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Senator Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
Whale and dolphin watching in Australia continues to be one of the fastest growing areas of eco-tourism and in 1995 directly contributed $9.3 million to the economy.
Australia will present a submission on whale and dolphin watching to the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Aberdeen this week.
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the findings in the paper vindicate the stronger stand taken by the Howard Government in pushing for a permanent international ban on commercial whaling.
"We are totally opposed to the commercial killing of whales. We also reject the killing of whales for so-called 'scientific purposes'. We do not believe you have to kill whales to study them.
"This paper confirms our argument that there are great economic benefits to be gained from not killing whales.
"The boom in our whale watching industry can be directly attributed to the regeneration of whale numbers since whaling was banned in Australian waters.
"There was positive growth in the 1995 whale watching season, in terms of direct revenue and the range of areas around Australia developing land and sea-based whale watching activities.
"The conservative estimate is that 563 000 people went whale and dolphin watching at more than 51 areas last year, and the species most commonly involved were southern right whales, humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.
"The $9.3 million figure included in the Australian submission is also a conservative estimate of the economic value of whale watching.
"It does not fully take into account the enormous boost to the local economies of coastal communities from the influx of whale watchers."
Senator Hill says that the increase in whale and dolphin watching also brings with it new responsibilities.
"It is critical to ensure the potential for adverse impacts on cetaceans is minimised and that high professional standards within the industry, covering codes of conduct, public education and staff training, are encouraged.
"We still have a great deal to learn about the impact of people, vessels and aircraft on cetaceans, particularly in critical breeding areas, so we can address specific issues like the southward migration of whales with calves and the reaction of whales to helicopter overflights."
The submission, Whale and Dolphin Watching in Australian Waters (1995), was prepared by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and will be presented to the IWC's annual meeting in Scotland this week. Cetacean watching issues have been considered by the IWC since 1993.
Copies of the submission are available.
Contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 06 277 7640