The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today expressed concern that the push for the resumption of commercial whaling was gathering momentum, following the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Italy.

“Just when the world was beginning to think of commercial whaling as a thing of the past, support within the IWC seems to be gathering strength to push for a resumption of the very practice that drove whales to the brink of extinction,” Senator Campbell said.

“To revive such a disastrous industry would be extremely short-sighted.

“Make no mistake: the push to resume commercial whaling is gathering momentum.

“Norway tabled a proposal to this year’s meeting to manipulate science in order to justify more than doubling its unilateral commercial whaling quota of minke whales and Japan submitted a bid to have the IWC grant commercial quotas for a total of over 3150 whales.

“Thankfully, the IWC soundly rejected Japan’s and Norway’s ambit claims.

“The IWC maintained the moratorium on commercial whaling and kept the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in place.”

Senator Campbell said that as well as strongly criticising commercial and scientific whaling, the Australian delegation argued against any decision to hold more meetings behind closed doors to develop a new framework under which commercial whaling could be reintroduced.

“The IWC must conduct its business in the eyes of the world, not by meeting in secret as some of its members have in the lead-up to this year’s meeting,” he said.

“Australia for one will not bow to pressure from whaling nations. We have no intention of compromising our policy of pursuing a permanent international ban on commercial whaling.”

Senator Campbell said that the newly escalated push to resume commercial whaling contrasted with the positive conservation-oriented outcomes of the meeting.

“It is excellent news that the IWC accepted the recommendations of the inaugural meeting of its Conservation Committee, which set a comprehensive agenda for dealing with the conservation of whales in that forum,” he said.

“The vote in favour of the joint Australian-New Zealand proposal to create a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary increased this year, although it still fell short of the required three-quarter majority.

“All delegates to the meeting were also provided with a copy of the recent report on the growth of the whale watching industry in Australia. This makes it abundantly clear that there is a sustainable, profitable alternative to whaling.”

The four day meeting in Sorrento ended overnight.