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NZ support of whale protection consistent with IWC

12 July 2001 Media Statement

NZ support of whale protection in Southern hemisphere oceans consistent with IWC ideals

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee has rejected claims today by Japan's Fisheries Agency that the joint New Zealand-Australia proposal at this year's International Whaling Commission in London for a South Pacific whale sanctuary is "frivolous" and threatens the existence of the IWC.

"The proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary can be scientifically justified as a logical extension to the existing Southern Ocean sanctuary which completely surrounds Antarctica," she said.

"It is completely illogical to have the great whales protected in their Southern Ocean feeding grounds only to resume commercial whaling in their South Pacific breeding grounds."

Ms Lee said the IWC's scientific committee agreed last year that four of the species known to occur within the proposed whale sanctuary area--blue, fin, right and humpback whales--were probably the most severely depleted.

"The proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary is entirely consistent with the IWC's responsibilities of managing whale resources in a sustainable manner," she said.

"The existence of the IWC has never been threatened by the stand taken by New Zealand which has long been an advocate for conservation of the great whales."

Ms Lee said she was so concerned at overnight comments by the deputy director of Japan's Fisheries Agency that she would be raising them today with Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Meanwhile Ms Lee has announced that New Zealand has agreed to co-sponsor a South Atlantic whale sanctuary proposal at this year's International Whaling Commission annual meeting.

Ms Lee said the new proposal for a sanctuary in the South Atlantic was being promoted by Brazil which in turn has agreed to co-sponsor the joint New Zealand-Australia South Pacific whale sanctuary initiative first put to the IWC last year.

"If these proposals are adopted, then--along with the existing Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean whale sanctuaries--most of the known key feeding areas, breeding grounds and migration routes for the great whales in the Southern hemisphere will be protected from commercial whaling by IWC members."

Ms Lee will lead the New Zealand delegation attending the main decision-making IWC 'plenary session', scheduled for 23-27 July in London.

She hoped the creation of the proposed sanctuaries would lead to a recovery in whale numbers, and safeguard the regions from commercial whaling if the current international moratorium on commercial whaling was ever lifted.

Ms Lee said she rated New Zealand's chances of success in achieving a South Pacific whale sanctuary this year as at least as good as last year, when the proposal gained clear majority support from IWC members but did not secure the 75% of voting delegates required for formal adoption.

"The territorial government of French Polynesia has shown Pacific Island countries another course of action if they can't get protection for their great whales from the IWC," Ms Lee said.

"New Zealand welcomes the recent announcement of plans by French Polynesia to turn its exclusive economic zone into a sanctuary for whales and other marine mammals," she said.

"Pacific Island countries will be watching with great interest the progress of a bill on the issue to be considered by the French Polynesia territorial assembly later this year."

Ms Lee said New Zealand might have to consider how the French Polynesian initiative can be translated into a form suitable for adoption by other Pacific Island countries if the IWC stalls the creation of a whale sanctuary for the region.

The proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary would stretch from Papua New Guinea in the west to Pitcairn Island and French Polynesia in the east, and from part of New Zealand in the south to the Equator. Its southern boundary would bisect the North Island of New Zealand at latitude 40 degrees south, through Wanganui, where the existing Southern Ocean sanctuary currently begins.

Itinerary (Note all times have been converted to NZ Standard Time, with London time, GMT+ 1 hour, in brackets)

Wednesday 18 July:
8.45pm NZST
Conservation Minister departs Auckland for London (Air NZ2, total flight time 24 hours 20 minutes)

Thursday 19 July:
9.05pm NZST (10.05am BST, Thursday)
Arrive Heathrow. Check into Hotel; briefing sessions with officials.

Friday 20 July:
5am NZST (6pm BST, Thursday)
Attend NZ House function to mark unveiling of sculpture.
8pm NZST (9am BST, Friday, through most of the day)
Meetings begin with other country delegations.

Saturday 21 July - Monday 23 July:
Meetings with other country delegations, NGOs, officials.

Monday 23 July:
8pm NZST (9am BST, Monday)
The main decision-making 'Plenary Session' of the IWC meeting begins; Hon Sandra Lee will address the IWC Plenary Session sometime before midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning, NZ time. (Her speech will be issued in NZ to local media, and also available from the NZ delegation in London).

Tuesday 24 July:
8pm NZST - midnight NZST (9am BST - 1pm BST, Tuesday)
The IWC Plenary Session vote on the South Pacific whale sanctuary is expected to be taken during this period. Hon Sandra Lee will issue a media release on the outcome. (The media release will be issued in NZ to local media, and also available from the NZ delegation in London).

Wednesday 25 July - Thursday 26 July:
IWC Plenary Session continues.

Friday 27 July:
IWC Plenary Session concludes (overnight, NZ time); communique issued.

Saturday 28 July:
NZ delegation departs Heathrow. Arrives Auckland 5.15am Sunday 29 July.


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