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Sanctuary Proposal ‘Faltering’, Japan Agrees

MEDIA RELEASE
13 May 2001

SANCTUARY PROPOSAL ‘FALTERING’, JAPAN AGREES

Australian Minister for the Environment Senator Robert Hill is correct when he says Australia’s and New Zealand’s push for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary is faltering, but not for the reasons stated by him.

The Deputy Director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of Japan’s Fisheries Agency, Joji Morishita, said: “The renewed push for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary is faltering because the proposal still has no scientific basis. This is a minimum requirement for managing marine resources and a minimum requirement under the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling. That is the reason the proposal failed last year as well.”

“The sanctuary is not needed for conservation reasons and would provide no further protection for whales beyond that already provided by the IWC’s management regime,” he said.

“Whales are already protected by a worldwide moratorium on whaling, and even when the moratorium is lifted it will be because the IWC has agreed on a management regime that will provide no-risk quotas for abundant stocks only.”

“Because the proposed sanctuary has no scientific basis it ignores the possible impacts of fish consumption by whales in the area and it ignores the calls of international fisheries management organizations, including the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, for eco-system or multi-species management,” Mr. Morishita said.

Senator Hill suggested that the proposed sanctuary was rejected by the IWC because of a diplomatic recruitment drive by Tokyo secured the support of Caribbean states.

However, Mr. Morishita said: “Caribbean countries are dependent on ocean resources. Their opposition to the proposed south Pacific sanctuary last year should therefore be no surprise and was based on the fact that the proposal has no scientific basis and that it is contrary to the principle of sustainable use.”

“Opposition to the sanctuary by Caribbean countries is not based on diplomatic pressure or receipt of foreign aid as suggested by the anti-whaling rhetoric. In fact, Japan provides far more aid to a number of IWC member countries that maintain strong anti-whaling positions.” He said.

The IWC Commissioner from Antigua and Barbuda recently condemned the current propaganda drive in the Caribbean by Greenpeace.

Dan Goodman, of Japan’s Institute of Cetacean research, said: “It is also unfortunate Environment Minister Sandra Lee has been telling the New Zealand public there is unanimous support for the sanctuary proposal from SPREP (South Pacific Regional Environment Programme) because it simply is not true.”

“The nations that attended the April SPREP meeting in Samoa simply acknowledged and supported ‘in principle’ the intention of Australia and New Zealand to resubmit the proposal to the IWC, and at least six SPREP members were absent from the meeting.”

“The statement from the Samoa meeting also recognized the concern of some SPREP members of the potential impact of whales on commercial fisheries and noted that for some SPREP members, specific whale legislation was not a high priority.”

“This amounts to qualified support, not unanimous support as is alleged,” said Mr. Goodman, who represented the Government of Japan at the meeting. “However, the support, or lack of, for the proposed sanctuary is not the real issue. The real issue is that the proposed sanctuary has no scientific basis,” Mr. Goodman said.

Mr. Goodman said Senator Hill’s comment that Japan’s whale research program in the North Pacific was not necessary was also incorrect. “Of course, Senator Hill is looking for votes as Australia heads into another election but he would be more credible if he supported Japan’s whale research program. His statement simply rejects science as the basis for managing our marine resources.”

For more information contact:
Joji Morishita, Deputy Director, Far Seas Fisheries Division, Fisheries Agency, Government of Japan, 0081 3 3502 2443, or
Dan Goodman, Councillor, Institute of Cetacean Research.


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