562.8F4/36: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Winant ) to the Secretary of State

65. From the Delegation to Informal Whaling Conference.

[1.] The substance of Department’s 49, 3rd, was duly communicated to the Foreign Office and to Dobson7 who is in charge of arrangements for Conference and at same time head of British Delegation. Dobson expressed entire willingness to meet our wishes incident to delay in Kellogg’s arrival. He felt, however, and we agreed that the opening meeting should take place this morning as announced. He agreed to propose to Conference (after a statement by American Delegation that we could not participate in technical discussions until Kellogg’s arrival) the deferment of detailed discussions or any effort to reach decision in respect to principal work of the Conference until later meeting when Kellogg could be present.

On convening the Conference Dobson was elected Chairman and, following statement by your delegate on lines indicated above, the Conference agreed to have a brief general discussion of the agenda and then to adjourn until January 13 subject to Chairman’s confirmation.

Chairman made an opening statement the principal points of which were (1) that the primary concern of the Conference is the maintenance of whale conservation measures, (2) that the United Kingdom and Norwegian Governments were “hostile” to any denunciation of the existing whaling agreements, (3) that the Ministry of Food on the other hand is anxious to replenish the dwindling stocks of whale oil, (4) that the British Government was not proposing that the Conference should produce a formal document amending existing agreements. (Dobson intimated that this was partly out of regard for uncertainty about United States need for ratification and also because it was felt that wartime powers held by governments concerned would probably enable any agreement reached to be put into effect. Whether such an informal arrangement would be regarded as sufficiently binding was not discussed.)

In opening discussion on the agenda, which listed the following suggestions for temporary relaxation or extension of international whaling agreements (a) Antarctic whaling season, (b) use of back-meat, (c) reduction of size limit for sperm whales, (d) protection of humpbacks, (e) use of factory ships elsewhere after close of Antarctic season, Dobson said that the aim was to get as much oil as possible [Page 935] without undermining existing agreement. This led to a discussion of whaling facilities likely to be available after the war. Dobson said and the Norwegian Delegation confirmed that it seemed likely there would be only three factory ships (all Norwegian) available for the first season after the end of the war in Europe. There were at present no British factory ships; on the other hand two ships, it was thought, might be built in British yards for use during the season 1945–46. Any German factory ships still serviceable would probably also be taken over. The South African representative mentioned a possibility that two South African ships might be able to operate. Beyond that no other information on this subject was presented.

With regard to item (a) of agenda, Antarctic whaling season: British with the support of Norwegians proposed that the first season after termination of hostilities in Europe should extend from November 24 to March 24 inclusive. Representatives of other countries (except your delegate who abstained from any view) indicated either support for the proposal or lack of active interest. Several referred to the importance of the extension being only for a limited period.

Item (b), use of back-meat: the discussion was limited and general but there appeared to be no objection to some relaxation of existing provisions.

Item (c), reduction of size limit for sperm whale: there was general agreement that it would be a retrogressive step to reduce the size limit for sperm whales from 35 to 30 feet though Canadians were prepared to accept reduction if war interests demanded.

Item (d), protection of humpbacks: Chairman proposed that the embargo on humpbacks should be re-introduced and this was supported by all representatives present.

Item (e), use of factory ships elsewhere after close of Antarctic season: Norwegian representative expressed view that it would be a mistake to permit such use for taking baleen whales even in the Arctic. (In this connection it was pointed out that this restriction does not apply to use of factory ships to take toothed whales.) The Australian representative appeared to be interested in some expansion of whaling in Australian waters to meet needs for more oil but was obviously much impressed by statement by Mackintosh, the British expert, that stocks of humpbacks in that area were so much reduced that, in his opinion, the unrestricted operation of three factory ships off west Australia would ruin stocks of humpbacks in 2 years’ time. The discussion under this item was brief and inconclusive though its trend was generally in favor of continued restriction on the use of factory ships in non-Antarctic waters.

A desire for information on the current whale oil position i.e. stocks, current consumption and future requirements was expressed [Page 936] by several representatives and the Chairman stated that Maud8 of Ministry of Food would be asked to make such a statement to the Conference when it next met.

2. Final items on agenda (1) question of limitation of total catch and (2) other business were deferred until next meeting.

Our chief impressions of the opening meeting were: (1) that British Delegation wishes to relax conservation measures only to such extent as is necessary to meet Ministry of Food’s minimum needs for oil, (2) that British are anxious to maintain common front with Norwegians and seem disposed to join with them in due course in support of limitation on catch.

Kindly note that instructions regarding form in which results of Conference shall be recorded may be required.

  1. A. T. A. Dobson, Fisheries Secretary, British Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  2. John P. R. Maud, Second Secretary of the British Ministry of Food.