Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Sherman.
Washington, March 23, 1897.
Sir: With reference to an inquiry made by your predecessor on January 4 last, respecting the report of Prof. D’Arcy W. Thompson, British commissioner in charge of the fur-seal investigations for 1896, I have the honor to inform you, by the direction of the Marquis of Salisbury, that no formal record of proceedings has yet been received from Professor Thompson, but that Her Majesty’s Government will be happy to furnish the United States Government with a copy of his definite report, which is in a forward state of preparation, as soon as it has been printed.
From such information as has hitherto been furnished by Professor Thompson, and the facts as to the present condition of the seal herd set forth in Dr. Jordan’s report, there is apparently no reason to fear that the seal herd is threatened with early extermination.
Her Majesty’s Government, however, believe that some modification of the sealing regulations will be required at the expiration of the five years’ term which was named by the Arbitration Tribunal of 1893. That period expires at the close of the season of 1898, and it would be desirable that the discussion of the modifications which may be found necessary should take place in the course of that year, in order that the revised regulations may be ready for adoption before the sealing season of 1899. And with this object in view, Her Majesty’s Government [Page 262]are very desirous of sending out special agents again in June next to carry on further inquiries and observations in the Pribilof Islands.
Professor Thompson has stated to Her Majesty’s Government his views as to the various points in regard to seal life, which require further investigation to enable Her Majesty’s Government to consider the question of revising the regulations.
The statistics of former observers were found to afford no evidence on which an accurate estimate of the diminution in the number of seals could be based, but the careful count of the seals which was made last summer forms a valuable standard for comparison. It is very essential to ascertain as far as possible what has been the result of last season’s operations on land and at sea, and also to obtain the latest information as to the number of seals frequenting the islands.
The result of the joint investigations showed that no great difficulty was found in taking 30,000 seals on land in 1896; and whatever number it may be decided to kill this year, it is important to observe with what degree of facility the total is reached.
For these reasons Professor Thompson is anxious that British agents should again be appointed with the same powers and the same freedom of action as they enjoyed last year.
In communicating the above I am directed by my Government to express the hope that the facilities and accommodations which were last year provided for the British agents may be likewise afforded on this occasion.
I may add that agents will be sent to the Commander and Robben islands, and that an application has been made to the Russian Government on this subject.
I am informed by telegraph by the Marquis of Salisbury that Professor Thompson is desirous of starting on April 8 via Japan, and to visit the Russian islands in the first instance.
In view of the very short time which remains, I venture to ask you to be good enough to favor me with a reply to this note at your earliest convenience in order that I may be able to report by telegraph to Lord Salisbury whether the United States Government are willing to afford the facilities to which I have above alluded to the British agents.
I have, etc.,