Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke leaves today for the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in the Republic of Panama.

“Australia’s strong representation at the Commission’s annual meetings is part of the Government’s continued push for total compliance with the global moratorium on commercial whaling,” Mr Burke said.

“Australia has been working with other pro-conservation member countries in the lead-up to the 2012 meeting to advance agreed conservation and science initiatives, and to progress a number of significant governance reforms.

“Our priorities at the 2012 meeting include making progress on Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal, and a range of governance reform matters.

Australia will also continue its close engagement in the work of the Commission to progress agreed conservation and science initiatives, particularly the Australian-initiated and IWC-endorsed non-lethal Southern Ocean Research Partnership. Early in 2013, Australia will be undertaking a major Antarctic blue whale research expedition as part of the partnership.

“I will reiterate Australia’s firm position on whaling — we oppose all forms of commercial whaling, including so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Mr Burke said.

“In particular, Japan’s program of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling is contrary to its international obligations and should stop — this is why we commenced proceedings in the International Court of Justice against Japan.”

Australia is fully committed to its legal case before the court as the appropriate means of bringing a permanent end to Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling. That is now the appropriate forum for that dispute.

“My attendance at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission demonstrates that Australia will remain closely engaged on the many other issues before the commission in an effort to drive real pro‑conservation and governance reform.”

The commission’s annual meeting and the associated meetings of its scientific committee and other sub-groups takes place in Panama City from 11 June to 6 July 2012.