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NZ Whale Sanctuary Proposal – Flogging Dead Horse

14 March 2001

New Zealand’s Whale Sanctuary Proposal –
Flogging A Dead Horse!

The Minister of Conservation Hon Sandra Lee’s continuing attempts to obtain support for its joint proposal with Australia for a South Pacific whale sanctuary is like “flogging a dead horse”, Dr. Seiji Ohsumi, Director General of the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, said today.

“For two years now, the proposal has failed to gain the support of the International Whaling Commission because it has no scientific basis,” said Dr. Ohsumi.

Dr. Ohsumi noted that Ms. Lee recently announced that she will be taking the proposal to Ministerial talks in Western Samoa next month, but Japan will also be attending the meeting to present the other side of the debate.

“New Zealand will keep losing international credibility as long as it continues with its failed campaign for a whale sanctuary that is contrary to good fisheries management practices and includes species that are abundant,” said Dr. Ohsumi.

“New Zealand’s attempt at signing up non-IWC members to its sanctuary proposal is a cynical attempt to enlist help from island nations dependant on New Zealand aid,” he said.

“Ms. Lee has said that she will share the latest scientific information supporting the need for a sanctuary but she clearly does not understand the science. The proposal disregards science and ecosystem considerations that are now internationally recognized as the primary basis for the management of ocean resources. They can dress it up any way they like, but the fact remains that the proposal has been rejected because it is not based on science,” Dr. Ohsumi said.

“World-wide, cetaceans consume three to five times the amount of marine resources as are caught to feed humans,” Dr. Ohsumi said. “Contrary to the popular myth, whales do not eat just krill and there is increasing evidence from many parts of the world that cetaceans compete either directly or indirectly with fisheries for human food.”

“Total protection of cetaceans is contrary to improving the management of fisheries resources,” said Dr. Ohsumi.

Dr. Ohsumi also noted that the proposal denies the traditions, culture and dietary needs related to the use of marine resources by peoples of the South Pacific Island states. “The use of cetaceans is a traditional part of some Island cultures,” he said.

“Interestingly, there was no support for the sanctuary proposal by Maori who attended last year’s World Council of Whalers Conference in Nelson. In fact, many of those representatives at the meeting had never heard about the proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary and questioned how this proposal may impact on their Treaty rights.”

Dr. Ohsumi said: “Japan agrees that there are economic benefits to whale watching, but stressed that watching and utilizing whales were compatible. In fact, in Taiji, Japan, whaling and whale watching take place together and one reason many tourists give for visiting Taiji is the knowledge they can eat whale during their stay.”

Dr. Ohsumi also questioned New Zealand’s motives for continuing with the sanctuary proposal despite it having been soundly rejected. “New Zealand is surely only pressing this issue because it knows the moratorium on whaling is coming to an end. This is a continuation of the lack of good faith in carrying out its legal obligations as a member of the IWC.”

“It is common knowledge that whales are not endangered and that many species are abundant. Once the IWC’s Revised Management Scheme is implemented the moratorium will be lifted,” Dr. Ohsumi said.

He said that Japan looks forward to attending the Ministerial meeting in Samoa next month to put forward the other side of the debate on the whale sanctuary.

Please see attached background for further information

For further inquiry, contact:
Joji Morishita, Deputy Director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of Japan’s Fisheries Agency: 0081 3 3502 2443 or
Dan Goodman, Councillor, Institute of Cetacean Research, Tokyo

Arguments against the Proposal for a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean

Australia and New Zealand’s proposed whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean is contrary to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) since it does not meet the requirements of the Convention’s Article V.2. This Article requires that the IWC’s regulations be based on scientific findings and that they be necessary to carry out the objectives and purposes of the ICRW and to provide for the conservation, development and optimum utilization of whale resources.

The proposed sanctuary disregards science, ecosystem considerations and sustainable fisheries management practices as well as the traditions, culture and particular needs of the people of some South Pacific Island States.

A whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean could have significant negative impacts on fisheries resources in the area by providing excessive protection for cetaceans which consume huge amounts of marine living resources (in the southern hemisphere alone, such consumption is estimated at 143.5 - 269.4 million tons per year.

FAO has estimated that 35% of the world’s fishery resources are over exploited and a further 25% are fully exploited. FAO has called for urgent improvement in our management of marine fisheries resources including significant fleet reduction. On the other hand, scientific data and analysis clearly demonstrate that whale stocks such as the minke whale and the bottlenose whale are robust and healthy. Total protection of cetaceans is therefore contrary to improving the management of our fisheries resources and ensuring sustainable fisheries and the contribution of fisheries to future world food security.

The proposed sanctuary denies the traditions, culture and dietary needs related to the use of marine living resources by the peoples of the South Pacific Island States since cetaceans are, or traditionally were, utilized by the people of some South Pacific Island States.

The proposed sanctuary also directly contradicts the 1995 FAO Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security signed by 95 States (including Australia and New Zealand). This declaration specifically recognizes the role of living aquatic resources as an important natural renewable source of food and the traditional and essential role played by fisheries in providing high quality protein for human use. It also calls for an increase in the respect and understanding of social, economic and cultural differences among States and regions in the use of aquatic resource, especially cultural diversity and dietary habits.

The proposed sanctuary contradicts generally accepted methods of fishery management and the principle of sustainable use of marine living resources adopted as part of the United Nations Agenda 21. It specifically contradicts those portions of Agenda 21 related to the special needs of small Island States.

The proposed sanctuary also contradicts customary and conventional international law represented by UNCLOS under which, subject to their treaty obligations and the obligations related to conservation and management of living resources of the high seas, the nationals of all States are free to fish for living marine resources, including whales, outside national jurisdictions.


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