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Renewed International Interest In IWC

South Pacific Whale Sanctuary Issue Sparks Renewed International Interest In IWC


Conservation Minister Sandra Lee will launch a new joint bid with Australia in London next month to secure International Whaling Commission support for a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

Cabinet this week gave approval for Ms Lee to attend the IWC's 53rd annual meeting. The main decision-making 'plenary session' is scheduled for 23-27 July.

Ms Lee and Australia's Environment and Heritage Minister Senator Robert Hill first proposed the whale sanctuary at the IWC's annual meeting in Adelaide last year. Eighteen nations supported the proposal last year while 11, including six small island states from the Caribbean, voted in opposition.

"We missed out last year because we did not get the required three-quarters voting majority," she said. "Both the anti and pro-whale sanctuary lobbies are now number crunching, and we expect the high interest in the issue to draw virtually all of the 42 current members to this year's IWC meeting."

Ms Lee said she had no doubt that countries favouring whaling under pretexts such as 'scientific whaling' like Japan, or whaling under a formal objection to the moratorium like Norway, would lead the charge against the sanctuary proposal.

She added that it was "probably no coincidence" that several countries, including the previous whaling member Iceland, were joining the IWC in time for the London meeting.

"I note with interest the unprecedented number of new members who have just applied to join the IWC," she said.

"I suspect they have been encouraged by whaling nations who were becoming concerned at the success within our own region of the lobbying by New Zealand and Australia for the South Pacific whale sanctuary.

"I hope that the new members and other IWC nations from outside our region respect the views of indigenous pacific nations which unanimously supported the sanctuary proposal at a ministerial meeting earlier this year in the Samoan capital, Apia."

Ms Lee said New Zealand is particularly concerned that Iceland has sought to rejoin the IWC with a formal reservation that it would not be bound by the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in effect since 1986. Iceland had not lodged any such reservation before leaving the IWC in 1992.

Although the pro-whaling lobby has claimed that Iceland's position within the IWC after re-joining would be the same as that of Norway and the Russian Federation, Ms Lee said the claim was "preposterous". She said such a claim would undermine not only the integrity of the IWC, but a whole raft of international environmental laws.

Meanwhile Ms Lee paid tribute to her own department for scientific work it initiated to confirm that meat from the whale species Pseudorca crassidens, so-called 'false killer whales', was being sold in Japanese markets.

She said Department of Conservation staff in Gisborne took measurements, photographs and a small skin sample for DNA analysis by Auckland University from a whale that came ashore at Anaura Bay north of the city last year.

Ms Lee said the marine mammal was identified from the photographs as a false killer whale. She said DNA analysis of the skin sample was matched with whale meat products sold in the Japanese markets, confirming that Pseudorca whales were amongst the 20,000 or so small whales and dolphins hunted each year in Japanese waters for human consumption and pet food.

"The results from these analyses will be presented to the Scientific Committee of the IWC in London next month to help in tracking fisheries bycatch, and also with monitoring the hunting of this species."

Ms Lee said false killer whales were relatively uncommon visitors to New Zealand waters, and usually stayed far offshore in deep temperate waters.

Ends

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