Environment Minister Peter Garrett today said he was very pleased that Sydney was this week hosting the world’s first international workshop on non-lethal whale research.

Mr Garrett said Australia was taking the lead to better manage the whales of the Southern Ocean and in the process, show the world that scientific research on whales could be done without resorting to lethal measures.

“This is about building the world’s most comprehensive whale research partnership with countries interested in developing an agreed scientific approach to research — one that doesn’t involve killing whales,” Mr Garrett said.

“This week, 13 nations with a common interest in the Southern Ocean will work with scientists and specialists on an agreed approach to take us to a future where conservation of whales is the focus of science.

“This is an opportunity for us all to examine current Southern Ocean research efforts, discuss research priorities, identify knowledge gaps, and map out how to build a scientific research program based on non-lethal methods.

“By the end of the week, we hope to have a draft five-year plan to present at the International Whaling Commission when it next meets in Portugal this June.

“Ultimately, we want the IWC to become more science and conservation-focused and we believe the Southern Ocean Research Partnership is the best way to achieve this. This first workshop builds on the comprehensive reform agenda for the Commission that we are continuing to advance and which continues to receive good support from other nations, including most recently at the Rome intersessional.”

The Australian Government has committed more than $14 million to create and fund the Southern Ocean Research Partnership from $32 million in funds directed at non-lethal whale and cetacean research.

Countries participating in this week’s workshop are Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa and the USA.

The workshop is being held at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour.