(from "Chairman's Report of the Thirty-Fifth Annual Meeting")

The Secretary had been instructed last year to convene a meeting of experts to review available papers and evaluate the results of experimental programmes on alternatives to the cold grenade harpoon for killing minke whales. The papers describing the programmes and results from Japan, Norway and the USSR were reviewed in detail by the Working Group, and a series of recommendations were put forward.

The new model penthrite harpoon is expected to be fully employed by Japan in the 1983/84 Antarctic whaling season, and the 1984 coastal season. Japan intends to continue research and development of further improvements, and its objection to the Schedule amendment prohibiting use of the cold grenade harpoon will be withdrawn as soon as safety considerations are certain.

Many governments congratulated Japan on the success of its programme to replace the cold grenade harpoon, including Australia, the Netherlands, St Lucia, Seychelles, USA and Argentina.

Norway outlined the way in which the research programmes had been developed since 1979. Japan had investigated the development of the penthrite grenade whilst Norway had undertaken to look for novel alternatives. This review was now completed although no potential alternatives were found. The Japanese penthrite grenade is not suited to its coastal and small scale whaling operations, and it is now looking for further developments. Norway's objection will be withdrawn when a safe alternative is freely available and this should be soon after ordinance factory tests of a new model are completed. It is hoped that the new model explosive harpoon will be ready in sufficient numbers to be used in whaling operations during the 1984 season,

The USSR commented that its experiments had not been so successful as those of Japan and Norway, and it expected to utilise their experience.

India indicated that it was saddened by the apparent complacency and looked forward to vastly improved techniques to be involved, considering that if the times to death cannot be significantly improved then whaling should cease altogether. Belize supported India and St Lucia shared these views, whilst recognising that some progress had been achieved.

There was an extensive technical discussion in the Technical Committee, including possible drugs which might be considered, electrical harpooning and details of the Norwegian experimental programme. All those with such information were asked to submit it through the Secretariat and should also participate in any further meetings of the Working Group.

The recommendations were then accepted by the Technical Committee and endorsed by the Commission as follows:

(1) That electrical harpooning, the use of drugs and of high-pressure gases are not at present suitable methods for killing minke whales and the Commission recommends that they continue not to be used at this time.
(2) The whaling operations using electrical lances to kill harpooned whales should provide the Commission with information on the time elapsing between application of the electric current and death, together with information on the pathways of the current through the animal's body.
(3) The Commission invites contracting Governments to submit the relevant information from their legislation which they think may be helpful as a guide to the Working Group in setting goals for the humane killing of whales.
(4) The Commission draws attention to the fact that it is desirable that appropriate experts be brought by Contracting Governments to such Working Group meetings and that provision be made for invited experts also to attend.
(5) The Commission draws attention to the advantages of penthrite grenades in reducing the time to death and loss of meat, and suggests that the USSR whaling operations consider their use.
(6) The Commission noted that there are possibilities for improvements in both the training of gunners as well as research on new improved sighting mechanisms and encourages their development.

Discussion on the continuation of the Working Group resulted in agreement that the Group should meet again prior to the next Annual Meeting to continue to discuss matters under its original terms of reference; these should be extended to include humane killing in aboriginal subsistence whaling (for which the Secretary should request relevant data); as well as to review the programme of work in Iceland of the humane killing of the larger whale species which it is at present supporting.

The Commission noted the comment of St Vincent concerning the difficulties of obtaining data from primitive and remote subsistence whaling operations.