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NZ Disputes Japanese Minke Whale Population Claims

New Zealand Rejects Japanese Claims About Southern Hemisphere Minke Whale Population

760,000 Figure No Longer Applies; “Precipitous Decline” in Southern Minke Population

There has been a “precipitous decline in the minke whale population of the Southern Hemisphere” according to Jim McLay, New Zealand Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Addressing the Commission’s annual meeting in London, Mr McLay said that the IWC’s Scientific Committee had concluded that its previous (1992) population estimate of 760,000 Southern Hemisphere minke whales was no longer valid.

“That fact must be constantly repeated, because those who claim that this species can be sustainably exploited, and that the species is not adversely affected by so-called “scientific whaling”, continue to use the 1992 figure of 760,000 to bolster their case”, said Mr McLay. He noted that Japan had used “the now-abandoned 760,000 figure” in a Commission debate earlier this week.

“All these claims are completely untrue.” Mr McLay said that New Zealand has long held doubts about the 1992 estimate, “and those doubts have proved well-founded.”

Describing the report of the Scientific Committee on this topic as “frankly alarming”, Mr McLay said that it “clearly shows a very significant decline in Southern Hemisphere minke whale abundance over the past decade”.

The Committee’s report “raises further doubts about the usefulness of data obtained from [Japan’s] ¡K so-called “scientific whaling”. It is clear that the population of Southern Hemisphere minke whales may be substantially less than the figure that Japan has consistently used to justify its so-called “scientific whaling” programme.”

Mr McLay urged that, in respect of Southern minke whales:

- a precautionary approach be adopted;

- any lethal takes that may further adversely affect the minke whale population be at the very least suspended; and

- further non-lethal investigations be undertaken to assess whether environmental changes in the Antarctic marine ecosystem are in part responsible for any population decline.

Ends

Speech: Status And Trends Of Southern Hemisphere Minke Whales

Intervention By New Zealand

Mr Chairman

I thank the Chair of the Scientific Committee for her presentation, and the Committee for its hard work on whale stocks.

New Zealand has, of course, a particular interest in Southern Hemisphere stocks, especially minke whales.

Members will recall that, at last year’s meeting, considerable interest was shown in the Committee’s conclusion that its 1992 population estimate for Southern Hemisphere minke whales was no longer valid.

That fact must be constantly repeated, because those who claim that this species can be sustainably exploited, and that the species is not adversely affected by so-called “scientific whaling”, continue to use the 1992 figure of 760,000 to bolster their case.

We heard it again on Tuesday when a Commissioner referred to the “known abundance” of this population.

Later, Japan again repeated the the now-abandoned 760,000 figure.

And Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research has distributed a document at this meeting in which it persists with the claim that “the Scientific Committee of the IWC also agreed to a population estimate of 760,000 minke whales for the Southern Hemisphere (Antarctica) stocks”.

All these claims are now completely untrue.

I might also add in passing, that New Zealand has long held doubts about the 1992 estimate; and those doubts have proved well-founded.

This year’s deliberations of the Scientific Committee again devoted considerable effort to this issue, as is recorded in pages 35-41 of its report.

In essence, that report finds that data from the IDCR/SOWER cruises (from which minke whale abundance estimates are derived) indicate a very significant decline in the Southern Hemisphere minke population over the past decade.

New Zealand has always acknowledged the considerable difficulties and uncertainties involved in successfully undertaking sightings surveys in the Southern Ocean.

Nonetheless, the IDCR/SOWER cruises have, for many years, been the most significant item in the Scientific Committee’s budget; and New Zealand has no doubt that, at least at this time, the time-series represented by these cruises provides the best available indication of the trends of whale populations in the Antarctic.

In its report, the Scientific Committee goes to considerable lengths to try to explain what appears to be a precipitous decline in minke whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere.

I acknowledge that the crude population estimate of 268,000 presented on page 36 of the report requires the incorporation of further data which will be provided by the completion of the third circumpolar cruise; and I also acknowledge that further data analyses still need to be carried out before the Committee can provide the Commission with a consensus population estimate.

Nevertheless, the Scientific Committee report is frankly alarming.

The IDCR/SOWER cruise data clearly shows a very significant decline in Southern Hemisphere minke whale abundance over the past decade, as shown in Figure 1 on page 40 of the Committee’s report.

Interestingly, the population data collected by JARPA shows no such trend in Areas IV and V, where Japan’s lethal whaling programme has been carried on over the past fourteen years.

That raises further doubts about the usefulness of data obtained from this so-called “scientific whaling; and further explains why New Zealand, for one, places far more confidence in the results of the IDCR/SOWER surveys than those of JARPA.

In that regard, the comparisons of the IDCR/SOWER data with that from JARPA (as shown in the figures on page 40 of the Scientific Committee report) are very revealing and very disturbing; and I thank the Chair of the Scientific Committee for supporting the insistence of New Zealand and other scientists that those figures be included in the report.

Against that background, it is clear that the population of Southern Hemisphere minke whales may be substantially less than the figure that Japan has consistently used to justify its so-called “scientific whaling” programme.

Mr Chairman, I welcome the Scientific Committee’s intention to work expeditiously to provide an agreed revised population estimate to the 2003 meeting.

Presently, of course, no such population estimate exists; and claims to the contrary must be constantly rebutted.

However, in the meantime, this Commission must urgently consider the implications of what appears to be a precipitous decline in the minke whale population of the Southern Hemisphere.

For New Zealand, the conclusions are obvious:

- a precautionary approach must be adopted;

- any lethal takes that may further adversely affect the minke whale population must be at the very least suspended; and

- further non-lethal investigations must be undertaken to assess whether environmental changes in the Antarctic marine ecosystem are in part responsible for any population decline.

New Zealand will strongly support such moves, and urges the full involvement of the Commission and the Scientific Committee in this urgently required endeavour.


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