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Sperm Whales are now protected in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Papua New Guinea.
Photo: Chris Johnson

May 6, 2002
A Win for Whales - The Establishment of a Whale Sanctuary in PNG
  Real Audio

Log Transcript

Genevieve Johnson

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the R.V. Odyssey as we continue our research offshore in what used to be referred to as the New Holland 'whaling grounds' - 300 miles west of Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Despite massive global opposition, it is highly probable that commercial whaling is about to resume. The battle to save the remaining 'Great' whales of the world is far from over, in almost every respect the fight is being lost.

We were with whales late yesterday afternoon when we received news that lifted our hearts and hopes in a way few of us have experienced in our lifetimes.

The Ocean Alliance is pleased to report that the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea the Rt Hon Sir Mekere Morauta has designated the Exclusive Economic Zone of Papua New Guinea as a Marine Mammal Sanctuary. In making this announcement, Prime Minister Morauta said:

"My Government certainly appreciates the valuable research work being undertaken by the National Museum, together with various international...conservation organizations, such as Ocean Alliance."

The first ever Marine Mammal Forum took place in PNG in July 2001. It was hosted by the Ocean Alliance, PNG National Museum and Art Gallery and the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Frank Bonaccorso, Chief Curator of the Papua New Guinea Museum and Art Gallery said:

"Everything that is happening with regard to a Papua New Guinea whale sanctuary and conservation of cetaceans in this region is directly stemming from the 'Voyage of the Odyssey' (a research program of Ocean Alliance) in Papua New Guinea waters, and the great enthusiasm and work put in by the Ocean Alliance, and the time you have spent working on conservation policy in Port Moresby and from far a-field (or at sea.)"

The R.V. Odyssey began researching in Papua New Guinea in February of 2001. We spent six months surveying the surrounding waters, during which time we had more than 350 visual and acoustic sperm whale detections, together with 84 sightings of 15 other species of marine mammals. Working with the PNG National Museum, the World Wildlife Fund and the U.S. Embassy, Ocean Alliance ran the first ever Marine Mammal Forum in Papua New Guinea. During the first two-day meeting, the groundwork was laid by the Papua New Guinean participants to establish their own marine sanctuary.

Far from joining with Japan to approve her outrageous position in the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is pushing to resume the commercial hunt for whales, Papua New Guinea has decided to announce the creation of a whale sanctuary extending throughout her Exclusive Economic Zone basically her 200 mile limit, this is a huge area.

Genevieve Johnson give kids a tour of the Odyssey in Madang, PNG. The crew were able to share the scientific findings with local communties and schools when the Odyssey was in various ports.
Photo: Chris Johnson

As the world's anti-whaling nations, tentatively await the outcome of this years IWC meeting to be held in Japan at the end of this month, we can take hope in the fact that the incentives being offered to smaller nations around the world in exchange for their support of Japan's position in the IWC has in this instance been soundly rejected.

By showing the world that they value their natural marine heritage and want to preserve it for generations to come, countries like Papua New Guinea are setting the precedent. If we act now, it is still possible to save the world's remaining whale populations and places such as the New Holland 'whaling grounds' will remain terms we only refer to when describing the actions of the past.

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Log by Genevieve Johnson

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