Six Whale Species Protected Under Migratory Treaty

BONN, Germany, September 24, 2002 (ENS) - Six species of great whales are now listed for protection under an international treaty known as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Delegates from 80 nations that are Parties to the treaty wound up a week long conference here today by approving Australia's proposal to list the six whale species as well as the orca and the Ganges River dolphin.

The newly listed whale species are: the Antarctic minke, Bryde's (pronounced brew-dah's), fin, pygmy southern right, sei and sperm whales.


Sperm whales (Photo courtesy NOAA)
Last week, the Scientific Council for the CMS endorsed Australia's bid to list these species under the Convention and recommended that it be accepted by the the Parties.

Australian Environment Minister Dr. David Kemp says the listing will give Australia and other nations in the South Pacific an avenue to establish a regional whale protection zone in the South Pacific and undertake other conservation actions.

These actions could involve developing and implementing whale watching guidelines, developing non-lethal research programs, and developing and implementing by-catch mitigation strategies, Kemp said.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDSC) scientific director Mark Simmonds, who has been attending the Bonn meeting, said, "It is wonderful news that this major international conservation body has chosen to take such a clear stand to help conserve the world's whales and recognizes the full range of threats that these animals face - including climate change, chemical and noise pollution and bycatch."

"This sends a clear signal to the world community that whale conservation needs to be urgently addressed and that CMS, in addition to the International Whaling Commission and the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species, has an important role to play in this process," Simmonds said.


Norwegian delegate Olav Bakken Jensen (Photo courtesy ENB)
Olav Bakken Jensen with Norway's Ministry of Environment stated the objection of his whaling nation to listing whales for protection under the CMS treaty.

He acknowledged that none of the whale species proposed for listing by Australia are of interest to Norwegian whaling, but he stressed the lack of scientific knowledge and the need to avoid the duplication of efforts with other international fora, such as the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The Denmark delegate asked that a formal reservation to listing any whale species under the Convention be placed on record with regard to the Faeroe Islands.


Frances Verrier of Environment Australia (Photo courtesy ENB)
Australian delegate Frances Verrier, a marine species specialist with Environment Australia, explained that the great whales are not only threatened by whaling, but also by the increasing volume of debris, entanglement in fishing gear, chemical pollution, noise pollution from industrial and military activities, and collision with ships.

Conservationists were pleased that the Parties agreed to list the orca, commonly called killer whale, on its Appendix II - meaning that this species complex needs conservation action.

Niki Entrup of WDCS Germany said, "Many of populations of orca are known to be in serious trouble and in many other cases we just don't know. However, as apex predators, they are particularly vulnerable to bioaccumulation of organic pollutants and have some of the highest recorded contaminant burdens of any cetacean species."

The delegates departed from the protocol to allow the considerations of an urgent proposal from India to list the Ganges River dolphin on Appendix I, a proposal that was approved.

India, Nepal, Bangladesh and WDCS all stressed the urgency of including this species on the Appendix, highlighting the critical status, threats and probable extinction in the absence urgent action.

Margi Prideaux, WDCS Australia said, "The Ganges River dolphin is a critically endangered species and its addition to Appendix I is a very encouraging step made by this international body. These dolphins are threatened by habitat degradation, poaching and bycatch and coordination of conservation action by the range States is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of saving this species."