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Iceland's return to whaling condemned by NZ

Iceland's return to whaling condemned by New Zealand

Iceland 's decision to resume whaling is out of step with much of the rest of the world, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

South Pacific countries agreed last week in Auckland to step up whale conservation efforts, and wanted to boost live whale tourism in the region, he said.

"Whales are worth more alive than dead in the opinion of South Pacific peoples and I would urge Iceland to adopt that view."

New Zealand has previously officially challenged Iceland's plans to return to whaling.

New Zealand, Australia, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa representatives agreed at a lunch Mr Carter hosted on the eve of the South Pacific Forum meeting to build a new consensus in the region around whale conservation and promoting economic benefits of live whales.

Mr Carter said he would work with the Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands, Niue and Vanuatu to encourage South Pacific countries to develop live whale tourism, such as whale-watching.

Iceland has said in defending its scientific whaling plans that it must control whales to protect fish stocks and its fishing industry.

"Iceland's plan to harpoon 38 minke whales has nothing to do with scientific whaling or saving fish," Mr Carter said. "You won't learn anything more about whales by examining their stomach contents than we do already, you can study whales without killing them."

The plan arose after an earlier Icelandic proposal to scientifically harvest 100 fin whales, 100 minke whales and 50 sei whales was rejected by the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee at Berlin in June.

In seeking to rejoin the IWC last year after a 10-year absence, Iceland entered a reservation on the moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland has said it might restart commercial whaling as early as 2006.

The New Zealand Government believes Iceland’s reservation is prohibited by international law and has said so in a formal notification.

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