The new technology, coupled with the depletion of whales in the rest of the world, led to the spread of hunting to the Antarctic, where huge concentrations of feeding whales made large-scale whaling highly profitable. The First World War provided a large market for explosives using glycerin from baleen whale oil provided by British and Norwegian whaling in the Antarctic. Meanwhile Japanese whaling had developed separately as a coastal industry, mainly for humpback, right and grey whales.
It is an international environmental agreement signed in 1946 in order to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry". It governs the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of fifty-nine member nations.
It was signed by 15 nations in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 1946 and took effect on November 10, 1948. Its protocol (which represented the first substantial revision of the convention and extended the definition of a "whale-catcher" to include helicopters as well as ships) was signed in Washington on November 19, 1956. The convention is a successor to the International Agreement for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in London on June 8, 1937, and the protocols for that agreement signed in London on June 24, 1938, and November 26, 1945.
The objectives of the agreement are the protection of all whale species from overhunting, the establishment of a system of international regulation for the whale fisheries to ensure proper conservation and development of whale stocks, and safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by whale stocks. The primary instrument for the realization of these aims is the International Whaling Commission which was established pursuant to this convention. The commission has made many revisions to the schedule that makes up the bulk of the convention. The Commission process has also reserved for governments the right to carry out scientific research which involves killing of whales.
Having decided to conclude a convention to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry;
Have agreed as follows:-
- This Convention includes the Schedule attached thereto which forms an integral part thereof. All references to "Convention" shall be understood as including the said Schedule either in its present terms or as amended in accordance with the provisions of Article V.
- This Convention applies to factory ships, land stations, and whale catchers under the jurisdiction of the Contracting Governments and to all waters in which whaling is prosecuted by such factory ships, land stations, and whale catchers.
As used in this Convention:-
- "Factory ship" means a ship in which or on which whales are treated either wholly or in part;
- "Land station" means a factory on the land at which whales are treated whether wholly or in part;
- "Whale catcher" means a ship used for the purpose of hunting, taking, towing, holding on to, or scouting for whales;
- "Contracting Government" means any Government which has deposited an instrument of ratification or has given notice of adherence to this Convention.
- The Contracting Governments agree to establish an International Whaling Commission, hereinafter referred to as the Commission, to be composed of one member from each Contracting Government. Each member shall have one vote and may be accompanied by one or more experts and advisers.
- The Commission shall elect from its own members a Chairman and Vice-Chairman and shall determine its own Rules of Procedure. Decisions of the Commission shall be taken by a simple majority of those members voting except that a three-fourths majority of those members voting shall be required for action in pursuance of Article. The Rules of Procedure may provide for decisions otherwise than at meetings of the Commission.
- The Commission may appoint its own Secretary and staff.
- The Commission may set up, from among its own members and experts or advisers, such committees as it considers desirable to perform such functions as it may authorize.
- The expenses of each member of the Commission and of his experts and advisers shall be determined and paid by his own Government.
- Recognizing that specialized agencies related to the United Nations will be concerned with the conservation and development of whale fisheries and the products arising there from and desiring to avoid duplication of functions, the Contracting Governments will consult among themselves within two years after the coming into force of this Convention to decide whether the Commission shall be brought within the framework of a specialized agency related to the United Nations.
- In the meantime the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland shall arrange, in consultation with the other Contracting Governments, to convene the first meeting of the Commission, and shall initiate the consultation referred to in paragraph 6 above.
- Subsequent meetings of the Commission shall be convened as the Commission may determine.