Sir M. Durand to Sir Edward Grey.

No. 5.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit to you herewith copies of cuttings from newspapers of Boston, Mass., on the subject of the Newfoundland fisheries. According to a letter from Representative Gardner, of Massachusetts, to the Gloucester Board of Trade, the State Department holds that the local regulation prohibiting purse seining is unreasonable as against American fishermen. Mr. Gardner declares that if American fishermen undertake to fish in this manner the State Department will do all in its power to help them and to secure adequate compensation in case of interference.

I have, etc.,

H. M. Durand.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 5.]

Extract from the Boston Herald of July 9, 1906.

[Special dispatch to the Boston Herald.]

Gloucester, July 10, 1906.—The following self-explanatory letter bearing upon the Newfoundland herring fishery, and in line with what was published in the Herald this morning, has been received by the board of trade of this city from Congressman Gardner:

Hamilton, July 7, 1906.

“To the Gloucester Board of Trade, Gloucester:

Gentlemen: I am in receipt of a letter dated the 2d July, 1906, from the Secretary of State just before his departure for South America, answering a [Page 717] large number of the questions raised in my memorandum of Mr. Alexander, of the United States Fish Commission, dated the 30th June, relative to the fishery regulation of Newfoundland coast.

“The State Department holds that the local regulation prohibiting purse seining is unreasonable as against American fishermen. If our fishermen undertake to exercise their rights in this way, the State Department will do everything in its power to help them, and, if vessels should be seized or their fishing interfered with, to secure adequate compensation. It is my view therefore that it would be wise for Gloucester vessels desirous of doing so to prepare to take herring by purse seines this autumn.

“I am well aware that I am taking a great responsibility and risk in offering this advice, but the situation is such that I feel it would be unjustifiable for me to decline to give a definite opinion. It is, of course, within the bounds of possibility that American fishermen taking herring with purse seines may be subject to such annoyance as may cause serious financial losses. Nevertheless, it is necessary for our fishermen to receive some definite statement, and the advice that I give is the result of my most serious thought.

“Many of the provisions of the new act passed on the 10th May, 1906,a are extremely unfriendly, but some of those which are unfriendly are probably not violations of our treaty rights. The State Department believes that Newfoundland has the right to prohibit its own citizens from engaging in our crews unless they are inhabitants of the United States. If they are inhabitants of the United States we are entitled to have them fish from our vessels regardless of their citizenship. The views expressed above, if correct, would permit our vessels to go purse seining with crews shipped in American waters, but our right to secure such crews by advertisement in the Newfoundland papers would undoubtedly be contested by Great Britain. In order to avoid the raising of this question at the present time I sugegst that no such advertisements shall be inserted.

“With regard to the question of gill netting as carried on in the Bay of Islands and elsewhere, I do not think that we can contest the right of Newfoundland to forbid her citizens from shipping aboard our vessels; and this prohibition may perhaps apply to other British subjects. We contend, however, that Newfoundland is not entitled to inquire into the nationality of our crews; but the contrary view appears to be taken by the British Government. At the present time, therefore, it is undesirable to raise this question if a successful herring season can be obtained in some other way.

“My advice as to the coming fishing season is to refrain from shipping British subjects in British waters or British ports. I am aware, of course, that this advice, if carried out, practically precludes gill netting for the coming season, unless that operation is carried on by combining the crews of several vessels. The State Department is now contending with the Government of Great Britain that Newfoundland had no right to interfere with our fishermen by any regulation that did not exist when the treaty of 1818 was made. At the same time we have offered to join with Great Britain in agreeing to reasonable regulations. The courses of diplomacy, however, are so slow that I do not believe it would be possible to arrive at any definite conclusion prior to 1907.

“I feel the very grave responsibility which I take in giving any advice at all, and if it is followed I shall not cease to feel uneasy for fear that I may have made a mistake. Nevertheless, I feel it my duty to advise either to pursue the herring fisheries for the year 1906 with purse seines or to continue with the nets only with crews shipped in American ports or waters.

“Very respectfully,

A. P. Gardner.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 5.]

Extract from the Boston Traveller of July 9, 1906.

Gloucester, July 10, 1906.—The announcement made here yesterday that American vessels would not only seine for herring along the treaty or west coast of Newfoundland this fall and winter, but that they would be backed up by the State Department at Washington, was received here with many manifestations of pleasure.

[Page 718]

Seining is in direct violation of the local laws of Newfoundland, yet Secretary Root in his report is expected to say that not only have the American vessels the right to seine along the treaty coast, but that they will be protected in those rights.

In 1905 the foreign fishing act of Newfoundland was proclaimed almost as soon as it was adopted. The present spring an even more stringent foreign fisheries act was adopted, but so far as can be learned it has not been proclaimed, and this is looked upon as significant, and many seem to think that it indicates that the British foreign office is not so ready to interfere with any treaty which may exist between the two countries.

This winter the State Department will be represented in Newfoundland waters, but it will not be on the deck of a sailing vessel but a government steamer of some kind, to see that the rights of the American fishermen are well looked after. Local vessel owners will send the salt-herring fleet earlier than usual this year, and they will in all cases be equipped with proper nets or seines to take fish along the treaty coast.

  1. Appendix No. 11.