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Apia meeting major boost for South Pacific Whales

21 April 2001 (New Zealand time)

For Immediate Release Media Statement

Apia meeting major boost for South Pacific Whale Sanctuary


New Zealand’s Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee said the intention of New Zealand and Australia to submit the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal to the International Whaling Commission meeting in London in July met with the unanimous support in principle from Pacific Island nations and territories represented at a just-concluded regional forum in Apia, Samoa.

Ms Lee said the Pacific Island Forum meeting was held at the direction of Pacific Island leaders to progress the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal which would cover most of the Pacific Ocean south of the equator. It would adjoin the existing Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the south.

Countries and territories represented at the Apia meeting were Samoa, Australia, American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Tokelau and Wallis and Futuna.

The Pacific Island nations noted the critical significance of the South Pacific as breeding grounds for nine species of great whale and the serious depletion of whale populations in the region from commercial whaling last century.

Ms Lee said it was also noted that the gathering of whales on their South Pacific breeding grounds was one of the truly great wildlife spectacles of the world.

“Whale-watching is a rapidly growing industry in the region enabling countries like the Kingdom of Tonga to develop sustainable economic opportunities for their people from carefully managed viewing opportunities for tourists of the breeding congregations of whales.”

Ms Lee said New Zealand and Australia, who are both members of the International Whaling Commission, would be heading to the London meeting in July to resubmit the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal.

The proposal was first submitted to the IWC at its meeting in Adelaide last year. It requires a three quarters majority vote of IWC member nations to be adopted.

“It should be clear now that there is widespread support amongst the island nations of the South Pacific for a whale sanctuary," Ms Lee said. "These magnificent animals have roamed our seas for millions of years and we wish them to be a living part of the inheritance we protect and pass on to the children of our region."

Ms Lee said the Apia meeting also agreed to extend cooperation amongst countries in the region to assist each other in developing national measures for the conservation of whales.

“Some countries expressed an intention to develop comprehensive legal measures within their Exclusive Economic Zones for the protection of whales to complement an IWC approved sanctuary.

“The world should take note that conservation of marine life is one of the top priorities for the Pacific Island Forum,” she said.

‘We now look to the support of other countries in the world to bring the dream of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to reality. We also ask those countries who maintain an interest in commercial whaling to respect the cultural affiliation we have in the south Pacific to living whales and our desire to see them flourish unharmed in our region”

Ms Lee acknowledged the strong support for the whale sanctuary from environmental organisations including Greenpeace, the Pacific Youth Environment Network, the World Conservation Union, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society and the Humane Society International, and from commercial whale-watch companies including New Zealand’s WhaleWatch Kaikoura.

Media contacts

In Apia, Samoa:

Kevin Smith, Senior Conservation Adviser Mobile (685) 73 598

Or Aggie Grey's Hotel (685) 22 880

In Wellington, New Zealand:

Formal communique documents are attached:

South Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Regional Forum and SPREP Member Regional Workshop for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary

Apia, Samoa

18- 20 April 2001

Apia Statement:

Progress on a Proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary for consideration by Pacific Island Forum Leaders

Ministers of Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tokelau and together with Ministerial Representatives from Cook Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga and Representatives of American Samoa, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna, met in Apia from 18-20 April, 2001 to progress a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary:

Expressing their appreciation to the Director of SPREP and his staff for organising the Regional Forum and SPREP Member Regional Workshop and to the Government and people of Samoa for their generous hospitality;

Further expressing their appreciation to the Governments of New Zealand, Australia and France for provision of financial resources to conduct the Meetings;

Recalling the decision of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 1998 to support the development of a proposal to establish a South Pacific Sanctuary for great whales to complement the existing Indian and Southern Ocean sanctuaries (noting Attachment 1);

Noting the proposal put forward by the Governments of Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America at the Fifty Second Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (Adelaide, 2000) to amend the Schedule of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary (as given in Attachment 2) was discussed;

Recalling the Ministerial Statement from the Eleventh SPREP Meeting (Guam, 2000) (noting Attachment 1) which welcomed the efforts to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary through the International Whaling Commission and which agreed to continue to support efforts to promote the adoption of a Sanctuary, whale conservation and associated eco-tourism development;

