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10 September 2008
Australia and New Zealands leadership in whale conservation has been strengthened following talks between the two governments in New Zealand today.
Australian Environment Minister, Peter Garrett and New Zealand Conservation Minister, Steve Chadwick, said a focus of their talks was the development of a research initiative in the Southern Ocean.
"Whaling over the last two centuries has seen a dramatic reduction in whale numbers in our region and whale populations now also face increased environmental threats, particularly the impacts of climate change," the Ministers said.
"Just recently the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reassessed the South Pacific humpback whale as endangered, thanks in part to research undertaken by Australian and New Zealand experts," Ms Chadwick said.
"We are seeking to increase the global commitment to non-lethal research to better manage the recovery of whales," Mr Garrett said.
Ms Chadwick said a new, non-lethal research initiative in the Southern Ocean would build on the innovative and collaborative approach Australia and New Zealand have always brought to this area.
"These new research efforts will provide further science on which to build strategies, to ensure that future generations are able to experience these magnificent creatures," Ms Chadwick said.
"Australia proposed the creation of research partnerships across the globe at the recent International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Chile. This is part of our plan, widely supported at the Commission, to modernise the IWC and make it into a 21st Century conservation-focused organisation, Mr Garrett said.
"I welcome New Zealands commitment to being part of this new approach, joining Chile with whom we signed a Statement of Intent in June."
Ms Chadwick said it was a pleasure to host Mr Garrett on a whale-watch at Kaikoura, where the whale watching industry is thriving after sperm whales there were recognised by the Crown as a taonga.
"Reliable science is extremely important to inform the sustainable management of whale-watching, and to securing the ongoing economic benefits which Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island countries experience," Ms Chadwick said.
Mr Garrett said Australia would host a gathering of international whale scientists in February 2009 to draft a five-year research plan for whales in the Southern Ocean.
"This plan will be reviewed by the IWC Scientific Committee and finalised in June 2009, with the research programme expected to begin in the 2009-10 summer."
Australia and New Zealand are very supportive of the reform plans for the IWC, which are currently being considered by a working group of 28 countries.
The Ministers said Australia and New Zealand would continue to work together to reform the management of science in the IWC, including an end to so-called scientific whaling and the development of internationally-agreed, cooperative conservation management plans for whales.