[MARMAM] New paper on Soviet whaling

Yulia Ivashchenko - NOAA Affiliate yulia.ivashchenko at noaa.gov
Tue Jun 17 10:42:57 PDT 2014

The following new paper has just been published:

Ivashchenko, Y.V. & Clapham, P.J.  2014.  Too much is never enough: the
cautionary tale of Soviet whaling.  Marine Fisheries Review 76: 1-21.

The paper can be downloaded for free at:

Despite being a signatory to the International Convention for the
Regulation of Whaling (1946), the USSR conducted a 30y campaign of illegal
whaling which arguably represents one of the greatest failures of
management in the history of the industry.  Here, using a variety of
sources including published literature, formerly secret Soviet industry
reports and interviews with former biologists and whalers, we provide an
overview of the history, scope, and economic origins of Soviet whaling, and
examine the domestic and international political context in which it was
   At various times during the period from 1933 into the 1970’s, the USSR
operated a total of seven whaling factory fleets and several shore whaling
stations.  We estimate that 534,119 whales were killed, of which 178,726
were not reported to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).  In the
Southern Hemisphere, the greatest impact of these catches was on humpback
whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, where (mostly illegal) takes of more than
48,000 whales precipitated a population crash and closure of shore whaling
stations in Australia and New Zealand.  The Southern Hemisphere also saw
large illegal catches of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis).  In
the North Pacific, the greatest impacts were on sperm whales, Physeter
macrocephalus, (where data on sex and length were routinely misreported
together with falsified total catches), as well as on the two already-small
populations of right whales, Eubalaena japonica, across the North Pacific
and bowhead whales, Balaena mysticetus, in the Okhotsk Sea.
   Soviet whaling was driven by the state industrial planning system, which
frequently set high production targets without regard to the ability of the
resource to sustain the resulting large catches.  We trace the evolution of
the USSR’s public stance at the IWC while the nation was illegally whaling,
and summarize its evolving positions on major issues, including catch
limits, national quotas, the status of whale populations, and the
International Observer Scheme (which the USSR opposed for many years, for
reasons that are now obvious).  We examine the ways in which the USSR and
other nations exploited weaknesses in the Convention to block or delay
decisions unfavorable to the industry.
   It is clear that many at IWC knew that the USSR was whaling illegally,
but they were probably unaware of the large scope of this activity.  It is
also clear that the Soviets were not alone in falsification of catch data,
a problem which underscores the inadequacy of the IWC’s existing procedures
for inspection and enforcement with regard to current and possible future
commercial whaling.

Yulia V. Ivashchenko, Ph.D.
Associate Scientist
National Marine Mammal Laboratory
Alaska Fisheries Science Center
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115, USA
Tel: +1 206 526 4037
Email: *yulia.ivashchenko at noaa.gov <yulia.ivashchenko at noaa.gov>*
*http://www.moscowproject.org <http://www.moscowproject.org>*
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