The International Whaling Commission has endorsed a five-year non-lethal whale research proposal for the Australian-led Southern Ocean Research Partnership.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said this is a major success for Australia and a ground-breaking agreement from the IWC that will direct future non-lethal research activities.

“The Southern Ocean Research Partnership is the first truly international, multidisciplinary research collaboration with a focus on improving the conservation of whales,” Mr Garrett said.

“So-called ‘scientific’ whaling adds nothing to our knowledge of whales that cannot be obtained from non-lethal means. We do not need to kill whales to learn about them.

“The Southern Ocean Research Partnership will lead by example, and through the collective efforts of the many partnership countries that will research whales all around Antarctica we will demonstrate a new way of providing the priority research results needed by the IWC.”

Non-lethal whale research techniques include visual surveys to assess abundance and distribution; satellite tracking to gather information on migration routes and feeding patterns; and biopsy sampling for genetic analysis and information on feeding ecology, nutritional condition and reproductive status.

The Southern Ocean Research Partnership forms part of the Australian Government’s $32.5 million commitment to national and international non-lethal research and conservation initiatives for whales.

“Today, Australia and other IWC members have made significant progress in reshaping the IWC to become a science and conservation-focused organisation, and the Southern Ocean Research Partnership is the key scientific program to achieve this.

“Our non-lethal research partnership, along with our other conservation-focused initiatives, will demonstrate a real alternative to the way the IWC has functioned in the past.

“I look forward to the results of this research, and invite all member countries to participate and shape future research activities,” Mr Garrett said.