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More sanctuary for whales of the South Pacific.

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Media Release Minister for the Environment and Heritage Dr David Kemp

19 March 2003


More Sanctuary for Whales of the South Pacific Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, has welcomed Fiji Government's announcement that it will declare the entire Exclusive Economic Zone of Fiji as a whale sanctuary.

"The Australian Government congratulates Fiji on its outstanding move to protect whales in Fijian waters," Dr Kemp said.

"Fiji joins a growing number of Pacific Island states, including the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and Tonga, which have declared their waters as whale sanctuaries, and we encourage others in the region to follow suit."

Australia worked closely with Fiji and other Pacific Island states at a recent South Pacific Environment Programme meeting on regional marine mammal conservation, which recommended member states promote whale sanctuaries through national, regional and international action.

"The declaration of the Fijian whale sanctuary, covering 1.26 million square kilometres of waters used by migrating whales for breeding and calving, is the latest significant national action towards achieving the South Pacific's goal of 20 million square kilometres of whale sanctuaries in the region by 2008. This takes the current sanctuary coverage to more than 12 million square kilometres," Dr Kemp said.

"The declaration also sends a strong message to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). It is time the pro?whaling bloc of the IWC recognised the level of support in our region for the establishment of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

"While Fiji, like many island states, is not a member of the IWC, Australia will certainly convey to the organisation Fiji's decision to protect vulnerable species of whales. We will also call on the IWC to respect the region's enthusiasm for whale conservation by declaring the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary."

Dr Kemp said the Federal Government has contributed $115,000 towards research to determine the presence of whales in Fijian and Samoan waters. The Federal Government recently announced an additional $50,000 for the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium to continue the research in Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu this year. The consortium is where experts on the biology and ecology of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) meet and share their latest findings from the South Pacific region and sets research and training priorities.

"This reinforces the Howard Government's commitment to quality cetacean research and Australia's strong stance before the IWC to maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling and support for the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary," Dr Kemp said.

"Australia, itself in 2000, declared its waters as a whale sanctuary under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

"Australia and New Zealand will co-sponsor a proposal to declare the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary at the 55th meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Berlin, Germany, in June this year."

Media Contacts: Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400 Ian Cresswell (Environment Australia) 02 6274 1223