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NZ and Aus Propose South Pacific whale sanctuary

For immediate release
Saturday 17 June 2000 Media Statement
New Zealand and Australia to propose South Pacific whale sanctuary at IWC meeting in Adelaide

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee will lead our largest-ever official delegation to this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Adelaide next month, when New Zealand and Australia will propose a South Pacific whale sanctuary be established.

"The proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary will complement existing sanctuaries covering the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean," Ms Lee said.
"It will ensure that southern hemisphere whales are protected in their South Pacific breeding grounds as well as their Southern Ocean feeding grounds."

The joint proposal will require the support of a three-quarters majority of voting members to establish the sanctuary. About 300 delegates and observers from around 35 countries are expected to attend the Commission's plenary session in Adelaide, which will run from 3-6 July. "If 35 countries are represented, we will need at least 24 votes," she said.

The Conservation Minister said the proposed sanctuary would complement the existing sanctuaries in the Indian and Southern Oceans and is needed in order to:

 protect whale stocks that had been severely depleted by whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, and allow whale numbers to recover;

 improve the effectiveness of the Southern Ocean sanctuary by protecting migratory whale species;

 foster and allow for long-term ecosystem-based research on whale stocks that were not being hunted; and

 manage whale stocks in accordance with the goal of long-term conservation of our biodiversity.

"The benefits of setting up a South Pacific whale sanctuary include not only the effective conservation of whales and their ecosystems but also the provision of economic gains through ecotourism activities such as whale watching," Ms Lee said.
"We have already seen in Kaikoura and in Tonga how even small populations of whales can generate considerable economic benefit.

"A sanctuary in our region will provide an additional layer of protection for some of our most threatened species and at the same time increase the opportunity for valuable tourism opportunities.

She said the proposed sanctuary would protect all species of great whales found in the region, including the blue, fin, sei, southern right, humpback, Bryde's, minke, pygmy right and sperm whales.

Ms Lee said this included all the southern hemisphere species whose populations are a small fraction of their original numbers because of commercial whaling.

"New Zealand, as a member of the International Whaling Commission, has been active in support of the moratorium on commercial whaling which has been in effect since 1986," said Ms Lee.

"New Zealand's main political parties have taken a strong bi-partisan stand against the efforts of pro-whaling countries to re-open possibilities for commercial whaling. Our conservationist stance also involves action against continued so-called scientific whaling by Japan in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific," she said.

Commenting on concerns raised by Te Ohu Kai Moana (the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission) about the impact of the proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary on Maori customary use rights like using products from stranded whales, a spokesperson for Ms Lee said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was finalising advice that TOKM would receive early next week. The spokesperson said Foreign Affairs had already given assurances that the proposed sanctuary would have no impact on Treaty rights to bone from stranded whales for carvings. The Conservation Minister anticipated that Foreign Affairs would provide her within a few days with a full analysis of the sanctuary proposal and how Maori customary use rights would be safeguarded, as part of her routine preparation for next month's Adelaide meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

News Media seeking accreditation and a media kit should contact
Julie Marks
Environment Australia
Canberra, ACT
00612 6274 1403

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