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NZ reaffirms commitment to IWC

22 May 2002

NZ reaffirms commitment to International Whaling Commission

Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee, has reaffirmed New Zealand’s commitment to the International Whaling Commission as the international body with responsibility for the conservation and management of whales.

Ms Lee was responding to criticism of New Zealand and Australia’s participation in the IWC by the Japanese IWC Commissioner, Masayuki Komatsu.

“ I am saddened but not surprised by Mr Komatsu’s attacks on New Zealand’s promotion of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal,” she said.

Ms Lee said the IWC was an important forum that gave nations a chance to sit around the table and discuss the often-controversial issues surrounding whales.

“For democratic countries like New Zealand and Japan, it is surely a measure of the strength of our relationship that we can engage in free, open and at times vigorous debate over whales.”

“On a few issues New Zealand and Japan will agree to disagree. But on many issues we have a common interest. For example, whether one wants to protect whales or eat them, we are all concerned at the worryingly high levels of toxic chemicals that have been found in whales.”

Ms Lee rejected Mr Komatsu’s claim that New Zealand had not turned its Exclusive Economic Zone into a whale sanctuary and was thus being hypocritical encouraging South Pacific countries to convert their EEZ’s into sanctuaries.

“Whales have enjoyed absolute protection in New Zealand’s EEZ for many years," she said. "Our seas provide a secure sanctuary for whales, with protection afforded by the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.”

Ms Lee said that the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s criticism of New Zealand and Australia’s proposal of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary for the third year in a row was surprising as Japan had unsuccessfully submitted a proposal to the IWC for Japanese coastal whaling for 15 years in a row. and never even achieved a simple majority.

“In our case, good things can take time with numerical support for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary increasing, and the sanctuary now enjoys the support of 24 countries – a clear majority of the countries voting on the issue."

Ms Lee said the New Zealand delegation had been impressed by the hospitality extended towards them in Japan by the Japanese government and people and by the mayor of Shimonoseki and his council.


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