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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (February 6, 2001 – The Dominion/PINA Nius Online)---Support for the establishment of a South Pacific whale sanctuary is being sought this week at an International Whaling Commission working group meeting in Monaco, The Dominion newspaper reported today.

The idea, favored by Australia, New Zealand and the United States, fell short of mustering the required 75 percent support at the 40-nation International Whaling Commission meeting last year, The Dominion reported.

The proposed whale sanctuary would stretch 12 million square kilometers (4,800,000 square miles) across the South Pacific, The Dominion said. The region is inhabited by more than half a dozen whale species including the sperm, humpback and southern right whales.

On the Monaco meeting, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministry environment division deputy director Wilbur Dovey said: "The Australian and New Zealand delegations thought it would be a good opportunity with people from national members of the IWC being present, to present an informational seminar on the South Pacific whale sanctuary."

If the proposal gains approval, about half the world's oceans would be off-limits to whaling, though the commission's bans are not binding and apply only to member nations.

The seminar would present arguments in favor of the sanctuary "because there's been a lot of misinformation spread about it from various sources," Mr. Dovey said.

But the delegation, consisting of four New Zealanders, is unlikely to leave the meeting knowing whether they have the numbers to get the idea passed at the next IWC annual meeting in July.

Mr. Dovey told The Dominion: "It's simply presenting an argument – not canvassing people. We don't know how many people will come. We don't know who will come."

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