From: Associated Press
Published October 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Australia Uses New Methods To Protect Whales

SYDNEY — Fierce whale-hunting opponent Australia said on Friday it was expanding the use of satellite and DNA technology to track and research whales as it seeks to overturn the killing of whales for scientific purposes.

Government scientists said the new methods, which use a crossbow and floating dart to tag whales and take a small skin sample, would allow scientists to study stock distribution, the biology and age of whales without killing them.

"Experience has shown that it is not necessary to kill whales to learn about them and this whale tagging programme is an important part of our non-lethal research programme," Environment Minister Ian Campbell said.

Divisions between pro- and anti-whaling countries over the issue of scientific research have deepened in recent years.

Countries are able to hunt whales for scientific purposes under a loophole in the founding constitution of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).


Australia led a narrow defeat at the IWC's annual meeting in June of Japanese-backed proposals to extend whaling limits, but the issue will again be high on the agenda at the commission's next meeting in the Caribbean in 2006.

Campbell has said Australia's long-term goal is to close the loophole in the IWC constitution.


Campbell said a preliminary programme on humpback and blue whales around Australia, using tags fired remotely from small boats into the whale's blubber, had been very encouraging.

At the moment the tracking tags last for up to two months but scientists are working to make sure they stay on for longer.

Scientists can also take a small skin sample that can be used to determine the age, breeding cycle and diet of the whale.

The Australian government has so far invested about A$3 million ($2.3 million) in the programme, Campbell said.

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the announcement but said the government had to address climate change if it was serious about saving whale populations.

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Adam Shore said environmental change was threatening the diet of the whales due to rising carbon dioxide and acid levels in Antarctic waters.

Source: Associated Press

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