Environment Minister Tony Burke is leading Australia’s delegation to the 63rd annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Jersey, United Kingdom.

Mr Burke said the meeting represented an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate its commitment to significant conservation reforms for the protection of whales.

“Australia has demonstrated its commitment to playing a key leading role in improving the global conservation of whales,” Mr Burke said.

“This year we are seeing large numbers of migrating whales which are providing Australians and visitors to our nation with a unique opportunity to observe these majestic animals.

“Good progress is being made towards improving the global conservation of whales, however commercial whaling remains a key threat.

“This IWC is an opportunity for Australia to once again show the world our commitment to doing what it takes to protect whales and how we are leading the way in this important cause.”

Key items for discussion at the 63rd International Whaling Commission include:

  • The development of conservation management plans for some of the world’s most threatened whale populations;
  • Advancing the Australian initiated and IWC-endorsed non-lethal Southern Ocean Research Program;
  • Developing a five-year strategic plan for whale watching; and
  • Taking important steps to address governance gaps that exist within the IWC through a review of procedures to ensure transparency and enhance accountability.

This year’s IWC is the first since Australia officially filed its submission in the Whaling Case against Japan at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“The Federal Government is resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial whaling, including commercial whaling conducted under the guise of science,” Mr Burke said.

“That’s why we initiated legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice in May last year and officially filed our submission earlier this year.

“The decision to take legal action demonstrates the Government’s commitment to do what it takes to end whaling.

“In addition, Australia is working with the international community at the IWC to help conserve the world’s whale populations.

“The International Whaling Commission provides an opportunity for the international community to continue advance important whale conservation initiatives.”

Despite Australia repeatedly calling on Japan to cease its illegal whaling activities, Japan has refused to do so. That is why the Australian Government has taken this case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The decision to commence proceedings in May 2010 was not taken lightly. The Government disagrees with Japan’s decision to continue whaling and this is the proper way to settle legal differences between friends.

The Government believes the whaling carried out by Japan is commercial, not scientific, and does not fall within that narrow exception.

The Memorial will remain confidential until its public release is ordered by the Court, which is likely to be at the first oral hearing of the case. Japan must file its Counter-Memorial by 9 March 2012.

In March, the ICJ accepted the nomination of Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM as Australia’s ad hoc judge in the Case.