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167 Department of External Affairs to Embassy in Washington

Cablegram 1466 CANBERRA, 17 October 1946


Japanese Antarctic Whaling.

We have received an extract from SCAP files of the log of action taken in respect of the rehabilitation of Japanese Whaling. This document was brought to Australia by an Australian who was working in the relevant Division of the SCAP Natural Resources Section and the information disclosed of which the more significant parts are set out below must therefore be used with discretion. [1]

2. The subject of Antarctic Whaling by the Japanese was raised in SCAP discussions at least as early as 8th April this year as a result of informal soundings by Japan on SCAP attitude. It was then decided that the Antarctic could be open to the Japanese but only after a thorough study of the political and economic implications had been made and concurrence obtained from Washington.

On 16th April SCAP sought War Department views by signal indicating SCAP's favourable disposition towards the idea 'in view of the world need for whale oil and meat and other whale products'.

On 20th April the Ocean Fishing Company indicated to SCAP their plans to convert a 10,000 ton tanker for use as a factory ship. It is interesting to note that SCAP then warned them that such a large vessel might be subject to seizure for reparations.

On 28th April War Department's reply to SCAP signal of 16th indicated that proposal to allow limited Japanese activity would possibly be favourably regarded by United States but stated 'Resumption of Whaling by Japanese will require International Allied Agreement'.

On 16th May the State Department over Acheson's [2] signature informed SCAP that they saw no objection on policy grounds subject to 'provisions by World policy with respect to fisheries and aquatic industries in Japan' and provided that whale oil produced be subject to C.F.B. [3] allocation and approval was without prejudice to future decision regarding disposition of vessels, equipment and products. They asked for prompt advice if and when SCAP approval was given.

When this message was received a member of the SCAP section suggested that it might be advisable to seek concurrence of other countries as some might object to early entry by Japanese into whaling industry. It was ruled, however, that Washington signal was virtual concurrence and that further concurrence from other powers was unnecessary whether local representatives objected or not.

On the following day Japanese Bureau of Fisheries was asked by SCAP to contact the three major Japanese whaling companies and to arrange for them to prepare a joint formal petition to permit resumption of Antarctic whaling.

On 19th May the tentative Japanese plan for seasons 1946/7 and 194[7/8] [4] was presented to SCAP and their final plan was submitted on 8th June.

On 5th July SCAP gave formal approval for the release of two vessels requested for the expedition.

On 16th July fuel requirements for the expedition were tabled.

On 27th July SCAP was advised that Norwegian Government considered that Japan should be prohibited from future whaling and State Department instructed SCAP to notify decision promptly.

On 1st August SCAP arranged to make Japanese authorities familiar with amendments to the Whaling Convention.

On the same day the SCAP section concerned was informed that the Commander-in-Chief did not want to submit the question to the Allied Council.

The SCAP directive authorising the project was issued on 6th August. [5] Incorporated in the directive was an instruction that 'Each vessel will display in the usual manner the flag of the Japanese Merchant Marine'.

On 12th August the Diplomatic section of SCAP provided verbally to the SCAP Fisheries Division arguments to justify not presenting the Whaling Directive to the Allied Council.

On 16th August the Japanese Government was instructed to place two qualified inspectors on each factory ship.

3. The American action all through in this matter has been very highhanded. It is clear that the issue of the SCAP authorisation was not a hasty or ill-considered action. SCAP and the State Department were fully conscious of the propriety of consulting with other powers and deliberately decided to present them with a fait accompli. MacArthur's personal decision to ignore the Allied Council was also fully deliberate. Apparently the Americans realised that their most effective counter to any subsequent objection was the argument that MacArthur must not be allowed to lose face.

4. These facts should assist in furthering our case in relation to present expedition. Failing that they will assist in insisting- (a) That the Japanese will not be permitted to continue whaling in the Antarctic after the 1946/47 expedition; and (b) That Japanese whaling equipment will be made available as reparations.

In this connection you might consider it advisable immediately to file claim or indicate intention to claim at least one of the factory ships and some of the chasers as part of Australia's reparations share.

1 The document was obtained by an officer of the Fisheries Division of CSIR and forwarded to the External Affairs Dept.

Cablegram 1472 to Washington, dispatched 19 October, warned that the information was for background only and that no indication should be given that information had been obtained from the source concerned.

2 The extract itself reads 'Atcheson' but Acheson appears to be correct.

3 Combined Food Board.

4 The cited copy here reads '1948/9'.

5 See Document 63.

[AA:A1067, ER46/13/19/2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History