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Clark Proposes A Patchwork Whale Sanctuary

Prime Minister Helen Clark has indicated she will encourage Pacific countries to individually declare their Exclusive Economic Zone waters whaling-free at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru later this week.

New Zealand lobbied the International Whaling Commission hard for a South Pacific whale sanctuary in July, but the proposal failed to garner enough votes to be implemented.

The Japanese Government was widely accused of buying votes on the commission to see that the sanctuary didn’t go ahead.

Following the vote, Conservation Minister Sandra Lee said the result increased the prospect of the South Pacific breeding grounds of the great whales being exposed to commercial whaling.

“We think it’s a way forward for individual countries to declare their Exclusive Economic Zones as whaling free,” the Prime Minister said at today’s post-Cabinet press conference.

Miss Clark acknowledged that the prospect of losing Japanese aid could scare Pacific nations off taking up her proposal.

“Many [Pacific countries] have aid from Japan and Japan works very hard diplomatically on this issue,” she said.

The Prime Minister, who leaves for the Nauru forum on Thursday, said New Zealand would take up the issue of journalist Michael Field and West Papuan observers being banned from the Forum.

“We don’t like Journalists being turned away, we don’t like restrictions on free movement. We don’t think it’s really in the spirit of the Pacific,” she said.

Miss Clark said it is disappointing that the leaders of Australia and Papua New Guinea would not be going to Nauru, but said leaders have to balance domestic issues with foreign duties.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is in the midst of an election year and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta faces instability at home.

Miss Clark said the developments in Fiji over the past 10 months leading up to the general election this month; the Solomon Islands ethnic conflict; Papua New Guinea instability; the Bonn climate talks; nuclear testing and nuclear waste shipments; and bringing Pacific countries with questionable tax law up to the OECD’s standards would be discussed at Nauru.

Two trade agreements, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic (PACER) and the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) are also on the agenda for the forum.

Ends

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