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Whale Watchers Call For Govt To Protect Whales

Whale watchers join call for government to protect whales

Whale watchers have joined a coalition of environmental organisations including Greenpeace, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International, Project Jonah and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society to urge the government to announce their plans to increase whale protection this week.

Frank Future, Secretary of the National Whale Watch Association said, "Now that Australia's Humpback whales are in the line of fire of the Japanese whalers, our $300 million dollar a year whale tourism industry is under direct threat. Whale watch operators are concerned that the fantastic interactions we enjoy today might begin to change as the whales inevitably reassociate vessels with fear and death. It's not worth the risk."

"If reports that the government are sending the Oceanic Viking to monitor the fleet are true, then we welcome this development. The Oceanic Viking is an ice class vessel that regularly patrols the Southern Ocean and is equipped with surveillance gear. But the government must also increase diplomatic and legal pressure on the Japanese government to stop the whale hunt," said Greenpeace chief executive Steve Shallhorn.

Skye Bortoli from Teens Against Whaling said, "These whales are born in our waters, and the first thing they see when they come from the safety of their mother's womb is the coastline of Australia. If anyone should have the right to determine their fate it should be Australians."

IFAW campaigner Darren Kindleysides said, "The next few weeks will prove critical not just to the future of our whales and the whale watching industry, but to how seriously the new Rudd Government takes this issue. Japan's whaling is not just cruel, it's criminal and the Australian and other pro-conservation governments have a responsibility to uphold international tribunals and treaties."

Steve Shallhorn said, "If Prime Minister Rudd is serious about protecting these whales, he should speak directly to the Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda about Australia's scientific, economic and environmental concerns.

"The Government should lead an international protest to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to protest Japan's proposed killing of humpbacks. Any humpback whale meat landed in Japan will be illegal under the CITES treaty," he said.

Humpback whales are listed under Appendix 1 of CITES, which does not allow trade for commercial purposes in products from protected species. Yet after killing humpbacks in the Southern Ocean, Japan will import, package and sell the meat for consumption.

To be effective, immediate government action must include: high level direct communication to Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda, expressing Australia's economic, scientific and environmental concerns; a formal complaint to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); using Australia's sea and air resources to ensure monitoring and documentation of Japan's whaling.

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