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INDUSTRIES: Business History of Whaling
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September 17, 1819 - First whaling ship arrived in Hawaii.

March 16, 1844 - Albert Moor, of Hampden, ME, received a patent for a "Bomb Lance" ("Improvement in Harpoons"); fluke of harpoon pivoted on shank, held in place by wooden pin; small vial of explosive powder placed in fluke, under end of shank of harpoon, arranged so that power of whale pulling upon tow-line attached to harpoon would break wooden pin allowing fluke of harpoon to turn, crush vial, cause powder to explode to destroy whale.

1898 - Jura Oka began whaling in Japan; established Hogei Gumi, first Japanese whaling company, one vessel, Saikai-maru (Norwegian harpooner, crew), killed three whales; company failed; July 20, 1899 - established Nihon Enyo Gyogyo K.K. (Japan Far Sea Fishery) in Yamaguchi (Norwegian harpooner, crew); 1905 - reorganized into larger concern, renamed Toyo Gyogyo K.K.; 1908 - Nihon Hogeigyo Suisan Kumiai (Japanese Whaling Association) established, Jura Oka first President; 12 companies, total of 28 whaling vessels killed 1,312 whales that year; average kill for next 25 years would be around 1,500 whales; 1909 - Toyo Gyogyo K.K. merged with two companies, formed Toyo Hogei; 1930s - greatest decade of whale slaughter in history; 1931 - 37,438 blue whales massacred in Southern Oceans; 1934 - Toyo Hogei renamed Nippon Hogei;  

1935 - Geneva Convention for the Regulation of Whaling ratified (Germany, Japan refused to sign, refused to abide by quotas, effectively became first two outlaw whaling nations); Japan sent first ships to Antarctica; sale of whale oil helped to finance invasion of Manchuria, China; 1937 - Toyo Hogei became whaling department within Nippon Suisan (‘Japan Fishing’, founded 1911); more than 55,000 whales slaughtered, yielded 3 million tons of animals; 1939 - Germany, Japan accounted for 30% of world's whale kills; 1944-45 - 6,000 whales slaughtered; 1946 - General Douglas MacArthur proposed creation of Japanese whaling fleet to secure protein for conquered Japanese people (cut down on United States' costs of transporting food to post war Japan); August 6, 1946 - MacArthur signed directive authorizing two factory ships (Hashidate Maru, Nishin Maru), twelve catcher boats to begin whaling in Antarctic for 1946-47 season (Japan got meat, U. S. got oil); December 2, 1946 - International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling established International Whaling Commission (IWC) to provide for proper conservation of whale stocks, make possible orderly development of whaling industry; 1951 - Japan joined IWC; 1960s - three companies dominated industry; Maruha (founded in 1880 as Tosa Hogei by Ikujiro Nakabe as fish wholesaling company, went public in 1924 as KK Hayashikane Shoten, launched its own fleet of whaling vessels in Antarctica in 1926, name changed in 1943 to Nishi Taiyo Gyogyo Tosei KK, shortened in 1945 to Taiyo Gyogyo KK [Taiyo Fishery Co.], acquired Nippon Kinkai Hogei in 1955), Nippon Suisan, Kyokuyo Hogei (established in 1937 as Kyokuyo Hogei K.K. [Polar Seas Whaling Ltd], changed name in 1971 to Kyokuyo Co Ltd.) operated combined fleet of more than 140 vessels, including nearly 90 whaling ships; 1970s - Japan became largest whaling operation in world; 1976 - whaling operations of Kyokuyo Hogei, Maruha, Nippon Suisan down-sized, merged; formed Nippon Kyodo Hogei Co. Ltd. with 20 whaling vessels, three factory processing ships; 1977 - only four ships regularly whaled; killed nearly 38,000 whales before the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986; 1987 - Taiyo exited whaling industry; 1993 - changed name to Maruha Corporation to emphasize new focus as major seafood importer, processor; 2004 - formed holding company, Maruha Group Inc.; 2009 - Japan's leading importer, processor of seafoods, leading producer, processor of frozen, canned, fresh, convenience foods.

July 23, 1982 - International Whaling Commission voted for total ban on commercial whaling (starting 1985).

Lance E. Davis, Robert E. Gallman, and Karin Gleiter (1997). In Pursuit of Leviathan: Technology, Institutions, Productivity, and Profits in American Whaling, 1816-1906. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 550 p.). Whaling--United States--History--19th century'; Whaling--Economic aspects--United States.

Robert Owen Decker (1974). Whaling Industry of New London. (York, PA: Liberty Cap Books, 202 p.). Whaling--Connecticut--New London--History.

--- (1976). The Whaling City: A History of New London. (Chester, CT: Pequot Press (for the New London County Historical Society), 415 p.). New London (Conn.)--History.

Eric Jay Dolin (2007). Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America. (New York, NY: Norton, 416 p.). National Marine Fisheries Service. Whaling--United States--History. Interplay of natural history, commerce, exploration, military expansion in the rise of the United States. 

Granville Allen Mawer (1999). Ahab's Trade: The Saga of South Sea Whaling. (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 393 p.). Whaling--History; Whaling--South Pacific Ocean--History. Outlawed (= slaughter) by international community in 1986. Between 1900 and 1939 - 500,000 whales processed. Author begins in 1650 and ends in 1924, focusing mostly on Nantucket-New Bedford -based sperm whale fishery.

Joseph L. McDevitt (1986). The House of Rotch: Massachusetts Whaling Merchants, 1734-1828. (New York, NY: Garland, 641 p.). Rotch family; Whaling--Massachusetts--History. 


Business History Links

Defending Our Oceans: Whaling                                                                

Background about the impact of the whaling industry on whale populations and on the health of the oceans. Includes links to news on topics such Iceland's resumption of commercial whaling activities in 2006 (after a 17-year hiatus), and activities of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). From Greenpeace.

New Bedford Whaling Museum                                                                                                  

Largest museum in America devoted to the history of the American whaling industry and its greatest port. Museum brings to life the whaling era and the history of the local area. It houses the most extensive collection of art, artifacts, and manuscripts pertaining to American whaling in the age of sail - late eighteenth century to the early twentieth, when sailing ships dominated merchant trade and whaling.


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