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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (April 17, 2001 – Radio Australia)---New Zealand Conservation minister Sandra Lee has attacked Japan for what she called over estimating whale numbers as justification for continued scientific whaling.

At the same time, Lee defended the rights of indigenous people to a whale quota.

She made the comments prior to the start of a regional conference this week in Apia, Samoa aimed at winning Pacific Islands nations’ support for a proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary.

The sanctuary would stretch 4,400,000 square miles over a region inhabited by six whale species.

Ms. Lee said several South Pacific whale species are severely depleted, with blue fin whales at less than five percent of their 1900 numbers and humpbacks and southern right whales probably at about 10 percent.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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