I am pleased to present this opening statement to the 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission, on behalf of the Australian Government.
I would like to thank the Government of Brazil for their generous hosting of this Commission meeting. I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of Dr Morishita over the past two years as Chair of the Commission.
Ministers, Chair, Commissioners, Executive Secretary and distinguished delegates: over the coming days, the Commission will consider a range of important issues, including aboriginal subsistence whaling, governance reform, special permit programs, and a proposal to establish the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
These are all important issues for Australia. They showcase the depth and importance of work undertaken by the Commission, on both the conservation of cetaceans and the management of whaling, and I trust the Commission will achieve good outcomes on all of them.
Australia looks forward to working constructively with other Commission members on all of the issues on our agenda, but particularly to agree a pathway for governance reform, and to help facilitate an informed debate within the Commission on special permit programs.
The Commission will also consider a proposal from the Government of Japan regarding the global moratorium on commercial whaling and the Commission’s decision-making processes.
Australia will of course engage constructively with Japan on their concerns at this meeting and beyond, however, Australia cannot support Japan’s proposal.
Australia’s long-held opposition to commercial whaling is well known, and the Australian people would not tolerate an Australian government supporting any proposal that would see a return of industrial, high seas whaling.
The world has changed dramatically over the 70 years since the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was first agreed.
People across the world now recognise the link between healthy whale populations and healthy oceans, and the many benefits from sustainable whale watching and other eco-tourism activities.
I understand that there are views that the Commission is not working in all parties’ interests and requires reform. Australia believes that the Commission’s fair and transparent voting and decision making rules are working well and enable the Commission to successfully manage a range of complex issues.
The Commission has delivered major contributions to cetacean science, the management of Aboriginal and Subsistence Whaling, and conservation. Australia believes the Commission’s current structure is well placed to continue to do so.
The Commission must be supported to continue to deliver its mandate, recognising the changing nature of the world in which we live and the range of new and emerging threats whale populations face in the 21st century.
As the only global body responsible for the conservation and management of whales, the Commission’s focus prior to the global moratorium was solely the regulation of whaling, recognising that at that time whaling itself was the only major threat faced by whale populations.
New pressures, such as climate change, ship strike, marine debris, and bycatch are additional threats to the recovery and survival of whale populations.
It is in this context that Australia cannot support any move to resume the practice of commercial whaling.
Australia believes that the global moratorium on commercial whaling is as important today as it has ever been, and we will continue to strongly advocate for it.
While Australia continues to support the traditional hunting rights of indigenous people, industrial and commercial whaling is a thing of the past. The Commission’s focus on the needs of indigenous hunting demonstrates that the Commission understands and is responding to the complexity of whaling issues more generally.
Equally, we support the Commission’s decision-making processes believing they are appropriate, fit for purpose, and relevant.
Finally I would like to acknowledge the work of the Commission in delivering the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
The volume of new scientific information being generated, and the new non-lethal research technologies being developed by the partnership, is commendable and much needed.
Australia has developed a pamphlet showcasing some of this important work, which you would have found on your chairs this morning.
In closing, Mr Chair:
Australia strongly supports the continuation of the global moratorium on commercial whaling.
While continuing to support the needs of indigenous hunting communities, we will remain steadfast in our work towards a permanent end to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling.
We will continue to promote non-lethal research.
We are commited to the preservation, protection and recovery of the world’s whales and other cetaceans.
We look forward to working constructively with all members of the Commission at this meeting.
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