INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cooperation the Key to Saving Blue Whales

Published: Tue 20 Aug 2002 10:16 AM
Cooperation the Key to Saving Blue Whales
As the largest animals in the world begin to leave Australian waters on their annual migration, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced a new initiative to protect blue whales.
“A recovery plan including measures to help provide blue whales with safe sanctuary in Australian waters will be in place in time for their return migration at the end of the year,” Dr Kemp said.
In recognition of its listing under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Commonwealth has prepared a draft recovery plan for the blue whale. After extensive public consultation, the draft is now in its final stage and has been sent to state environment ministers for their views.
"It was a rare and fantastic event when a blue whale was sighted within one kilometre of the coast just off Sydney heads by Geoff Ross of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service late last month. International marine mammal experts have now confirmed the sighting. When the plan is finalised and in place, we can hope to see more blue whales calling Australia home during their annual migration,” Dr Kemp said.
“This draft plan identifies the actions we need to take to promote the recovery of blue whale numbers in Australian waters. Specific measures included in the draft plan involve finding new ways to protect critical habitat, research to better track and understand whale populations as well as projects to get the community involved.
“The recovery plan will complement the comprehensive system of protection we have put in place for whales more generally in Australian waters. Research can only be undertaken under Commonwealth permit conditions and all actions that may have a significant impact on the species, such as oil and gas explorations, must be referred to me for approval.”
Since 1999, the Howard Government, through the Natural Heritage Trust, has provided over $180,000 to help scientists identify the migratory routes and unravel other mysteries of the ecology of the blue whale.
Often measuring more than 30 metres and weighing up to 180 tonnes, around a quarter of a million blue whales may once have been found in Australia’ southern oceans. However, whaling decimated the species and today in southern oceans they can only be counted in their hundreds.
“The impact of whalers on this species was a tragedy. While we cannot change the past, we can address the present threats, and act now to minimise our impact on the species in the future,” Dr Kemp said
“Cooperation with all governments and sectors of the community is the key to helping whale numbers recover from the days of commercial whaling.”
For further information on blue whales or to view the Draft Recovery Plan for Blue Whales in Australian Waters, please visit the Environment Australia website at:
http://www.ea.gov.au/coasts/species/projects/complete/whales/index.html

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