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Chilean President Proposes Whaling Ban, Whale Sanctuary
SANTIAGO, Chile, May 21, 2008 (ENS) - To a unanimous ovation of the Chilean Congress, President Michelle Bachelet today announced that she will send legislation to parliament banning all whaling activities in Chilean waters and creating a whale sanctuary.

During her annual state of the country address, President Bachelet said Chile will have this law in place before the International Whaling Commission, IWC, meeting to be held in Santiago in June.

President Bachelet also declared Chile's opposition to research whaling as conducted by Japan. "Chile will oppose any capture and death of whales with scientific purposes during the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission," she said.

Conservationists see the announcement as a public triumph on an issue that has strong support amongst the Chilean people.

Whale in the waters off Chilean Patagonia (Photo by Claudio Retamal)
Elsa Cabrera, executive director of Centro de Conservacion Cetacea, CCC, said, "President Bachelet sent a forceful message to the international community regarding the absolute support of the country for the nonlethal use of cetaceans and the total opposition to the whaling activities carried out by Japan in the Southern Ocean."

A working group will meet next week to review the final text of the law before sending it to parliament. According to the vice president of the Chilean Senate, Baldo Prokurica, the process will be conducted expeditiously.

Artisan fishers and NGOs celebrated the announcement as a triumph for the civil organizations and institutions that have promoted the whale sanctuary in Chile.

Sanctuary proponents, the conservation groups Centro de Conservación Cetacea, CCC, Centro Ecoceanos, and the National Confederation of Artisan Fishers, CONAPACH, said they appreciate the fact that President Bachelet is obeying the commitment she made to them last April during a formal meeting.

"Today, the president has ratified her commitment, giving priority to the only cetacean conservation proposal that covers all Chilean jurisdictional waters and has the support of all Chilean of society," the groups said in a joint statement. They said the move would become the president's greatest marine environmental legacy.

Cosme Caracciolo, executive director of CONAPACH, said, "A marine territory free of whaling is a whale sanctuary and that is why we agree with the presidential announcement."

Children form a heart around an inflatable whale in the center of Santiago. April 13, 2008 (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)

For centuries artisan fishers have shared the ocean with whales, said Caracciolo. "This why we support the decision to definitively ban whaling operations in Chile."

Juan Carlos Cardenas, executive director of Centro Ecoceanos, declared, "This is a citizen proposal that has major support and that has successfully united all sectors of the society. Today, President Bachelet has chosen this proposal. As a result, the Chilean public, the image of the country, our marine ecosystems and the people have succeeded."

Barbara Galletti, president of CCC, called the announcement "a public triumph on how, as an independent and sovereign country, we want to protect and use the cetacean populations that live in our waters."

The campaign "Chile 2008, a Whale Sanctuary," promoted by the three conservation groups, began in October 2007 with a presentation to the Environmental Commission of the Chilean Senate and has not stopped since.

On December 3, these organizations, joined by several senators and deputies, delivered a letter signed by nearly 100 national and international nongovernmental organizations, requesting that President Bachelet establish a whale sanctuary before the 60th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Chile coming up in June.

Subsequently, the Deputy Chamber of the Congress unanimously adopted an agreement to create the whale sanctuary, and the Chilean Navy also declared its support.

Finally, all major Chilean nongovernmental organizations publicly expressed their support for the sanctuary through an open letter published by the national newspaper "La Tercera" on March 31.

The public support necessary to validate the proposal came last April, when CCC presented the results of a nationwide survey commissioned by the Chilean survey agency ADIMARK-GFK, with the support of Global Ocean. The survey found that 99 percent of those polled wanted to ban whaling operations and that 97 percent of them support the establishment of the Chilean Whale Sanctuary.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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