Australia and the pro-conservation coalition have won an important fight in the battle to protect whales at an international meeting over the weekend, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

Speaking at the 58th International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, Senator Campbell said that Australia and its pro-conservation coalition had won a great victory for whale conservation at the meeting, defeating plans by whaling nations to take control of the IWC and move closer to a return to commercial whaling.

Australia and its pro-conservation coalition won all the substantive proposals at the meeting, defeating pro-whaling efforts to:

  • remove from the agenda discussion relating to small whales, dolphins and porpoises.
  • run secret ballots and make voting non-transparent;
  • increase whaling through proposed commercial ‘coastal’ whaling; and
  • abolish the current Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Furthermore, the resolution condemning so-called ‘scientific’ whaling we put forward at last year’s IWC meeting was successfully defended. “The votes we have won at this meeting are a significant achievement for whales and whale protection,” Senator Campbell said.

“There was always a real possibility that the IWC could fall into the hands of the whalers for the first time since the moratorium came into effect 20 years ago — but we once again stopped this from happening,” he said.

However, Senator Campbell warned the IWC remains finely balanced between those who want to resume industrial whaling and those who want to protect whales and he said this year’s meeting was no different.

“This year we have kept the balance in favour of whale protection, however, the passage of a non-binding declaration by pro-whaling nations at today’s meeting, though toothless, is a wake-up call to the world,” Senator Campbell said.

“This declaration by the pro-whaling nations is non-binding, proposes no action and will have no effect.

“It is simply a toothless statement of frustration at the pro-conservation coalition’s continuing success.

“I am obviously thrilled that our hard work over the past years has paid off but there is still more work to do to ensure that the kind of whaling that is taking place by countries like Japan, Iceland and Norway is not a part of our future.

“I have long said that whale protection is not a sprint — it is a marathon.

“We need to strengthen our resolve and vigour and we need more effort, more organisation and more resources to underpin our commitment to permanent global whale protection.

“Australia and the pro-conservation coalition will not give up the fight,” he said.