Bodoklecksel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Norwegian and US factory ships operated off the west coast of North America between 1913 and 1937, mostly hunting large rorquals - but they were not averse to taking grays when the opportunity arose. Working from immense floating factory ships, Norwegian whalers struck the Baja lagoons repeatedly, devastating a population again teetering on the brink of extinction.
For their part, US whalers from the California Sea Products Company killed dozens of migrating gray whales as they passed the company's seasonal anchorage at San Clemente Island, and hunted them off Point Dume on the California coast.
The fleet of the Soviet factory ship Aleut, a converted U.S. cargo vessel, hunted gray whales in the western Bering Sea from 1933 to 1945. The Aleut fleet was later replaced by a purpose-built whaler, the Zvezdny. Image by Alfred Berzin.
Soviet whalers sailing from Vladivostok in the Russian Far East targeted feeding gray whales on their summering grounds in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, rendering them into mink feed and industrial fertilizer. Soviet whalers also hunted gray whales on behalf of the Indigenous Chukchi and Yu'pik of Chukotka and eastern Siberia, for whom gray whales constituted an important and reliable food source during freezing Arctic winters.
The siege slowed in 1937-1938, when the International Agreement for the Regulation of Whaling, banned signatory states - including South Africa, the United States, Argentina, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, the United States, Canada and Mexico, but not the Soviet Union - from hunting right and gray whales. In 1946, the newly formed International Whaling Commission issued the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the organization's founding document, which banned the commercial killing of gray whales in Pacific waters.