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The Hon. Peter Garrett MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

$1.5 million for whale conservation

Media Release
24 June 2009
PG/295

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Australia will contribute $1.5 million to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to support key conservation and scientific activities of the Commission, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said today.

Speaking at a briefing on the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) report Small cetaceans: the forgotten whales at the 61st International Whaling Commission meeting in Madeira, Portugal, the Minister said this substantial financial contribution will enhance the capacity of the Commission to directly address the many threats faced by the world's whales and dolphins.

"What we know from the Global Cetacean Summary Report that Australia released last week, is that while some species have started to recover from severe overexploitation, including from commercial whaling, many populations face a growing number of threats to their long-term survival and recovery and over half of the world's cetacean species remain listed as 'Data Deficient'.

"Ship strikes, pollution and the impacts of climate change are just some of examples of the challenges our whale species face and we know that for many populations we simply do not have enough scientific information to ensure we're providing the best chance of recovery.

"As this WWF report highlights, while much of the world's attention is focused on larger, better known whale and cetacean species, small cetaceans are often 'forgotten'.

"For example the baiji, or Yangtze river dolphin, is considered the world's most endangered cetacean species and is now thought to be extinct having not been seen in the wild since 2002.

"Like the baiji, for many small cetaceans the scientific information available is so limited that we are unable to make informed decisions on their conservation status. This $1.5 million contribution will provide the capacity to fill those gaps, helping us to obtain the much needed data to better understand and conserve these species."

Mr Garrett said Australia's contribution will support activities of the IWC in three key areas: the Southern Ocean Research Partnership; conservation management plans; and small cetacean conservation research.

"This commitment comes on top of our comprehensive reform proposals for the IWC including providing for the development of Conservation Management Plans through the Commission and confirms our unprecedented commitment to non-lethal whale research, including the Southern Ocean Research Partnership - the largest research partnership of its kind in the world.

"That partnership is continuing to receive very good support from other nations at the IWC and I was delighted that last week the Australian Foreign Minister, the New Zealand Foreign Minister and I were jointly able to announce that the first Antarctic research expedition under this partnership will take place between Australia and New Zealand later this year," Mr Garrett said.

"Australia has come to this meeting of the IWC determined to pursue our reform agenda for the Commission and to promote real action to conserve whales and dolphins and this $1.5 million contribution will help set the Commission on that path."

Madeira, Portugal

Commonwealth of Australia