Auckland, June 10th, 2003: More than 30 conservation groups have signed on to a joint statement in support of a new initiative that would see the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moving conservation centre stage. Under the new initiative, which is currently supported by 19 of the IWC's member countries, the IWC's conservation agenda would be strengthened to ensure that the commission furthers its work to protect endangered dolphins and porpoises, as well as whales. To facilitate this, a dedicated conservation committee would be established.
Greenpeace Oceans campaigner Sarah Duthie says the IWC has extensive scientific expertise and is well-placed to lead the world in the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans).
"The exciting new frontier for whales is working out how to protect them and their habitat – the oceans of the world which now face a complex array of threats ranging from noise pollution to climate change and over fishing," says Duthie.
Conservation groups supporting the Berlin initiative include Environment and Conservation Organisation of New Zealand (ECO), Greenpeace, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand and WWF. (1)
A simple majority is required for the Berlin Initiative to be adopted by the Commission, but some countries including Denmark, South Africa and Switzerland have not yet committed to supporting it.
"At the IWC, every vote counts," says Duthie. "The whaling countries Japan, Norway and Iceland publicly express concern about the endangered status of some populations and species but are expected to vote against the proposal despite the overwhelming evidence that many populations of cetacean are highly endangered."
In May 2003, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) warned that some cetacean species could become extinct within a decade and others remain critically endangered.
"Whales, dolphins and porpoises are integral to our ocean ecosystems – if we can't even conserve these animals what hope is there for the oceans as a whole?" says Duthie.
1,318 whales were hunted for commercial purposes last year, either overt or disguised as 'scientific' whaling. Norway took 634 minkes and the Fisheries Agency of Japan took 684 Southern hemisphere minkes, Northern hemisphere minkes, Bryde's whales, sei whales and sperm whales.
For more information contact:
Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner 09-630-6317 x816 or 021- 927-301
Notes to Editor
1. JOINT STATEMENT ON THE BERLIN INITIATIVE
The undersigned groups strongly support the Berlin Initiative to strengthen the conservation agenda of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which we believe could deliver major conservation benefits for cetaceans and the oceans.
Because of the ongoing degradation of our oceans, cetaceans now face a complex array of threats including commercial whaling, toxic pollution, climate change, commercial fisheries bycatch, overfishing, ship strikes, ocean noise, and industrial development. These demand that the IWC should follow a clear conservation mandate.
The IWC has already taken many significant conservation decisions – including agreeing a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 and establishing a whale sanctuary protecting the entire Southern Ocean in 1994. More are needed. It is time to build on these past achievements, make the most of the key scientific expertise in the IWC Scientific Committee, establish a dedicated conservation committee and work globally to ensure that the world's remaining cetaceans are given every possible protection.
We call on all IWC members, regardless of their position on whaling, to support this important initiative for conservation.
American Cetacean Society (ACS)
Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)
The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC)
AquaMarina - CECIM
ASMS (Swiss Marine Mammal Protection)
Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society (CMEPS)
Cetacean Society International (CSI)
Defenders of Wildlife
Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness
Environmental Investigation Agency
Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO)
The Florida Caribbean Conservation Society
Grupo de los Cien Internacional
Humane Society of Canada
Humane Society International (HIS)
Humane Society of the United States
Iruka & Kujira Action Network (Dolphin & Whale Action Network, Japan)
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
International Wildlife Coalition
Instituto de Conservacion de Ballenas (ICB)
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Ocean Alliance
The Ocean Conservancy
The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand
Pacific Orca Society/Orca lab
Sierra Club US
Sierra Club of Canada
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)