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Brazil Declares Whale Sanctuary Along Entire Coast

BRASILIA, Brazil, December 18, 2008 (ENS) – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva today signed a federal decree establishing the Brazilian Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary, reinforcing protection for all cetacean species in Brazilian jurisdictional waters. Brazilian waters stretch along the nation’s 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile) long coastline on the east and northeast coast of South America.

According to Brazilian Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission José Truda Palazzo, Jr., “the initiative sends a clear and powerful message to the international community in relation to Brazil’s commitment towards whale conservation, and also reinforces our campaign for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary to be established in the entire oceanic basin.”

In September, Chile enacted a law declaring Chilean jurisdictional waters to be a whale sanctuary, protecting the cetaceans all along its 5,500 km (3,400 mile) long shoreline on the west coast of South America


Humpback whales off the coast of Brazil at Praia do
forte, Bahia state (Photo by Nigel Addecott)

Currently, the International Whaling Commission is attempting to settle a years-long dispute between whaling and non-whaling countries which encompasses issues such as coastal quotas for traditional communities, the scientific whaling loophole, and the establishment of sanctuaries.

Together with other Latin American countries which make up the so-called Buenos Aires Group, Brazil is engaged in the negotiation to ensure that whalewatching is recognized as a legitimate whale management option and that large areas are set aside exclusively for this type of non-lethal use.

Palazzo says the Brazilian Whale Sanctuary decree also provides for the promotion of non-lethal uses and for cooperation with neighboring countries to develop regional initiatives for the conservation of cetaceans.

As part of its agreed process to arrive at a consensus solution to the main issues faced by the International Whaling Commission to enable it to best fulfil its role with respect to the conservation of whale stocks and the management of whaling, a second meeting of the Small Working Group on the Future of IWC was convened earlier this month.

The meeting took place in Cambridge, UK from December 8-10 and was again chaired by Ambassador Alvaro de Soto of Peru, an under-secretary general of the United Nations until 2007.


Humpback whale mother and calf off the coast of
Brazil at Praia do forte, Bahia state (Photo by
Nigel Addecott)

The first Small Working Group meeting was held in Florida in September, also chaired by de Soto.

The process, agreed by the IWC by consensus at its annual meeting in Santiago, Chile in June, is made up of two components – one or more small, non-decision-making meetings of the Small Working Group held without observers being present to allow the free exploration of ideas; and full meetings of the commission which are open to observers.

The Small Working Group will report to an intersessional meeting of the commission, which will be open to observers, scheduled to take place in Rome from March 9-11, 2009. The Small Working Group report will be available in February.

The earliest formal decisions can be taken on the IWC’s future will be at the Annual Meeting in Madeira, Portugal in June 2009, which will be open to observers and the media.

“I was delighted with the discussions we had at this meeting,” said the IWC Chair Dr. Bill Hogarth of the United States. “As I’ve said before, this is a vital process for the future of whale conservation and the management of human activities that can affect their status. All IWC members want healthy whale stocks, whatever disagreements may exist on how they should be used.”

At IWC meetings over the past five years, South American countries including Brazil have repeatedly failed in their bids to establish a whale sanctuary in the southern Atlantic Ocean from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa.

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