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Title: A history of sealing in the Falkland Islands and Dependencies, 1764-1972
Author: Dickinson, Anthony Bertram
ISNI:       0000 0001 2444 275X
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1987
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Seven species of seals were hunted in the Falkland Islands and Dependencies in the 18th to 20th centuries. Sealing probably began in the Falkland Islands in 1766 after French settlers arrived in 1764. The potential of an industry was not realized until American whalers arrived by 1774. Continued sealing was prevented by the War of Independence, except for an unsuccessful American attempt to establish a wartime fleet at the islands, shipping oil to London. Postwar economic depression prevented Americans returning, sealing instead being done by British southern whale fishery vessels from 1786. Oil was taken from hair seals, and skins from fur seals. Both were shipped to London. Americans returned by 1792 for fur seal skins for the expanding Canton fur trade. This they subsequently monopolized, British merchants being constrained by the East India Company's trading monopoly. Unregulated killing to supply Canton and London markets virtually exterminated fur seals on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia by the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Increased oil demand in America caused elephant seals to be depleted by the mid 19th century. Discovery of the South Shetland, South Orkney Islands and South Sandwich Islands resulted in stocks on these islands also quickly depleted, particularly to supply an American market. Lack of permanent government and settlement in the Falkland Islands in the 18th and early 19th centuries prevented control being exerted over sealers, although attempts were made by colonists from 1828 and by a British administration from 1833. Lack of patrol vessels prevented enforcement. Sealing legislation was introduced by 1881, but stocks and markets had declined to the point where a domestic sealing industry was difficult to establish. This was exacerbated by Canadian and Chilean pelagic sealing and poaching from 1902 to 1911. Stocks gained some respite during World War 1. Fur sealing was prohibited from 1915 in South Georgia and 1921 in the Falkland Islands, where a sea lion oil industry was developed in 1929. This operated sporadically until 1951. Production costs, fluctuating oil prices, and distance from markets are seen as contributory reasons preventing establishment of an industry. The last sealing licence for the Colony was issued in 1967. Elephant seals increased in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at South Georgia to the point where they could again be utilized. The Compaftia Argentina da Pesca began sealing in 1909, beginning an industry which continued successfully until the licencee left the island after the 1964 season due to the poor economics of whaling. 250,000 seals were taken in a well regulated industry, providing an important contribution to the company's revenue from the island. The numbers of elephant seals and fur seals on South Georgia have increased since whaling and sealing ended. Present anti-sealing concerns, lack of markets, exploitation costs and potential tourist attraction make future sealing in the Falkland Islands and Dependencies unlikely.
Supervisor: Stonehouse, B. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Sealing in the Falklands