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Sanctuary Proposal Fails To Get Support … Again

6 February 2001


At an informal meeting in Monaco today, Australia and New Zealand failed once again to gain support for their whale sanctuary in the South Pacific.

New Zealand and Australia’s joint bid at last year’s IWC meeting in Australia for the sanctuary was rejected by the IWC because it was not scientifically based, as is required by Article 5.2 of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.

The two countries made another attempt at reviving the proposal today when they convened an informal meeting of IWC Commissioners in Monaco to discuss how to “constructively progress consideration” of the proposed sanctuary, as their letters of invite stated.

While only four countries spoke in favour of the proposal, arguments against the sanctuary, including that it has no scientific rationale and that it is contrary to the terms of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling, were confirmed.

Following the meeting, Joji Morishita, the deputy director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of Japan’s Fisheries Agency, said: “New Zealand and Australia should take their obligations under the Convention seriously. Attempting to revive their South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal again only destabilises the IWC and undermines its credibility as an organisation set up to bring about the orderly development of the whaling industry.”

“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, including Maori who rejected the sanctuary proposal at the World Council of Whalers meeting in New Zealand last November,” Mr Morishita said.

The main argument offered for the establishment of a sanctuary was the promotion of the whale watch industry, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Morishita also noted that a sanctuary is also unnecessary because many whale stocks are abundant and recovering while those that remain at relatively low levels are protected and would remain so with the introduction of new, sustainable whaling under the RMP already adopted by the IWC.

IWC Commissioners who are members of the IWC’s Revised Management Scheme working group are meeting in Monaco to complete the RMS, the IWC’s proposal to manage a resumption of whaling on a sustainable basis.


For more information contact Joji Morishita, deputy director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of Japan’s Fisheries Agency. Mr Morishita is at the Ambassador Hotel, Monaco, 00377 9797 9696.

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, utilised 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 recognises 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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