Australia’s first ever major national research centre focused on protecting and conserving whales and dolphins will be established by the Australian Government, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

The new Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science will build on existing knowledge and address critical gaps in understanding about the conservation of Australia’s 40 species of whales and dolphins, as well as our 10 species of seals and our dugongs.

“This Australian-first centre is a great boost for the conservation of our marine mammals,” Senator Campbell said.

“We have long held much of the world’s expertise in the protection of marine mammals and this centre will provide us with the wherewithal to bring that expertise together.”

Senator Campbell said funding of $2.5 million over four years would establish the centre as Australia’s first ever high profile, internationally competitive research hub on marine mammals.

“Having a dedicated facility will formalise and strengthen the links within Australia’s marine mammal research community, creating better communication and information sharing and helping to develop strong industry partnerships,” he said.

“The information it gathers will be critical for developing and implementing government policy and management decisions.

“The centre’s work will be especially important as we continue our efforts to convince pro-whaling nations of the benefits of non-lethal scientific research on whales.

“Non-lethal study techniques, the effect of noise on whales, improved methods to estimate population numbers and human interaction impacts are just some priorities for the new facility.”

Senator Campbell said the new centre would be based in Hobart at the Australian Antarctic Division of his Department and would be funded through the Australian Government’s $100 million Commonwealth Environment Research Facility (CERF) program.

CERF will encourage and assist collaborative research into priority issues, bringing institutions together to bridge knowledge gaps and contribute to the development of environmental policy.