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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

4 July 2008

Australia and Chile agree on whales

Australia and Chile last week signed an historic agreement to cooperate on whale research and other whale conservation activities at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Santiago, Chile.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett signed a statement of intent on the cooperative initiatives with Chilean Environment Minister Ana Lya Uriarte.

Mr Garrett described the IWC meeting as a catalyst in identifying common interests that the two coastal South Pacific countries shared in the conservation and management of whales and other marine biodiversity.

"This agreement reflects the strong interest of the people of Chile and Australia in whale conservation and we hope it will be the first of many such agreements with like-minded countries around the world," Mr Garrett said.

Australia and Chile's Environment Ministers sign statement of intent.

Australia and Chile's Environment Ministers, Peter Garrett and Ana Lya Uriarte sign the statement of intent.

"This agreement delivers on two of the key reform measures proposed by Australia at this meeting - strategic research partnerships and internationally agreed conservation management plans.

"I was honoured to be present earlier this week when the President of Chile signed into law a Chilean whale sanctuary at a former whaling station, which was symbolic of the changing world opinion away from whaling and toward whale conservation.

"I congratulate the Government of Chile and its people for their cooperation and enthusiasm for whale conservation and look forward to our two countries working closely into the future on protecting the giants of the sea."

The program of work that will ensue from this agreement includes regional research partnerships, a research exchange program, conservation management activities and building capacity in the area of regulatory environmental management.

Australia will also host a workshop, open to all scientists, in early 2009 to develop a research plan for the Southern Ocean research partnerships. Australia and Chile will establish a steering committee to organise the workshop and invite participation from other countries.

The research exchange program will be managed by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre in Hobart and be linked to universities in both countries.

Research proposal gets IWC support

Minke whale

Minke whale. Image courtesy of Matt Curnock.

Australia's major reform proposals for modernising the International Whaling Commission achieved overwhelming support at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Santiago, Chile.

Speaking at the Commission last week, Environment Minister, Peter Garrett said Australia had brought forward the most significant reform proposal for the Commission in its 60-year history, including the first proposal for a non-lethal regional whale research program in the Southern Ocean.

"This new Australian-led research partnership will provide the world with a non-lethal approach to gathering scientific information on whale populations in the Southern Ocean, helping improve our understanding of whales and cetaceans and enhancing our approach to their conservation and management," he said.

"This pioneering research partnership proposal received strong support in the Commission, which was particularly pleasing. With no voices raised against the proposal the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, France, Spain, Panama and South Africa and the host nation Chile all spoke in support, which augurs well for the program's success."

The Australian Government has committed about $3.3 million to whale research over the next 12 months, including the recently announced $1 million funding boost to the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, which is the only national research centre dedicated to the understanding and conservation of whales, dolphins, seals and dugongs.

"Australia has remained staunch in opposing lethal 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean. This new collaborative approach offers a new way to conduct whale research based on rigorous scientific methodology, and I would urge nations, including Japan, to participate," Mr Garrett said.

Transcripts of Minister Garrett's remarks at IWC60 are available at:

New report bolsters Australia's whale conservation plan

Humpback whale tail, Hervey Bay.

Humpback whale tail, Hervey Bay. Photo courtesy of Mark Farrell

Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett marked National Whales Day recently by releasing a report confirming the value of whale conservation and highlighting threats to the world's whales.

Speaking at the International Fund for Animal Welfare's launch in Sydney, Mr Garrett said the progress report of the Global Cetaceans Snapshot provided important data supporting the case for whale conservation put to last week's International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile.

"The data in this report bolsters our argument that maintaining a moratorium on commercial whaling is only the first step towards ensuring the recovery of threatened whale species," Mr Garrett said before he left for the IWC meeting.

"We also need greater international cooperation on whale research and this is one of the proposals we intend to present at the IWC.

"It also reminds us that there are still 14 threatened species of whales and 44 species for which too little is known to assess their status.

"Thanks to conservation efforts, some species are recovering from industrial whaling - such as the humpback whales that grace Australia's coastlines - but the gains will be lost if we are complacent about the many threats that remain, including so-called 'scientific' whaling."

Mr Garrett welcomed the report's findings of the socio-economic benefits of live whales, particularly whale watching, which had grown hugely over recent years.

"The report has found that whale watching in high income countries alone has attracted 100 million participants to date and forecasts this to increase by 10 million people a year," he said.

"Whale-watching is a sustainable and growing industry, providing a sound economic argument for preserving whales and dolphins in their natural environments."

