Mr. Olney to Sir Julian Pauncefote.
Washington, December 15, 1896.
Excellency: With reference to the Department’s note of October 13 last, proposing the temporary postponement of the correspondence concerning the regulation of pelagic sealing in Bering Sea and the [Page 259]North Pacific Ocean, I have now the honor to observe that the suspension of the discussion left two unsettled questions pending; first, as to permitting seal skins landed at British ports to be examined by American inspectors for the purpose of determining their sex and whether or not said skins had been shot in violation of the Paris award and the British law; and, second, the proposal for amending the regulations on the subject of the use of firearms by pelagic sealers.
In reopening the subject I wish to say that the Department assumes that Her Britannic Majesty’s Government, in suggesting that the certificates of search and the sealing up of arms (see Lord Gough’s note of September 21, 1896) shall be accepted by patrolling officers as conclusive evidence that no firearms are concealed on board, in effect proposes that, under such circumstances, there shall be no search whatever of such vessels. The Government of the United States does not think that the arrangement ought to be made on that line. It considers a search useful for two purposes; first, it discloses whether firearms or other implements are on the vessel during any prohibited time in violation of law, and, second, whether there are on board any seal skins, if in a close season, and whether there are any skins which have been shot, if the vessel has been engaged in sealing in Bering Sea where the use of firearms is prohibited.
While the suggestion of Her Majesty’s Government, if adopted, might properly be accepted as satisfactory evidence that there were no firearms or implements forbidden to be used concealed on board the vessel, there would still remain the second question, as to whether or not in the close season there were on said vessel skins freshly killed, or, if in Bering Sea, shot. As regards American vessels, this latter question is settled by a careful inspection of each skin landed by an expert inspector. This precaution, however, although adopted by the United States upon the broad ground that it is absolutely essential for preventing the unlawful destruction of fur seals, Her Majesty’s Government refuses to adopt and declines to afford the United States an opportunity to make this inspection for itself by its duly appointed inspectors.
Under the circumstances it will readily appear that if the United States were to accept the suggestion of Mer Majesty’s Government above referred to it would result in discrimination against American vessels in favor of those of Great Britain. At this time the mere fact of the sealing up of arms does not protect American vessels from being searched; on the contrary, they have been searched as thoroughly and as rigidly as have the British vessels. The sealing up of arms is merely a part of the evidence from which the boarding officer knows that said arms could not have been used in killing seals. To accept the suggestion of Her Majesty’s Government and cease to search British vessels, especially in consideration of the fact above stated, that United States vessels are rigidly searched, and that no examinations of skins are made at British ports, would be to discriminate doubly against American vessels.
It is believed by this Government to be practicable to discover by an examination of skins landed whether the seals have been shot or speared; also as to their sex, except in the case of pups. This method, I may observe, has been in practice for the past two years by the Government of the United States with most satisfactory results, and I take pleasure in transmitting herewith for the information of Her Majesty’s Government copies of a Treasury circular, No. 75, dated April 12, 1895, giving full instructions respecting the pelagic catch of fur seals.[Page 260]
The sole object of the proposals heretofore made by this Government concerning these subjects was to prevent the unlawful destruction of the fur seals, an object clearly within the purview of the Paris award, and which seems plainly indispensable under existing circumstances to the proper execution of the respective laws enacted by the United States and Great Britain to carry that award into effect. Nor am I able to perceive that the proposed regulations would interfere with any lawful business carried on by Her Majesty’s subjects.
In view of the fact that the time is nearly at hand when the regulations for the season of 1897 should be agreed upon, it is hoped that Her Majesty’s Government will find it convenient to give the subject early attention, and to afford this Department the benefit of any suggestions it may have to present.
I have, etc.,