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Congratulations to Fiji on new whale sanctuary

Congratulations to Fiji on new whale sanctuary

Fiji's decision to declare its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as a whale sanctuary is a major victory for whale preservation and a boost for the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

"Fiji deserves New Zealand's heartiest congratulations for its decision yesterday. It is the ninth Pacific nation to either declare their EEZ a whale sanctuary or announce their intention to do so. A network of whale sanctuaries now covers over 11 million sq km in the Pacific," Mr Carter said.

The other countries and territories included New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Niue, Samoa and French Polynesia.

"Fiji's decision is real progress. Their waters were once frequented by thousands of whales, but numbers were greatly depleted by the commercial whaling that occurred in the South Pacific last century," Mr Carter said.

"Recent surveys have shown that some humpback whales have at last returned to their breeding areas in Fijian waters where New Zealand scientist Bill Dawbin recorded over a thousand whales forty-five years ago. The protection afforded to them by a sanctuary will secure the future for this critically-endangered population."

Mr Carter said other species of great whales that breed in Fijian waters would also benefit, including sperm whales, many of which probably visited New Zealand, and particularly Kaikoura, from time to time.

He said it was pertinent to note that Fiji's Minister for Commerce, Business Development and Investment, Tomasi Vuetilovoni, said in announcing the sanctuary that Fiji's Cabinet hoped it would boost Fiji's tourism appeal.

"That has certainly been New Zealand's experience. The whales in our waters are rapidly becoming part of our identity and the basis of a thriving whale watch industry. I hope they become so for Fiji as well."

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