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IWC Asked To Support South Pacific Sanctuary

IWC Asked To Respect Wishes Of South Pacific And Support Whale Sanctuary For Region


This week’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in London has been asked to respect the wishes of South Pacific countries and to support the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

The proposal was first submitted to the IWC at its meeting in Adelaide last year, and a three quarters majority vote of IWC member nations is required for its adoption.

Speaking in London today, New Zealand Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, said she had come to the meeting to seek international recognition of the cultural aspirations of South Pacific countries for the protection of whales.

“Polynesian peoples have had a long cultural connection with whales.” Ms Lee said.

“The IWC respects the customary rights of certain indigenous peoples in other parts of the world to take whales to meet their traditional and nutritional needs.

"New Zealand has always supported that proposition, but also seeks equal recognition for the rights of the peoples of the South Pacific to protect whales as part of the living heritage that we pass on to our children.

"In the South Pacific, we do not kill our whales, and we ask other countries to respect our wishes.

"It seems to me that this cultural tradition has not in the past received adequate recognition by IWC members.”

40 countries are attending the IWC meeting, and one of the most hotly-debated items on the agenda will be the proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, which would encompass some 20 million square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean, from the Equator to 40 degrees South.

It would protect nine species of large whales on their winter breeding grounds in the tropics, from which they migrate southwards to feed in the krill-rich waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica.


Sandra Lee said she had arrived in London with a strong mandate from the region, following a series of resolutions agreed over the past three years by the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum and the 22 members of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

This process culminated in a regional consultation to progress the whale sanctuary proposal in Samoa in April 2001, involving fifteen countries and territories, at which the Apia Statement was agreed.

Countries and territories represented at the Apia meeting were Samoa, Australia, American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, Tokelau and Wallis and Futuna.

In the Apia Statement, the Pacific Island nations noted the critical significance of the South Pacific as breeding grounds for nine species of great whale and the serious depletion of whale populations in the region from commercial whaling last century.

Sandra Lee said that establishment of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would also provide an economic boost to the region through the encouragement of whale watching.

“Whale-watching is a rapidly growing industry in the region enabling countries like the Kingdom of Tonga to develop sustainable economic opportunities for their people from carefully managed opportunities for tourists to view the breeding congregations of whales.”

“The world should take note that conservation of marine life is one of the top priorities for the Pacific Island Nations, and it should be clear by now that there is widespread support amongst the island nations of the South Pacific for a whale sanctuary," Ms Lee said.
"These magnificent animals have roamed our seas for millions of years and we wish them to be a living part of the inheritance we protect and pass on to the children of our region."

Extracts from the Apia Statement, agreed by
Pacific Island Forum and South Pacific Regional Environment Programme Member Regional Workshop for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary
Apia, Samoa : 18- 20 April 2001

Ministers of Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tokelau and together with Ministerial Representatives from Cook Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga and Representatives of American Samoa, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna, met in Apia from 18-20 April, 2001 to progress a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary:

Recalling the decision of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 1998 to support the development of a proposal to establish a South Pacific Sanctuary for great whales to complement the existing Indian and Southern Ocean sanctuaries;
Recalling the Ministerial Statement from the Eleventh SPREP Meeting (Guam, 2000) which welcomed the efforts to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary through the International Whaling Commission and agreed to continue to support efforts to promote the adoption of a Sanctuary, whale conservation and associated eco-tourism;
Recalling also the decision of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in October 2000 to progress a proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary;
Noting also the critical significance of the South Pacific as breeding grounds for nine species of whales;
Noting also the serious depletion of great whale stocks in the South Pacific region;

REAFFIRM their commitment to progress a proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary;

ACKNOWLEDGE AND SUPPORT in principle the intention of Australia and New Zealand to resubmit the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal to the IWC meeting in London in July ahead of the Pacific Island Leaders Forum Meeting;

ACKNOWLEDGE ALSO the continuing strong resolve and support of the territories of the SPREP organisation for the proposal to establish a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary as presented by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia to the eleventh SPREP Meeting (Guam, October 2000) to go forward to the IWC meeting in London in July 2001;

AGREE that whales are an important part of the natural and cultural heritage of Pacific island peoples;

WELCOME the growth of whale watching tourism in the region, with its associated economic benefits;

CONSIDER that the recovery of severely depleted great whale species in the proposed Sanctuary area would be facilitated by the establishment of such a Sanctuary;

REQUEST SPREP Members of the IWC to advise the Commission on the proceedings and outcomes of this Meeting.

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