Humpback Whale foetus

Object Number: 1995.3.222

 This female whale foetus was approximately four months after conception. If it had been left to develop fully, another eight months, it would have measured 15 feet (4.5 metres) and weighed 1.5 tonnes. Eventually it would have matured to a maximum of 62 feet (19 metres) and up to 53 tonnes. Whalers at the Grytviken whaling station would take these home with them as presents or souvenirs. You can see this one travelled to London to be prepared and mounted for scientific study.

A scientific committee, the Discovery Investigations, was set up to research into the biology, ecology and conservation of whales. This scientific party worked from Discovery House at King Edward Point, South Georgia from 1925-31 making detailed notes of all the whales that were brought into Grytviken whaling station.

In 1946 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established to manage the declining stocks. Quotas were set but unfortunately these were at unsustainable levels and whale stocks continued to fall.

During the 1970s many conservation organisations realised that unless action was taken many of the great whales would soon become extinct. In 1972 the United Nations General Assembly and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) proposed a ten year moratorium on whaling but the IWC rejected it. Three years later the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITIES) gave full protection to several species including the grey, blue, right and humpback whales. But the hunting of other species continued until 1986 when the IWC finally responded to International pressure and instituted a limitation on commercial whaling.

The present ban on the hunting of whales by the IWC is voluntary. However Japan, Iceland and Norway are continuing to press for the resumption of commercial whaling.