Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, says he has intelligence from the whaling community that Japan is planning to expand its kill of whales for "scientific" research, to include the larger species of humpback and fin whales. Japan last year increased its kill of minke whales to more than 450.

Senator Campbell believes Japan is softening the way to go ahead and expand its whale kill, under the legal loophole which allows the taking of whales for scientific research.

Their institute for research on whales and dolphins has come out in the last 24 hours and said that, based on their own assessment, the improvement - and I'm paraphrasing them here - that the improvement in the minke stocks that have been witnessed in recent years have now started to diminish.

Now, one would have to say that that is an admission from the top cetacean scientists in Japan, that minke stocks are now under threat, and they have said in the same document that they've witnessed an increase, which we have witnessed as well - we didn't need to go killing whales to witness this increase - but they have witnessed an increase in humpback whales and fin whales, and this is what naturally occurs if you stop killing them.

And therefore they are, I believe, softening the ground to go out and take humpback and fin whales. These are some of the magnificent creatures that Australians and people from around the world who visit Australia witness transiting the coast, primarily of Western Australia and also the eastern seaboard.

But neither has the institute confirmed that it's actually intending to go ahead and hunt humpbacks or fin whales; why are you so convinced that this is the case?

We have had intelligence from around the international whaling community that this is their intention; this document would tend to be softening the field. I absolutely hope I'm wrong.

If Japan does indeed go ahead and start hunting humpback and minke whales for the purposes of scientific research, what effect would it have on Australia's $273 million whale watching industry?

I've got no doubt if you start destroying humpback whales that it will have an impact on Australia's industry, but that's not the main reason that we would argue this.

We will continue to argue that in the interests of the world's biodiversity, in the interests of the future of humanity, that saving these highly endangered species, species that came close to the verge of extinction because of hunting and slaughtering them, needs to be achieved for the conservation reasons alone.

Australia failed for a fifth time last year at the International Whaling Commission to secure a southern whale sanctuary; will you go ahead and push for this again this year at the committee meeting?

I'm still considering how we best get that whale sanctuary in place. It's an issue that's very important to Australia and New Zealand. I've discussed it with the US in recent days. I'm going to progress that proposal in a way that's got the very best chance of success.

Would you have the numbers within the IWC?

The numbers aren't there, you need a three-quarters majority, and they're simply not there at the moment, but I have a number of other potential ways forward to progress the proposal.

Can you tell us what they are?

I just want to work with likeminded countries on these proposals, put a lot more public focus and international diplomatic focus on what the Japanese are doing.

Commonwealth of Australia