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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

18 August 2002

Cooperation the Key to Saving Blue Whales


As the largest animals in the world begin to leave Australian waters on their annual migration, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced a new initiative to protect blue whales.

“A recovery plan including measures to help provide blue whales with safe sanctuary in Australian waters will be in place in time for their return migration at the end of the year,” Dr Kemp said.

In recognition of its listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Commonwealth has prepared a draft recovery plan for the blue whale. After extensive public consultation, the draft is now in its final stage and has been sent to state environment ministers for their views.

"It was a rare and fantastic event when a blue whale was sighted within one kilometre of the coast just off Sydney heads by Geoff Ross of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service late last month. International marine mammal experts have now confirmed the sighting. When the plan is finalised and in place, we can hope to see more blue whales calling Australia home during their annual migration,” Dr Kemp said.

“This draft plan identifies the actions we need to take to promote the recovery of blue whale numbers in Australian waters. Specific measures included in the draft plan involve finding new ways to protect critical habitat, research to better track and understand whale populations as well as projects to get the community involved.

“The recovery plan will complement the comprehensive system of protection we have put in place for whales more generally in Australian waters. Research can only be undertaken under Commonwealth permit conditions and all actions that may have a significant impact on the species, such as oil and gas explorations, must be referred to me for approval.”

Since 1999, the Howard Government, through the Natural Heritage Trust, has provided over $180,000 to help scientists identify the migratory routes and unravel other mysteries of the ecology of the blue whale.

Often measuring more than 30 metres and weighing up to 180 tonnes, around a quarter of a million blue whales may once have been found in Australia’ southern oceans. However, whaling decimated the species and today in southern oceans they can only be counted in their hundreds.

“The impact of whalers on this species was a tragedy. While we cannot change the past, we can address the present threats, and act now to minimise our impact on the species in the future,” Dr Kemp said

“Cooperation with all governments and sectors of the community is the key to helping whale numbers recover from the days of commercial whaling.”

For further information on blue whales or to view the Draft Recovery Plan for Blue Whales in Australian Waters, please visit the Environment Australia website at:
http://www.ea.gov.au/coasts/species/projects/complete/whales/index.html

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400


Blue Whale Projects Funded by the Howard Government's Natural Heritage Trust
Project Title Description Funding provided from Natural Heritage Trust
Investigation of Blue Whales off Perth (Rottnest Trench) This study was initiated to provide more accurate information on the current status of the 'true' blue (Balaenoptera musculus, subspecies intermedia) and 'pygmy' (subspecies brevicauda) blue populations of blue whales. $70,000
Habitat use of southern Western Australia by Blue Whales The project aims to complement the research program on blue whales in the Rottnest Trench area by investigating the relationship between blue whales observed resting in Geographe and Flinders Bay in southern WA and those found in the Rottnest Trench feeding area. $35,000
Ecology of Blue Whales in Western Victorian Coastal Waters The project aims to describe and characterise the type and dimensions of feeding habitat critical to maintaining blue whale populations in this region. In increasing the knowledge of the ecology and behaviour of Blue Whales in the area, the study will enable practical management measures to be implemented for blue whale conservation. $100,094
Determination of Migratory Routes and wintering destinations of blue whales from southern Australia This project aimed to attempt to identify the location of winter breeding grounds of blue whales in the South Pacific. $39,750
Commonwealth of Australia