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

28 March 2006

New Australian research shows Japan’s scientific whaling is a sham


New Australian research shows there is no justification for Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said today.

As countries like Iceland and Japan continue to kill large numbers of whales in the name of science, Senator Campbell said an extensive Australian research survey had shown there was absolutely no scientific basis for the slaughter of whales.

“At the same time as the Australian survey was underway, Japanese whalers were heading to the Southern Ocean to begin their new so-called scientific whaling programme with the slaughter of almost one thousand whales,” Senator Campbell said.

“Australia remains opposed to commercial and scientific whaling. Both Japan and Iceland continue to conduct whaling under the guise of science while Norway, which will increase its kill of whales this year, simply defies a global ban on commercial whaling.

“Australia has long argued that gathering data about whales and our marine ecosystems can be done non-lethally, wherever it occurs.

“Now this 10-week Australian survey which covered more than one million square kilometres gives us by far the most comprehensive assessment of the marine ecosystem in the whole eastern Antarctic area – the very data that Japan claims it is seeking to justify their lethal ‘scientific whaling’ in the Southern Ocean.

“This latest information – obtained solely through non-lethal means – now represents the most powerful approach seen yet to understanding the role of whales in their Southern Ocean ecosystem and puts Australia at the forefront of international whale research.

“I will be taking this information to the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in St Kitts and Nevis in June and making it very clear that under no circumstances can this continued slaughter of whales in the name of ‘science’ be justified,” Senator Campbell said.

Japan has been killing whales in the name of ‘science’ for many years, increasing the number of minke whales killed from 330 in 1994 to 440 in 1995. Japan continued at this level until this year under its JARPA II programme which will see an increase to 935 minke whales and, in addition, 10 endangered fin whales. From 2007-08 the plan is to take 50 fin whales and to also take 50 humpback whales while at the same time continuing the minke catch.

Iceland also undertakes scientific whaling, with its take for 2005 being 39 minke whales. And in blatant defiance of the moratorium on commercial whaling, Norway conducts whaling, with its kill quota this year increased by 250 to 1052 minke whales.

This latest Australian survey is the culmination of a 10-year project that has investigated most waters off Australia’s Antarctic Territory. The comprehensive study has measured almost all aspects of the Southern Ocean ecosystem including:

Scientists carried out extensive whale surveys including deployment of more than 140 sonobuoys to record whale sounds as well as sightings of whales conducted from the bridge of the research ship Aurora Australis. Two recording platforms placed on the ocean floor close to the Antarctic continent more than a year ago were also retrieved.

“Japan claims that the major objectives for its scientific whaling programmes are to monitor the Antarctic marine ecosystem and to model possible competition for food among whale species,” Senator Campbell said.

“Ironically, the information required to meet these objectives is precisely the type of data that Australia has now collected. Not only have we now demonstrated we have the information but it was also able to be collected without killing a single whale.

“The information we have collected will allow scientists to relate whale abundance and distribution to important ecological factors such as the distribution of krill and the presence of sea ice.

“Enormous uncertainty remains about how many whales, particularly minke whales, are in the Southern Ocean because estimating the numbers is very difficult.

“Data collected from this survey will help us better understand whale numbers and interactions but that is a very long way down the track, and to be out there killing them in ever-increasing numbers in absence of this information is simply unacceptable.

“It is clear that countries like Japan cannot credibly argue the information gained from killing whales is even remotely relevant to the stated objectives of their scientific whaling programmes.

“Our research only adds weight to the heavy criticism so-called scientific whaling has already received by many within the international community.

“The cold hard and very sad reality is that the slaughter of whales by Japan, Norway and Iceland does nothing to assist the quality of non-lethal marine ecosystem science.

“If the whaling officials of scientific whaling countries are serious about better understanding the role of whales in the Southern Ocean we encourage them to further develop long-standing scientific collaboration processes that, for example, Australia and Japan already enjoys through our interactions with their Japanese National Institute for Polar Research, and cease the clearly commercial, non-scientific killing of whales they conduct under a bogus research justification,” Senator Campbell said.

A summary of the whale research component of the survey is attached.

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


Baseline Research Oceanography Krill and the Environment (BROKE-West) Antarctic marine science survey January to March 2006.

The Australian Government’s BROKE-West marine science survey was a comprehensive biological and oceanographic assessment of the Eastern Antarctic ecosystem, led by the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.

For 10 weeks, the research vessel Aurora Australis, with 62 scientists from 14 countries aboard, surveyed over one million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean off Australia’s Antarctic Territory.

Eleven transects, each measuring between 200 and 400 nautical miles, were conducted between 30° and 80° east longitude and from approximately 62° south latitude to the Antarctic continent. These transects have produced a comprehensive set of biological and oceanographic data that will allow scientists to assess and further understand the Eastern Antarctic ecosystem.

