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South Pacific States to Sign Whale, Dolphin Conservation Agreement; 'There is High-level Support'

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A Memorandum of Understanding on the protection of whales and dolphins in the South Pacific is expected to be signed tomorrow by up to 11 Pacific Island nations, New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said today.

The memorandum has been developed under the Convention on Migratory Species, and is due to be formally adopted at a Ministerial meeting of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Noumea, attended by New Zealand's Associate Minister of Conservation Mahara Okeroa.

"There is a high level of support among Pacific people for conserving whales and dolphins. A growing number of Pacific nations are also declaring whale sanctuaries in their waters, most recently Vanuatu," Chris Carter said.

"Until now the primary international forum for discussing whale conservation has been the International Whaling Commission, which is widely regarded in the Pacific as outdated, deadlocked and expensive for poorer countries to join and attend.

"This memorandum under the Convention on Migratory Species provides a new, more attractive and affordable alternative to the IWC for Pacific countries interested pursuing whale conservation. A significant feature is that non-government organisations can also join, providing a united voice on whale conservation issues," Mr Carter said.

"I want to thank Samoa and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme for their efforts in developing this framework. New Zealand will be among the first South Pacific nations to put their name to it."

The memorandum commits signatories to a whole range of initiatives to protect and preserve whales and dolphins, such as threat reduction measures and habitat protection. It comes into effect with four signatories, and up to 11 nations are expected to sign tomorrow.

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