PAPUA NEW GUINEA PUSHES LAW TO PROTECT WHALES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 18, 2002 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Whales will soon become protected species in Papua New Guinea waters, with legislation being fast tracked.

Environment and Conservation Minister Sasa Zibe has directed his department to urgently work on draft legislation and a submission to the National Executive Council.

He said the government fully supported all initiatives and programs by state agencies and non-government organizations to protect whales in Papua New Guinea waters.

Mr. Zibe commended the initiative by the National Fisheries Authority to collect information about whales in Papua New Guinea.

Currently, 60 fisheries officers are assigned to fishing vessels operating in PNG’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone as observers.

The officers collect data, which is shared with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the University of Papua New Guinea biology department.

The data includes frequency of appearance of whales, their movements and the routes of the highly migratory mammals.

Since the declaration of Papua New Guinea waters as a whale sanctuary by former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta in May, the movement has gained momentum. It has received overwhelming support from many sectors of the community -- with the exception of tuna fishing industry.

The declaration is in line with Papua New Guinea's commitment to support a regional South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

Australia and New Zealand have been encouraging Pacific Islands nations to declare their waters whale sanctuaries.

Environmentalists are in turn encouraging the development of a whale watching industries for local and foreign tourists.

In such countries as Australia, New Zealand and Tonga, whale watching has become a significant tourist activity, bringing in considerable income for local communities.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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