Australia and New Zealand today announced the first Antarctic whale research expedition as part of the Southern Ocean Research Partnership.
New Zealands Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, and Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the expedition would strengthen the two countries’ close relationship, and their commitment to non-lethal scientific research, ahead of next week’s International Whaling Commission meeting in Madeira.
The expedition will involve six weeks of research in early 2010 aboard the New Zealand vessel R/V Tangaroa in Antarctic waters south of Australia and New Zealand.
“This expedition supports our joint position that non-lethal whale research can provide all the information needed to understand and conserve whales and so called ‘scientific whaling’ is unnecessary,” Mr Garrett said
“New Zealand strongly supports rigorous science to underpin whale management, and the RV Tangaroa’s voyage will provide an ideal opportunity to obtain high-quality data in the Southern Ocean,” Mr McCully said
The research jointly undertaken by Australia and New Zealand scientists will improve the understanding of the population structure, abundance, trends, distribution, and ecological role of whales in the Southern Ocean.
The expedition will use state of the art non-lethal research techniques such as biopsy sampling, satellite tracking and acoustic and hydrographic surveys.
“The Southern Ocean Research Partnership is the largest international, multidisciplinary research collaboration with a focus on improving the conservation of whales,” Mr Garrett said.
“This expedition and the ongoing research program will demonstrate to the world that we do not need to kill whales to study and understand them.”
The Ministers said Australia and New Zealand were seeking to reform the management of science within the IWC, including an end to so-called ‘scientific whaling’, and the development of internationally agreed, cooperative conservation management plans.
“By working together, both our nations can strengthen the international commitment to whale conservation,” Mr Smith said.