Communiqué Issued to the Press by the International Whaling Conference, London, June 8, 1937

The International Conference on the Whaling Industry concluded its business this morning with the signature of an Agreement for the regulation of Whaling in all waters.9

The Agreement was signed by the accredited representatives of the Governments of the Union of South Africa, United States of America, the Argentine Republic, the Commonwealth of Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Irish Free State, New Zealand and Norway.

The following Governments were also represented at the Conference by Observers, viz:—Canada, and Portugal, and there is good reason to hope that they will shortly accede to the Agreement. It is hoped also to secure the adhesion of other Governments who did not take part in the conference but have whaling interests to preserve.

The Agreement is to come into force on the 1st July, next, but is subject to ratification. Subject to this the Agreement will be in full force until June 30th, 1938, and provision is made for its continuance thereafter subject to the provision that any Government may withdraw from it on giving six months notice to terminate on the following thirtieth of June.

The Agreement follows, on the whole, familiar lines. There will be a close season for what is known as pelagic whaling, that is whaling [Page 926] prosecuted by whale catching ships attached to floating factories, for nine months of the year, except in the first year of its operation, when the open season will be extended by one week at the end of the season.

North of 40° South Latitude as far as the Equator pelagic whaling for baleen whales is absolutely prohibited and this prohibition is extended to wide areas north of the Equator. For instance, pelagic whaling by ships of the contracting Governments is prohibited North of the Equator in the whole of the Atlantic Ocean, Davis Strait, Baffin Bay and the Greenland Sea, in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean south of 35° North Latitude east of 150° West Longitude and south of 20° North Latitude west of that Longitude.

Certain species of whales—the various Right Whales and the Grey Whale—are protected absolutely as are all whale calves and female whales attended by calves.

It is also forbidden to kill whales below certain size limits, the size limits being raised above those which have been prescribed by agreement between the United Kingdom and Norway in the past. Under the Agreement it will not be lawful to take blue whales of less than 70 ft. in length, fin whales of less than 55 ft., humpback whales of less than 35 ft., and sperm whales of less than 35 feet. The extension of this form of protection to the sperm whale, which has not hitherto received any protection is one of the novelties of the Agreement.

Whaling at land stations is to be subject to a six months close season. The dates of the beginning and ending of the close season will vary according to the latitude of the station. The extended period of liberty to hunt whales from land stations is justified by the fact that their operations are limited by the fact that they can only take such whales as come into their vicinity, whereas the factory ships can follow the schools of whales wherever they may be.

The agreement is accompanied by a final act in which the Conference discusses various matters not dealt with in the Agreement and recommends to the Governments that they should prepare to take in agreement with one another other measures for the further protection of whales in the light of further experience and knowledge. An important suggestion among others is that the Governments should take powers to regulate the methods of shooting whales with a view to preventing the loss of whales fatally wounded through the use of defective guns or harpoons or other causes and at the same time mitigating the cruelty which admittedly attends this process.

The Conference further points out that the measures they have agreed upon may prove nugatory if the ships of countries not parties to the Agreement are permitted to indulge in unregulated whaling [Page 927] and urges the importance of persuading all interested Governments to accede to the Agreement. It concludes with a warning that unless whaling is now strictly regulated, the stock of whales cannot fail to be reduced to a level at which whaling ceases to be remunerative.

  1. For text of the Agreement signed June 8, 1937, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 933, or 52 Stat. 1460.