Mr Garrett presented the preliminary findings from the report to last week's IWC meeting.

"As well as our strong anti-whaling campaign, we will also lead the pro-conservation movement by giving the IWC a central role in improving the conservation status of whales across the world," he said.

"The evidence is in our favour. We now need to convince those who are trapped in the past to embrace a new, modern future for the IWC."

The Global Cetacean Snapshot progress report is available at:

Long Term Protection for the Great Barrier Reef

Reef community, at Bowl Reef.

Reef community featuring Acropora sp., blue chromis, yellow damselfish, purple fairy basslet and colourful crinoids, at Bowl Reef.

The long term protection of the Great Barrier Reef has been significantly strengthened under legislative changes introduced into federal Parliament by the Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett.

"The Great Barrier Reef is one of our most significant environmental assets. The amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 I am announcing today will support the protection and ecologically sustainable use of the marine park," Mr Garrett said recently.

"The marine park established under the Act is one of the largest and best protected marine areas in the world and now covers an area of 344, 400 square kilometres. It is widely recognised as a model for marine management and conservation.

"These legislative changes don't change the marine park's zoning, but they do ensure it delivers a high level of protection for the Great Barrier Reef."

Mr Garrett said the new legislation would do this through:

"Together with measures such as the $200 million Reef Rescue Plan and action on climate change, these legislative changes will form part of the Australian Government's robust comprehensive framework for the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Garrett said.

"These changes also see the Government deliver on an election commitment to reinstate the requirement for an Indigenous member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

"While the Act was groundbreaking legislation at the time and has served its purpose well, it is now over 30 years old and many things have changed since its inception.

"The review of the Act in 2006 recommended changes to put in place a regulatory framework capable of meeting the challenges of the next 30 years and beyond. These amendments will deliver on that goal."

Independent audit on Bass Strait scallops

Scallop, courtesy of CSIRO

Scallop, courtesy of CSIRO

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke has announced he will commission an independent audit looking specifically at the treatment of Bass Strait scallop fishers by the former government.

Mr Burke said he had visited the Lakes Entrance Fishermen's Cooperative recently in relation to concerns about last year's scallop licence buyout.

Following the visit, Mr Burke announced the Government would commission an audit into the treatment of the scallop fishers, ahead of a national audit of fisheries buybacks by the Australian National Audit Office, which is not expected to report until 2009.

The Bass Strait Central Zone scallop fishery was closed to fishing in 2006 for a minimum period of three years.

Australia home of seabird secretariat

Albatross. Photo courtesy of Michael Double.

Albatross. Photo courtesy of Michael Double.

Hobart, Australia is now officially home to the Secretariat for the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).

The historic Headquarters Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels was recently signed in Hobart by the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Press and the Executive Secretary of the ACAP Secretariat, Mr Warren Papworth.

The Headquarters Agreement is the culmination of negotiations between the Australian Government and other parties to ACAP to establish the Secretariat in Hobart, which has been the interim host in recent years.

The Australian Government has worked closely with Tasmania to establish the Secretariat. Tasmania has a strong and long-standing commitment as a host to international Secretariats and organisations with an Antarctic or Southern Ocean focus and is recognised for its unique and thriving Antarctic sector.

Tasmania already hosts the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and the French Polar Institute's southern base.

Albatrosses and petrels face many perils at sea and on land. It is in the Southern Ocean that each year, tens of thousands of albatrosses and petrels are killed - a by-product of longline fishing - where the birds are accidentally caught on hooks then drowned, mostly as the weighted lines sink.

One international forum that has achieved outstanding success in eliminating seabird mortality, thanks to the work of Australia and other countries, is CCAMLR. Over the past decade, seabird mortality in CCAMLR-managed fisheries has fallen from about 7000 a year to zero despite increased fishing effort.

Australia has been active in pursuing seabird conservation in other regional fisheries forums too. Only last week, an Australian proposal to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission urged the adoption of strong and mandatory measures to minimise seabird bycatch.

The development of ACAP was an Australian initiative and has been a government priority since the mid 1990s. The other signatories to the Agreement are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, France, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The Secretariat is responsible for promoting and coordinating activities under the ACAP Agreement, which was established in response to international recognition that albatrosses and petrels are amongst the most threatened birds in the world, with many species facing extinction.

The most significant threat facing albatrosses and petrels is mortality resulting from interactions with fishing gear, especially longline and trawl. In addition, birds may be threatened at their breeding sites by introduced predators, diseases, habitat loss, pollution and climate change.

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