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Whale Sanctuary Falls Short Despite Strong Vote

South Pacific Whale Sanctuary Falls Short Despite Strong Vote

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says there is now an increased prospect that the South Pacific breeding grounds of the great whales may be exposed to commercial whaling, following the International Whaling Commission’s failure to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary, despite a further strong vote in its favour.

"That means one less barrier between commercial whalers and the remaining great whales of our region," she said.

Ms Lee, who is in London attending the IWC’s Annual Meeeting, said pro-whaling states, led by Japan and aided by six Caribbean nations, blocked the three- quarters majority required by the IWC to establish the sanctuary.

She said the vote at the IWC's decision-making Plenary Session meeting in London was 20 countries in favour, 13 against and 4 abstentions. Earlier disclosures of vote-buying tactics by Japan have cast a shadow over proceedings.

"The government is extremely disappointed," Ms Lee said. "This outcome is a setback for the international community's stewardship of our global oceans."

"It is also a setback for marine ecosystem management in the Southern Hemisphere, given that pro-whaling countries are exerting increasing pressure to have the international moratorium on whaling overturned," she said.

"This outcome will not stop progress towards greater protection for whales in our region. There are alternative options, and we will now be actively investigating these in partnership with other Pacific Island countries.

“New Zealand’s protection of whales within its EEZ is already being emulated by French Polynesia and could serve as a model elsewhere in the Pacific.

“A network of local sanctuaries would cover up to 75% of the proposed sanctuary area and help protect the devastated populations of great whales. It would make a valuable contribution to sustainable eco-tourism initiatives.”


Ms Lee said the strength of Pacific Island support for the whale sanctuary was eloquently conveyed to the meeting by Job Opu, Marine Programme Officer for SPREP (the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme).

New Zealand and Australia first proposed a South Pacific whale sanctuary at last year's IWC meeting in Adelaide but the voting support fell short of the required three-quarters majority.

Sandra Lee expressed her gratitude for the support this year of the countries that had co-sponsored the proposal and those that had voted in favour, and for the environmental groups that had worked so hard to achieve lasting protection for the South Pacific’s living whale heritage.

“It is extremely frustrating that some members of the IWC have so little regard for the sincere aspirations of non-member countries in the South Pacific who seek a more permanent protection for the severely-depleted populations of great whales in their region.” Ms Lee said.

Ends

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