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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Shimonoseki, Japan
21 May 2002

Transcript: Statement to the International Whaling Commission in Support of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary

Thank you Mr Chairman.

This is the first time I have attended a meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

At the start let me convey the thanks of the Government of Australia to the Government of Japan, and especially the people of Shimonoseki, for their wonderful welcome to the IWC and their warm and friendly hospitality.

Australia and New Zealand are, for the third year, proposing the establishment of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

Chair - I thank you for your summary of the discussion to date on the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary proposal. I understand your suggestion that on this issue only new points should be entertained at this meeting.

To this end I won't rehearse the strong arguments made previously in support of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, including the compelling scientific justification. These are matters of record.

Nor will I restate the urgent need to establish the Sanctuary to complement the vitally important Southern Ocean Sanctuary, so that the relevant species of great whales are protected in the entirety of their range.

Instead, I will focus on updating the Commission on the overwhelming regional momentum to protect whales and to establish the Sanctuary. This will respond in emphatic terms to those in the IWC who have questioned the level of support in the South Pacific region and so been reluctant to give full support to the Sanctuary in this Commission.

Australia and New Zealand have again consulted extensively with our South Pacific neighbours. These consultations have shown countries of the South Pacific have reinforced their regional consensus in favour of the proposed Sanctuary.

The peoples of the South Pacific have sent a message to this Commission that you should not ignore.

In the last quarter of 2001 the Pacific Island Leaders Forum, which comprises the Heads of Government of all the independent states of the region - once again whole-heartedly supported the proposed Sanctuary. More specifically, the Forum called for the increased protection of whales through an interconnected mesh of national, regional and international actions.

National Action

On a national level there is a growing network of domestic whale sanctuaries being established by countries of the South Pacific.

The Kingdom of Tonga has provided a sanctuary for whales in its waters by Royal declaration since 1978.

My own country, Australia, has had its whale sanctuary in place since 1999 reinforcing the earlier legislative protection of cetaceans that we have had from 1980.

Late last year the Cook Islands declared the waters of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a Whale Sanctuary.

In advance of this meeting of the IWC, the Governments of French Polynesia, Papua New Guinea and Niue announced that they are creating whale sanctuaries within their Exclusive Economic Zones.

And my understanding is that by IWC55 there will be whale sanctuaries in other South Pacific countries.

As well as declared national sanctuaries, other countries have equivalent comprehensive legislation that fully protects great whales in their Exclusive Economic Zones.

Mr Chair - I would ask for your agreement to demonstrate the extent of national action in the region by projecting a map of the area proposed for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

Mr Chair - the days of whaling in the South Pacific are over. The peoples of the South Pacific have emphatically rejected whaling. In the future, economic returns from whales in the South Pacific will come from their preservation and appreciation in sanctuaries. Sanctuaries that will attract visitors from across the world.

Once all South Pacific countries have declared sanctuaries in their domestic waters, or otherwise have protected the great whales, around 50 per cent of the area covered by the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary would be subject to an interconnected network of domestic whale protection regimes. That is the most the countries of the South Pacific can do - the rest is up to the International Whaling Commission.

Regional Action

To complement our efforts to establish the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary here in the IWC, Australia has nominated six species of great whales for inclusion on Appendix II of the Bonn Convention - the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. These nominations will be considered at the Conference of the Parties at this year's meeting.

The six species nominated will join those species of great whales already listed on Appendix I of the Bonn Convention. Together this can provide the basis for the development of a South Pacific regional agreement.

The six species we have nominated are: the Antarctic Minke, Bryde's, Fin, Pygmy Right, Sei and Sperm whales.

A regional agreement under the Bonn Convention would facilitate the greater involvement of the countries of the South Pacific in the development of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

I encourage support for these nominations when the Conference of the Parties to the Bonn Convention meets later this year.

International Action

The IWC, as the international body with primary responsibility for whales, has the leadership role to play in creating a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. National and regional initiatives only go so far.

Unfortunately to date, despite a majority of IWC member countries being willing to heed and to act on the desires of South Pacific countries, the IWC has not taken on this leadership role. This 54th meeting offers the IWC the opportunity to rectify this anomaly and act in a way that will give the peoples of the South Pacific the international sanctuary they want.

Every vote at this meeting against the sanctuary proposal is a vote to deny the wishes of the people of the island countries of the South Pacific. Every abstention is, in reality, a vote to ignore their wishes. Every vote in favour of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, on the other hand, demonstrates that the voting members of the IWC have heard the peoples of the region.

What better way for the IWC to clearly send a strong message that it is the international organisation to which countries should turn, if they wish to see effective conservation and protection of cetaceans.

I call on the IWC today to respect the wishes of the peoples of the South Pacific and declare the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

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