Recalling also the decision of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in October 2000 to progress a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary (noting Attachment 1);

Noting reports on the status of national legislative measures for whale conservation and following a discussion of potential regional and international components of such a proposal;

Noting also the critical significance of the South Pacific as breeding grounds for nine species of whales;

Noting also the serious depletion of great whale stocks in the South Pacific region;

Noting also that the gathering of whales on their South Pacific breeding grounds is one of the great wildlife spectacles of the world;

Reaffirm their commitment to progress a proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary;

Acknowledge and support in principle the intention of Australia and New Zealand to resubmit the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal to the IWC meeting in London in July ahead of the Pacific Island Leaders Forum Meeting;

Acknowledge also the continuing strong resolve and support of the territories of the SPREP organisation to the proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary as presented by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia to the eleventh SPREP Meeting (Guam, October 2000) to go forward to the IWC meeting in London in July 2001;

Note that an IWC South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would be non-binding on Forum and SPREP non-IWC members and therefore any national legislative measures to implement the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would be entirely the sovereign decision of each non-IWC state;

Acknowledge and support in principle the establishment of a national sanctuary within Tonga’s EEZ and the intention of other South Pacific countries and territories to consider similar national sanctuaries;

Note that, should Pacific Island countries and territories wish to implement the provisions of an IWC South Pacific whale sanctuary regionally, the existing SPREP-RMMCP could usefully assist with this task;

A South Pacific Whale Sanctuary – National perspectives and components.

Agree that whales are an important part of the natural and cultural heritage of Pacific island peoples;

Welcome the growth of whale watching tourism in the region, with its associated economic benefits;

Acknowledge the concern of some SPREP members of the potential impact of great whales on commercial fisheries resources, although scientific evidence of any significant interactions between great whales and commercial fisheries in the SPREP region is lacking, and acknowledge the undertaking by the SPREP Director to consult with FFA and SPC, and to provide the best possible advice based on available scientific data;

Welcome the comprehensive conservation measures for great whales implemented in the Kingdom of Tonga, American Samoa, Australia and New Zealand;

Note that while many other SPREP Members currently have no specific measures for the conservation of great whales and that for some the promulgation of specific whale conservation legislation may not presently be an urgent priority, there exists a range of comprehensive conservation, environment and fisheries laws that provides for the management of threatened and endangered marine species;

Note also that this apparent lack of national measures for some SPREP Members provides no impediment to their taking measures for whale conservation, including establishment of national sanctuaries, where appropriate and desirable;

Further note that many SPREP members have limited capacity and resources to effectively manage the conservation of their marine mammal populations;

Welcome the offer made by Australia and New Zealand to assist SPREP members on request in the development of national legislation, particularly in regard to the development of guidelines or regulations for whale watching operations;

Agree that the provision of information to assist with whale conservation and marine mammals in general is crucial to progressing whale conservation in the region;

A South Pacific Whale Sanctuary – Regional component.

Agree that SPREP’s Regional Marine Mammal Conservation Programme is currently assisting whale conservation in the region and could usefully assist the effective implementation of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary;

Urge donors to favourably consider providing financial resources to support SPREP’s RMMCP in work connected with the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

Call on SPREP to consider including in its RMMCP the activities listed in Attachment 2;

A South Pacific Whale Sanctuary – International IWC component.

Note the scientific rationale and provisions for establishment of sanctuaries listed in Article V(1) of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling;

Note also the boundaries, species coverage and ten year-review period in the proposal (outlined in Attachment 1) for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary under consideration of the International Whaling Commission;

Consider that the recovery of severely depleted great whale species in the proposed Sanctuary area would be facilitated by the establishment of such a Sanctuary;

Actions for progressing the Proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary

Call on the SPREP Secretariat to fully inform all SPREP members on the proceedings and outcomes of this Meeting;

Also call on the SPREP Secretariat, in liaison with the Forum Secretariat, to report the proceedings and outcomes of this Meeting to the next meeting of Pacific Forum Leaders;

Further call on the SPREP Secretariat to communicate the proceedings and outcomes of this Meeting to the Alliance of Small Island States;

Request SPREP Members of the IWC to advise the Commission on the proceedings and outcomes of this Meeting.

