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25 Years of Whale Protection

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2 5 y e a r s o f w h a l e p r o t e c t i o n i n A u s t r a l i a

Twenty five years ago on 4 April 1979 Australia decided to end whaling in Australian waters and to pursue an end to commercial whaling throughout the world. After 25 years of protection, whales are now considered far more valuable alive than dead.

Since the Fraser Government repealed the Whaling Act 1960, whale protection has been a bipartisan feature of Australian politics. Successive Australian Governments have protected whales at home and argued for increased protection throughout the world for all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

W h a l i n g A n d W h a l e s

Today, most countries do not

permit any form of whaling.

Whaling continues, but at a

lower rate than when Australia

changed its policy. Global interest in whaling debates

may be inferred from the growing membership of

the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Whale protection is designed to allow

depleted whale populations to recover. Since

1996, Australia’s Natural Heritage Trust has

invested over $2.7 million in research and

other activities to promote whale conservation.

For some species in Australia, protection appears

to be working.

T h e V a l u e O f W h a l e s

Whale protection makes

economic sense. In today’s

terms, Australia’s last whaling

business — the Cheynes

Beach Whaling Company

— produced an estimated

direct revenue of $9.6 million

in its final year. Today, Australia’s

whale watching industry produces

an estimated direct revenue of $42.5

million (up from $5.3

million in 1991). Tourist

expenditure associated

with the whale industry

generates additional

revenue, mostly in

regional areas. The

estimated flow-on effect

of expenditure is $149 million to

$325 million.

Economists also recognise

a value that society

intrinsically places

on the existence of

live free-swimming

whales. A monetary

value of $300,000 has

been estimated for each

humpback whale.

The Government is … to protect the whale so that present and future generations of Australians can have the opportunity of seeing these wonderful mammals in their natural habitat rather than seeing them

merely as exhibits of an extinct species in a museum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

Ministerial Statement: Whales and Whaling, 4 April 1979

25 Years of Whale Protection

The Australian Whale Sanctuary is established in order to give formal recognition of the high level of protection and management afforded to cetaceans

in Commonwealth marine areas and prescribed waters.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, S. 225(1)

1978/79 2003/04

Great whales killed Whaling nations % commercial/scientific % indigenous hunts IWC members

28,240 13 99% 1%


1,866 7 78% 22%


(at 2003 meeting)

2 5 y e a r s o f w h a l e p r o t e c t i o n i n A u s t r a l i a

25 Years of Whale Protection I n q u i r y I n t o W h a l e s a n d W h a l i n g

Recommendations, 1 December, 1978

1. Australia should oppose the

continuance of whaling…

2. Whaling by other nations should

be prohibited within the Australian

200-mile fishing zone…

3. At the International Whaling

Commission meeting to be held in

December 1978, Australia should seek to

classify both male and female sperm whales

in Division 5 as Protection Stocks and to amend the

catch limits presently set for this Division to zero…

4. Consideration should be given to the repeal of

the Whaling Act 1960 and its replacement by new

legislation directed to the protection of cetacean, and

if thought desirable other marine mammals, along the

lines of the marine mammal protection legislation of

the United States and New Zealand.

5. The import of whale products or goods containing

whale products should be banned in Australia from

1 January 1981.

6. Australia should continue to be a member of and

support the International Whaling Commission as

the most appropriate body to be responsible for

conservation of whales internationally. Australia should

support efforts to revise the International Convention…

In particular… to extend the Commission’s charter to

the conservation of all cetacea.

7. Australia should seek to achieve a worldwide ban

on whaling… Australia should take into account any

adjustment required by the special needs of

particular countries, such as the requirements

of some nations of whale meat for protein,

and subsistence catches by some local


8. Both in its own planning and in

international discussions on the

management of marine resources

Australia should ensure that any

implications for whales are given


9. The Commonwealth Government

should promote research on whales by

Australian scientists and institutions…

10. The continued Australian involvement in the

International Whaling Commission should emphasise

particularly participation in the Scientific Committee

so that results of Australian research are promptly

incorporated in that Committee’s deliberations…

By 1960, only 500 or fewer of the humpback whales migrating along Australia’s east coast remained. Today their numbers have rebounded to well over 4,000.

Southern right whales are estimated to have increased from less than 100 in 1985 to around 1,400 today.

A u s t r a l i a n W h a l i n g R e v e n u e

A u s t r a l i a n W h a l e W a t c h i n g R e v e n u e