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Greenpeace petition "welcome boost"

Monday 26 June 2000 Media Statement

Greenpeace petition "welcome boost" to NZ campaign for a South Pacific whale sanctuary

-Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says a 104,000 signature petition in support of whale sanctuaries presented to her today by Greenpeace (eds: 1pm, inside the main foyer above the steps of Parliament if wet or on the steps if fine) was "a welcome boost to the New Zealand campaign for a South Pacific whale sanctuary".

"We are committed to maintaining the moratorium on commercial whaling and are actively pursuing this objective by proposing, with Australia, the establishment of a South Pacific whale sanctuary," Ms Lee said. "Our whale sanctuary proposal will be formally considered at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Adelaide next month, with debate likely on Tuesday 4 July."

New Zealand and Australia require the support of a three-quarters majority of voting members to establish the sanctuary. The respective governments have been discussing the proposal with other nations in the Commission. The United Kingdom, Austria, the USA, Monaco and Italy are among the countries to indicate their support for the sanctuary.

Ms Lee, who is leading the New Zealand delegation to the Adelaide meeting of the IWC, said the proposed sanctuary would complement the existing sanctuaries in the Indian and Southern Ocean and was needed in order to:

 protect whale stocks that have been severely depleted by whaling in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and allow their recovery;

The waters of the South Pacific are critical for several species of great whales, providing warm-water grounds for calving, calf rearing, and mating for some
species and temperate feeding grounds for others. Most of these species are still greatly reduced in abundance and several are still endangered. The establishment
of a South Pacific sanctuary would provide for their continued recovery.

 complement and improve the effectiveness of the Southern Ocean
Sanctuary in protecting migratory whale species;

The effectiveness of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary is diminished if whales are vulnerable once they leave its boundaries. Migratory species must be similarly protected along migratory corridors and on breeding and feeding grounds for conservation measures to be effective.
The great whale populations of the Southern Hemisphere are dependent upon both the Southern Ocean and South Pacific ecosystems for their recovery.

 foster and allow for long-term, ecosystem-based research on whale stocks that are not being harvested;

Long-term research is required because whales are long-lived species and because physical and biological oceanic processes are long-term processes.
The research must look at the marine ecosystem as a whole in order to understand all factors affecting whale stocks, such as environmental conditions and changes, and other trophic levels (ie. levels in the food chain). Research must be carried out on stocks not being harvested so that the size and behaviour of populations are not confounded by further exploitation anywhere in their ranges.

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

Despite the fact there is no commercial whaling currently occurring in the South Pacific region, the recovery and long-term status of whale populations remains uncertain. Any commercial harvesting in the region at present is likely to cause irreversible damage to whale populations, whereas establishing a sanctuary would protect whale populations and assist in conserving the marine ecosystems of the region.

Greenpeace contact
Sarah Duthie 025 927 301


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