A Brief History of Antarctic Whaling

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The introduction of the factory ships into the fleets of existing commercial whaling operations in 1925 brought with it increased catches of predominantly blue whales due to their large size and yield of whale oil derived from the blubber that insulates whales in the cold seas. It is worth noting that humpback whales were also caught as they were slower swimmers and easier to catch, as the humpback whales were often found close to the coast. They were then often towed back to land-based processing sites, such as Grytviken on South Georgia, established by Carl Larsen in 1904. The ability of the factory ships to work practically anywhere at sea, allowed them also to operate beyond the jurisdiction of the British Government. More importantly for the whalers, it allowed the huge ships to ignore the quotas and regulations applied by the British on numbers and species of whales caught. With increasing efficiency in hunting, the blue whale catch in the summer of 1932 peaked with over 18,000 whales killed in the Antarctic region for their valuable blubber, meat and baleen. Exploitation like this could not continue indefinitely, and blue whales became scarcer than ever since 1932. Whaling fleets focussed their efforts on fin whales as numbers of blue whales declined to such low levels that the hunting of blue whales was officially outlawed by the International Whaling Commission in 1964. Fin whales became the preferred catch after blue whales also due to their large size and yield of whale oil, the fin whale being the second largest species of whale in the world. Between 1937 and 1963, fin whales were by far the most hunted of all species of whale hunted since 1925, with over 27,000 fin whales killed in the 1960-61 whaling season. As with blue whales, the populations of fin whales suffered drastically from the relentless hunting and catches rapidly declined from 1962 until the closure of the Grytviken processing site in 1964 when the viability of the site...
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