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Pacific nations join forces to save the whales


Media release from WWF.


Pacific nations join forces to save the whales

Auckland, New Zealand - WWF today hails 11 Pacific nations for their leadership in establishing an unprecedented number of national whale sanctuaries. Together, the sanctuaries will cover over 28 million sq. km of ocean and create a blueprint for whale conservation and the management of shared marine resources all over the world.

The South Pacific Ocean is the world's largest marine habitat, containing critical breeding grounds and migratory routes for 11 of the world’s great whale species. The Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Niue, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand have either declared their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) as whale sanctuaries or are taking action to protect whales through national legislation.

“WWF applauds the governments of the Pacific for making this commitment to guarantee the future of these special animals, the cultural traditions and values they embody, and the region's living marine resources,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF-International’s Species Programme. “These sanctuaries, which WWF is recognising as a ‘Gift to the Earth’, will help ensure threatened whale populations recover.”

“The Gift to the Earth event is a wonderful celebration of the Pacific’s commitment to whale conservation. The achievements recognised demonstrate the global impact of collective national actions in creating whale sanctuaries,” says Jo Breese, Chief Executive, WWF-New Zealand.

The establishment of whale sanctuaries will boost the region's tourism industry. Whale watching has doubled in the past 10 years and is now one of the fastest growing branches of the tourism industry. In Tonga whale watching is a thriving industry, generating around US 1 million dollars annually for the Tongan economy. WWF believes that whale watching can provide a unique opportunity to build and ensure sustainable livelihoods for local communities while also protecting and valuing marine biodiversity.

“Combined with a well-defined management plan, these whale sanctuaries will help ensure that vulnerable whale populations can recover and will serve as an invaluable tool for marine conservation and development, including ecotourism and fisheries management,” added Dr Lieberman.

The sanctuaries, which WWF helped secure, include long-standing commitments made by New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Vanuatu, and demonstrate the commitment of Pacific nations to the conservation of whales. The sanctuaries also complement the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary which contains the Antarctica feeding grounds for the whale species that travel to the South Pacific to breed and calve.

For further information:

Notes to Editors:

1. Eleven great whale species are known to occur in the South Pacific region. Almost all of these species have been commercially hunted in the region and as a consequence the blue, fin, right, humpback and sperm whales are the most severely depleted.

2. The ‘Gift to the Earth’ is a public celebration and recognition by WWF of a globally significant conservation action by a government, a company, an organisation or an individual. The event on August 13 is co-hosted by WWF and the government of New Zealand.

3. Internationally, more than nine million tourists took part in whale watching in 2000 generating revenue of USD 1 billion.

4. It is critical that whale sanctuaries are not restricted to just one or two areas of the South Pacific. For example, Humpback whales breed in different places at different times.


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