New funding for science in lead-up to whales meeting

Fin whales spouting with iceberg in background
Fin whales (Photo: Nick Gales)

4 June 2008

A $1 million funding boost to the Hobart-based Australian Marine Mammal Centre would advance Australia's push for reform of the International Whaling Commission based on nonlethal collaborative science and conservation, Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett said today.

Mr Garrett said this critical funding commitment to marine mammal science demonstrated the high priority Australia places on research and conservation. "This $1 million grant is a demonstration of the Australian Government's determination to modernise the IWC with a reform agenda based on rigorous research, as opposed to so-called 'scientific whaling','' Mr Garrett said.

"The Australian Marine Mammal Centre, hosted at the Australian Antarctic Division since 2005, is the only national research centre dedicated to the understanding and conservation of whales, dolphins, seals and dugongs.

"Australia is charting a new course with a proposal for modernising the IWC, emphasising the conservation of living whales as opposed to setting quotas for dead ones.

"The allocation of this extra funding will advance Australia's science-based proposal to modernise the IWC,'' Mr Garrett said.

Australia is at the forefront of attempts to modernise the IWC, presenting its proposal Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC at an intersessional meeting earlier this year. The proposal contains three main initiatives – internationally agreed, cooperative conservation plans for whales; collaborative research programs; and reforming the management of science, including an end to unilaterally granted special permit scientific whaling.

The new funding will include about $600,000 to supplement the existing competitive marine mammal research fund and about $400,000 for activities in support of the Government's policies, including work towards the establishment of the first IWC conservation management plan and a Southern Ocean non-lethal whale research partnership.

"Australians can be proud of the world-leading research we are undertaking on whales and other marine mammals,'' Mr Garrett said.

"Australia's research program will continue to demonstrate to the world that Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling has been superseded by more modern methods, like that led by the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, allowing future generations to enjoy living whales as much as we do.''