These data can also be used to relate whale abundance and distribution to important ecological factors such as the distribution of their major prey, Antarctic krill, oceanographic circulation patterns, water depth and bottom features, and the presence of sea ice.

The diverse and comprehensive range of projects conducted during BROKE-West included the following studies:

Acoustic survey of marine mammals - sonobuoys and long-term moored recorders

The sonobuoy survey consisted of recording samples of underwater sound every 30 nautical miles along the north-south transects. This led to a total deployment of more than 140 sonobuoys and 250 hours of recordings. Analysis for the presence and number of vocalising marine mammals at each of these sampling locations will allow scientists to assess relative distribution and abundance of vocalising marine mammals over the large geographical area of the study region.

Additionally, two bottom-mounted recording devices were recovered and redeployed during BROKE-West. These instruments have been recording low-frequency sound, the frequency range where most baleen whales produce sounds, continuously since February, 2005. Together they have provided almost 18,000 hours of recordings to be analysed. With their successful redeployment, the recording devices should continue to record until early in 2007 providing a two-year continuous dataset of low frequency sound in the region.

These recordings will assist scientists in assessing the seasonality and relative abundance of vocalising baleen whales in the region over long temporal scales.

Visual line-transect survey of marine mammals

A visual survey for marine mammals was conducted by a research group from Deakin University during daylight hours along the entire length of the BROKE-West voyage.

Observations were made from the deck of the research ship Aurora Australis with a data recorder logging observations on the bridge. Following standard line-transect survey protocol, observations of baleen and toothed whales and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) were logged.

Along with the acoustic data collected, these visual recordings will be used to assess the relative distribution and abundance of marine mammals over the study region.

Krill survey

A survey of krill was conducted using scientific echo sounding equipment (which records echoes from ‘pings’ of sound emitted by the ship) and supported by data from regular and targeted net trawls.

The aim was to estimate how much krill was in the area and how it was distributed. Four echo sounders operated nearly continuously over the length of the voyage (10 weeks). These data will provide a record of krill abundance over the length of the survey. The acoustic data was supplemented by 116 net trawls at regular sampling intervals, and additional trawls that targeted particular patches of krill to better understand and classify the echo sounder data collected.

The trawls also captured krill for further study of growth rates, reproductive rates, development rates, recruitment, and demographics in studies on board Aurora Australis and at the Australian Antarctic Division’s unique cold-water krill research aquarium.

The combination of survey work, experimental research and theoretical analysis provides a comprehensive study of krill and its role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

Marine Microbes

The ability of the Southern Ocean to sustain marine life such as krill, fish and whales, is dependent on the growth, abundance and distribution of microscopic marine plants or 'phytoplankton', as well as protozoa and bacteria.

During BROKE-West, marine biologists collected and analysed water samples to determine the growth rate of these organisms, the photosynthetic rate of phytoplankton, the grazing activity of protozoa (which eat phytoplankton and bacteria) and how many of these organisms there are.

These data will be used to investigate the ecological role of microbes, in fisheries models, and in wider estimates of primary productivity of the Southern Ocean. These studies will help to determine how much food is available to krill and subsequently, higher predators including whales.

Fish

Net samples were analysed for fish and fish larvae in order to determine the distribution of Antarctic pelagic species in relation to the environment and to analyse pelagic fish diversity at the species, population and ecosystem levels. In addition, with analysis of the stomach contents of captured fish, their role in the ecosystem as predators of phyto- and zoo-plankton can be assessed.

Birds

Observations of seabirds were conducted along the entire length of the voyage by observers from the bridge of the research vessel. Species composition, numbers and diversity of encountered seabirds were logged allowing distribution and relative abundance to be assessed over the study area.

Sea ice

Observations, video recordings, and still photographs of sea-ice extent and type were made by a research group from Deakin University at regular intervals whenever sea-ice was encountered.

Oceanography

Oceanographic sampling was conducted at 118 sites and provided a comprehensive look at the physical, chemical and biological oceanographic processes in the region.

The oceanographic team used a CTD probe (conductivity, temperature, depth) to analyse the water column and Niskin bottles to collect water samples at depths from the surface to the bottom.

Changes in conductivity (salinity), temperature, currents, particulate matter concentrations, fluorescence were just a few of the many measurements of sea-water properties that were collected to help understand the chemical composition and biological processes that occur throughout the water column.

These measurements will allow oceanographers to model surface and three-dimensional water circulation in the region and the physical and chemical processes which drive biological processes in the ocean.

The projects listed above provide only a glimpse at the comprehensive nature of the BROKE-West survey. In total, the information collected represents one of the most comprehensive datasets of any large area of ocean and will allow a thorough analysis of the structure of the marine ecosystem of this region.

© Commonwealth of Australia