Australia has reiterated its position to oppose any introduction of a Revised Management Scheme (RMS) for whaling, at a meeting of the RMS Working Group of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Copenhagen.

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell has sent a clear message that Australia will continue to fight any move that would allow a return to full scale whaling.

“There is no place for a return to the bad old days,” Senator Campbell said.

“The continued exploitation of the so-called scientific whaling loophole in the whaling convention is an outrage. Australia will continue to call for the removal of this loophole.

“The killing of hundreds of minke whales in the Southern Ocean through so-called scientific whaling is of great concern given that the IWC’s scientific committee has no agreed abundance estimate for the species.

“The important information we need on whales in this region are estimates of how many whales there are and how these populations are distributed. All this information is best collected non-lethally from surveys and biopsy samples.

Senator Campbell dismissed new claims this week by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research regarding changes in whale populations.

“There are no agreed estimates on the abundance of fin whales or minke whales and claims by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research concerning major shifts in whale populations are not supported by the IWC Scientific Committee,” he said.

During the last year, Japan took more than 800 whales from across the world’s oceans, including more than 500 minke whales, some 50 Brydes, 50 sei and 10 sperm whales.

“I hold grave fears that a new and increased whaling program will commence in the Southern Ocean next year. Australia will continue to make representations to IWC members seeking a halt to lethal whaling programs,” Senator Campbell said.

A Revised Management Scheme proposal — under which commercial whaling could be reintroduced — is being developed for consideration and possible adoption by the IWC when it meets in Ulsan, Korea in June this year.

“Adoption of the RMS could pave the way for the lifting of the current moratorium on commercial whaling and a return to full-scale whaling under the management of the IWC in addition to scientific whaling.

“For the RMS to be adopted there needs to be agreement of three quarters of IWC members. We need to ensure conservation minded members continue to hold the line against the return to commercial whaling.”

Senator Campbell said he would hold discussions with like-minded New Zealand on the issues. He will also be holding meetings in Washington later in April and continue to lobby other nations, seeking support for Australia’s position.

“Australia remains convinced that the best precautionary mechanism to ensure the recovery of whale populations is the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

“Australia is participating in the discussions of the RMS to ensure that those who would introduce an RMS are aware of world’s best practice for all the elements of the RMS package.

“To date we have not seen anything to indicate that current proposals for the RMS meet that mark.”