The Consul General at Oslo (Beck) to the Secretary of State

No. 447

Sir: In conversations with Dr. Kellogg, Chairman of the American Delegation to the International Whaling Conference at London and Norwegian officials and business men interested in whaling, it has been learned that Germany has stored for future use from 150,000 to 200,000 tons of whale oil. Great Britain has 60,000 tons similarly stored. A vague statement in regard to this was announced to the British Parliament early in May of this year. If hardened and kept in proper condition whale oil can be kept for five years.

According to reliable sources of information in Oslo, as a result of conversations with the American delegation, it is understood that Germany is interested primarily in seeing that the existing agreement be prolonged unchanged, if possible, and that the adherence of as many additional countries be secured. They are of the opinion that the present agreement, if it has widespread adherence, will go far toward solving the question of maintaining an adequate stock of whales. Their position is that since they have no colonies this pelagic fishery [Page 954] is their only access to animal fats, which are used to a large extent in the manufacture of margarine and other products. The spokesman for the German delegation emphasized price and other factors that made it difficult for Germany to supply her needs with vegetable oils. They maintain that the whole question of whaling regulations should be based on biological factors and that those factors should be clearly established in advance of any additional restrictive regulations. They are sending—and have in the past—seven biologists on their floating factory ships; and, furthermore, their factory ships are utilizing the carcasses to a larger extent than other factory ships are today. The chief by-products they are obtaining are refrigerated meat, meal that is used as food for cattle, chickens, et cetera, and fertilizers. They plan to build and to operate the most efficient and up-to-date equipment on the factory ships. They feel that once this is developed many of these present obsolete and inefficient ships will automatically be eliminated and the operations will then be conducted on more rational lines and thus restriction in the number of ships will automatically curtail production and minimize the excessive killing of whales. They state that they desire to maintain a stock of whales to protect their own investment and to afford them a certain and sure source of animal fats.

On the other hand, the position of the British is not so clear.

As regards the Norwegians, the Government is understood to deplore the decline of the Norwegian companies in this world business but admit that it is largely a matter of their own doing. They are much disturbed over the present low prices of oil and the ensuing overproduction of oil. According to the experience of the American delegates in conversations the past few days, the Norwegians are genuinely interested in such conservation measures as will adequately conserve the existing stock of whales, but they are not clear as to how such a scheme can be effected. They have a large investment and it vitally affects the district around Sandefjord, Tønsberg, et cetera.

The impression has been gained in Oslo that if the present situation continues, the whaling business will not last more than five years from the present.

It was learned that the last available supply of whale oil—34,000 tons or approximately 200,000 barrels—was sold within the past few days in the Netherlands at a price of Pounds 13.10.0. per ton.

Some of the Norwegian producers entertain the private view that the Japanese broke the market by their sale of some 400,000 barrels of whale oil to Unilever, and it is reported that the reason for the sale was that their credit was bad and they were obliged to take what they could get. Unilever is aware of the financial condition of every whaling company and can practically dictate the prices. A member of the [Page 955] German delegation remarked that the Japanese interests had approached him in regard to purchasing oil and that he had asked him what their position was regarding the international agreement for regulation of whaling. Not having received a satisfactory response, no further negotiations were carried on. Reference to this is made in this office’s voluntary report of March 29, 1938, entitled The 1937–1938 Whaling Season.8

Respectfully yours,

William H. Beck
  1. Not printed.