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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
16 March 1998
The Howard Government has stepped up its efforts to save the world's whale populations by listing two new species under Australia's endangered species legislation.
Environment Minister Robert Hill has listed the Sei Whale and Fin Whale as nationally vulnerable species and announced Australia's new commissioner to the International Whaling Commission.
Former Ambassador for the Environment Howard Bamsey will lead Australia's push at the IWC for a global whale sanctuary - a mechanism designed to bring about a permanent ban on commercial whaling.
The listing of the Sei and Fin Whales means the whales cannot be killed, traded, or moved. It also requires the Commonwealth to develop recovery plans for both species.
Senator Hill says advice from the Endangered Species Scientific Subcommittee confirms the need to act now to protect the Sei Whale and Fin Whale.
"Australia's populations of the Sei Whale have declined by 5 percent in the past 40 years alone, and there are estimated to be only 25,000 of this species of whale remaining.
"Populations of the Fin Whale have seen an even greater decline in numbers which were originally estimated at 500,000 prior to the 1960s and have been depleted to a mere 25,000.
"There are 23 species of whales that occur in Australia's oceans and it is important that we play an active role in protecting them. We must recognise that these magnificent giants of our oceans are in danger of disappearing forever."
Senator Hill says listings under the Endangered Species Protection Act are the most effective way to ensure the survival of our whales.
"In conjunction with the listing of the Sei Whale and the Fin Whale, I am announcing that the Humpback Whale will be moved from the endangered section of the list, back to the vulnerable section.
"Our conservation efforts have seen Humpback Whale numbers recover to such an extent to allow this move. Scientific evidence shows that Australia's humpback populations are steadily increasing by about 10 percent each year.
"All Australians will look forward to the day when these magnificent creatures have recovered to such an extent that they no longer be listed at all."
Senator Hill says our conservation efforts are central to Australia's push for an international ban on commercial whaling.
"The decline in whale numbers can be attributed to whaling which has left many populations at risk of extinction.
"Our efforts to conserve our own whales strengthen our push for a global whale sanctuary."
These changes to schedules 1 and 2 of the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 take effect immediately. This leaves only two whale species listed as endangered, the Blue Whale and the Southern Right Whale.
Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 0419 693 515 or 02 6277 7640
Alex Rankin (Environment Australia) 02 6249 8938 (h) or 6250 0280 (w)
March 16, 1998