Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today marked the important silver jubilee of the end of commercial whaling in this country with a commemorative reception in Parliament House.
The Howard Government was also presented with a Gift to the Earth award for its commitment to whale protection and announced measures to boost the fight to stop the slaughter of whales under the guise of so-called “scientific whaling”.
It was almost 25 years ago to the day that the Fraser Government transformed Australia from a whaling nation to a nation dedicated to the protection of whales.
“On 4 April 1979, then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser took the historic step to stop commercial whaling in Australia and pursue a policy of whale protection,” Dr Kemp said.
“This decision marked a sea change in the attitudes of Australians towards whales and the very way we viewed the environment. Up until this time, commercial whaling was a key component of our economy and society. However, by the second half of the last century almost every species of whale had been hunted to the brink of extinction and with growing concern at the inherent cruelty of killing whales, the mood for a change in policy was clear.
“Today we celebrate that change in policy. Sadly, whales are far from safe as countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland continue the slaughter including under the guise of so called 'scientific whaling'. So today we also reaffirm our resolve to continue to fight commercial whaling whatever guise it may take.
“We believe that there is no humane way to kill a whale and the practice of killing whales is unnecessary and unjustifiable.”
Since coming to power, the Howard Government has also actively pursued whale sanctuaries and was today awarded a Gift to the Earth by the World Wide Fund for Nature for its efforts.
“To be awarded a Gift to the Earth is a great honour. It boosts our resolve at a critical time. This year at the International Whaling Commission, in addition to our proposal for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary going forward, we will need to defend the strong push by whaling nations to dismantle the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
“Today, I am also pleased to announce an extra $350,000 this year to develop a national approach to whale strandings and studies into the populations, ecology and behaviour of whales. In addition, we will be spending over $500,000 this year to support Australian scientists who are leading the charge with world first research exposing the lack of scientific justification behind international whaling programs.”
The 56th annual meeting of the IWC meets in Sorrento, Italy, 19–22 July 2004.