Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today welcomed the news that countries in the South Pacific region had agreed to provide better protection for whales and dolphins.

This accompanied the announcement that Samoa would sign onto the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) late last week in order to do so.

“In 2002 the Australian Government successfully listed six great whale species under the Convention for Migratory Species. These latest developments will see countries in the region come together under this convention to restore whale and dolphin numbers ,” Dr Kemp said.

“It was agreed that a Memorandum of Understanding be prepared to identify key actions to restore populations of threatened marine mammals. This will involve developing whale watching guidelines, establishing a regional whale protection zone, developing non-lethal research programs as well as by-catch mitigation strategies.

“In recent years, there have been great advances in whale and dolphin protection by individual countries, such as national whale sanctuaries. And at the global level, Australia has tabled the proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary under the International Whaling Commission.

“It was especially pleasing that, during the course of the meeting, the Government of Samoa announced that it would join the CMS. Samoa will become the first Pacific Island country to join this global Convention, and its decision is most welcome.”

Australia initiated these discussions by successfully proposing, in late 2003, the addition of seven more marine mammal species of conservation concern to the CMS. Australia and New Zealand jointly funded the first regional workshop on this, held in March 2003.

“This is timely as next week Australia will celebrate 25 years of championing the protection of whales and dolphins. I am delighted to see that so many of our neighbours agree that we should also work together to protect whales and dolphins that depend on the South Pacific Ocean,” Dr Kemp said.

Dr Kemp will address a commemorative reception to mark 25 years of whale protection in Australia, at 12pm on 30 March 2004, in the Mural Hall at Parliament House.

Dr Kemp was commenting on the recent Second Workshop on the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and Marine Mammal Conservation in the South Pacific, held at the headquarters of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Apia, Independent Samoa, 17–19 March.