Attachment 1

Twenty Ninth South Pacific Forum (August, 1998 Federated States of Micronesia) Forum Communiqué:

“42. Leaders recalled their support in 1993 for the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and the proposal to establish a Southern Ocean Sanctuary. The Forum continued to attach importance to the sustainable use of marine resources, noting that a greater level of protection for whales was appropriate, and also noting the internationally recognized need for sanctuaries, to assist with the long-term conservation of great whales.

43. In this context, the Forum gave its support to the development of a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary for great whales to complement the existing Indian and Southern Ocean Sanctuaries, with particular attention to the need to protect Forum members’ traditional and cultural practices and the sustainable use of their marine resources. The Forum recognized that the issue was an important one for some Dialogue Partners and that it would be necessary to fully consult with them as part of this process.”

Eleventh SPREP Meeting – Environment Ministers Forum (Guam, 2000) The Guam Environment Ministers Forum Statement:

“Welcome the efforts to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary through the International Whaling Commission and agree to continue to support efforts to promote the adoption of a Sanctuary, whale conservation and associated eco-tourism development;”

Thirty-First Pacific Islands Forum (October, 2000 Kiribati) Forum Communiqué:

“43. Leaders noted the Guam Environment Minister’s Forum Statement at Attachment 2. In noting this report and with reference to the issue of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, the Forum noted the recommendation of the SPREP Ministerial meeting calling for full support for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal, which was to be presented at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in 2001. The SPREP Ministers recognised that the proposal would not only protect the breeding grounds of the great whale species in the Southern Hemisphere but would also bring economic benefit to some members through the establishment of whale watching enterprises in their territorial waters through which the great whales passed in the course of their migrations.

44. Leaders recalled their support in 1993 for the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and a proposal to establish a Southern Ocean Sanctuary. They also recalled their support in 1998 for the development of a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary for great whales to complement the existing Indian and Southern Ocean Sanctuaries and looked forward to progressing a proposal. In this regard, the Forum noted with gratitude New Zealand’s offer to convene and provide financial support towards a Forum regional workshop to progress a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.”

Attachment 2

The South Pacific Sanctuary proposal to the IWC is described as (IWC52):

“In accordance with Article V(1) of the Convention, commercial whaling, whether by pelagic operations or from land stations, is prohibited in a region designated as the South Pacific Sanctuary.

This Sanctuary comprises the waters of the Southern Hemisphere enclosed within the following line: starting from the southern coast of Australia at 130 degrees East; thence due south to 40 degrees South; thence due east to 120 degrees West; then north to the equator; thence west to 141 degrees East; then generally south along the Papua New Guinea/Indonesian maritime boundary to the northern coast of Papua New Guinea at 141 degrees East; thence generally east, south then west along the coast of Papua New Guinea to the southern coast of Papua New Guinea at 141 degrees East , thence due south to the northern coast of Australia at 141 degrees East; thence generally east, south thence west along the coast of Australia to the starting point.

This prohibition applies irrespective of the conservation status of baleen or toothed whale stocks in this Sanctuary as may from time to time be determined by the Commission. However, this prohibition shall be reviewed ten years after its initial adoption, and at succeeding ten year intervals and could be revised at such time by the Commission.”

Attachment 3

Activities to be considered for inclusion in SPREP’s RMMCP

 Support national measures for a SPWS by providing technical advice and helping to access necessary resources and expertise;

 Coordinate the development of research programmes and maximising the opportunities for Pacific island involvement

 Ensure an efficient flow of relevant information between SPREP members taking advantages of opportunities to build awareness and understanding of the purpose of work undertaken in a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary;

 Provide technical advice and feasibility assessments on request for SPREP members interested in the development of whale watching, based on the successful development of whale watching in the Kingdom of Tonga including guidelines for the conduct of tourist operations and the behaviour of vessels around whales;

 Maintain and exchange of information, including monitoring information, with relevant agencies, particularly the International Whaling Commission and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation; and

 Assistance and advice, where requested, to provide technical assistance with the development of legislation and technical protocols for the conservation of whales.

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