The Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of Commerce ( Redfield )

Sir: With further reference to the recommendations contained in the official report of the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference, this Department desires to state that in a recent communication from the British Government,15 relating particularly to the publication of the proposed terms of the regulations to be attached to the treaty for the protection of the sockeye salmon fishery, the British Government incidentally expressed its hope to take up, at an early date, the question of action upon the entire report of the Conference. It is the understanding of this Department that the American members of the Conference felt that the matters of the sockeye salmon fishery treaty and port privileges treaty were the most important topics considered by the Conference and they have received, and are now receiving, as you are aware, the attention of this Department.

From an examination of the official report of the Conference and from information informally given to this Department by the American members of the Conference, it appears that the question of the restriction of fishing by the use of lobster well-smacks, owned by citizens of the United States, off the Canadian coast, has been made [Page 244] the subject matter of a draft of law now pending before Congress, upon the recommendation of the Department of Commerce; that the question of the protection of certain fisheries on Lake Cham-plain necessitated the passage of local laws or regulations by the Canadian Government and that such laws or regulations have been passed; and that the difficulties arising out of the requirements imposed on Canadian fishing vessels passing through the territorial waters of Alaska were removed by the action of the Department of Commerce in modifying certain of its regulations. The Conference report concludes with a recommendation that the whale fishery be protected by a general international agreement to be entered into after the end of the war. It would, therefore, seem that the first three of these four topics require no action by this Department, while the fourth will not probably require any attention for some time to come.

There remain, therefore, but two topics considered by the Conference which have not received attention: (1) The protection of the Pacific halibut fishery, and (2) the protection of the sturgeon fishery.

In connection with the halibut fishery, the Conference recommended the establishment of certain regulations limiting the time of fishing, and the appointment of commissioners from both Canada and the United States to make a joint investigation into the halibut fishery. It has been informally suggested to this Department by the Department of Commerce that the purpose here sought might better be accomplished by concurrent legislation on the part of both countries than by treaty, while the report suggests that for the purposes of the investigation recommended, the commissioners appointed under the terms of the salmon fishery treaty might be utilized. If this be the case, then it would seem proper for the Department of Commerce to draft such legislation as it deems necessary and submit the same to the Congress in the same manner in which the question of lobster well-smack fishing was handled, but since the plan seems to contemplate concurrent legislation by both countries, it is suggested that such draft of legislation, before submission to Congress, be submitted through this Department to the British Government for its information.

In connection with the protection of the sturgeon fishery, the Conference recommended: (1) that a five year prohibition be placed upon the exercise of such fishery in both contiguous and noncontiguous waters; and (2) that since the Canadian Government had adopted a law providing a four year prohibition within the waters of Lake Erie to be effective only when similar legislation should be passed in the United States, the States of New York, Pennsylvania, [Page 245] and Ohio, bordering on Lake Erie, should be urged to adopt laws analogous to that enacted by Canada.

Since the sturgeon fishery appears to exist in both boundary and nonboundary waters it seems necessary, in order to render adequate protection, that action should be taken by the individual states in any event, seconded possibly by treaty. If state legislation alone is sufficient it would seem to this Department that the matter might properly fall within the province of the Department of Commerce to undertake to bring to the attention of the proper state officials the necessity for, and the character of, the legislation desired.

From the report of the Conference, however, this Department is not so fully advised as to the exact waters in which this fishery exists as to be able to determine finally at this time whether state legislation alone will be adequate, and on this point this Department will be glad to have the opinion of the Department of Commerce together with such a detailed description of the waters involved as to show clearly wherein the jurisdiction of the United States could or should be exercised. At the same time it is suggested that the Department of Commerce may also find it desirable to submit any drafts of legislation which it proposes to seek to have enacted upon this subject by the State Legislatures, in order that this Department may be able fully to advise the British Government of the status of this matter, when occasion arises.

So far as the second recommendation of the Conference is concerned, namely, that since the Canadian Government has adopted a law providing a four year prohibition within the waters of Lake Erie to be effective only when a similar legislation shall be passed in the United States, the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, bordering on Lake Erie, shall be urged to adopt laws analogous to that enacted by Canada, this Department suggests that inasmuch as the Canadian law provides a different period from that contained in the first recommendation of the Conference, it might be well not to urge legislation by the states named along this line until it is finally decided whether an attempt will be made to seek the enactment of legislation by these and other states, or the negotiation of a treaty, establishing a five year prohibition.

At page 38 of the Conference Report there appears the following paragraph:16

“In the light of these facts your Commissioners feel constrained to recommend that the Canadian duty on fresh and fresh frozen fish not including shellfish be removed and with a view to assuring stability in the industry that the two countries enter into an agreement by which such fish will be admitted customs duty free from [Page 246] either country into the other, and that such arrangement remain in force for fifteen years, and thereafter until two years after the date, when either party thereto shall give notice to the other of its wish to terminate the same.”

While this recommendation is made under the heading, “Privileges to the Fishing Vessels of Either Country in the Ports of the Other”, any reference thereto was expressly avoided in the preparation of the so-called Port Privileges Treaty, at the suggestion of the American members of the Conference. This Department also notes that there may be some objection to the recommendation in Canada, as the Honorable G. J. Desbarats, Deputy Minister of Naval Service, in a letter to you dated September 28, 1918, made the following statement:

“The only recommendation in the Report which meets with any serious criticism or opposition is the one providing for the admission of fresh fish free into Canada. The large fish handlers in the east would be opposed to such a measure. Their representatives are basing their opposition partly on the fact that the question was not brought up at any of the meetings in the East and that, therefore, the Commission was not in possession of the views of the Eastern trade on this subject. It is also urged that this proposal, if adopted, would result in transferring the Eastern fresh fish trade from Halifax and Canso to Portland and Boston. This seems quite probable and is a condition which would have to be faced, and considered, in relation to the wider aspect of the question. It has been suggested that it would be better to submit a proposal for the free interchange of all fish products, both fresh and manufactured, and it is quite possible that this view may find favour with Council.”

This Department, therefore, is desirous of having an expression of your views upon the desirability of insisting upon action upon the tariff question in the course of negotiations with the British Government for the further carrying out of the recommendations of the Conference.

If, in connection with any action which the Department of Commerce may take in carrying out the recommendations of the Conference it seems desirable to communicate to any person, or to publish, any portion or portions of the report of the Conference, it is suggested that this Department be further communicated with in order that arrangements may be made with the British Government for a joint publication thereof.

I have [etc.]

For the Acting Secretary of State:
Alvey A. Adee

Second Assistant Secretary
  1. Not printed.
  2. Page 38 refers to manuscript; see Foreign Relations, 1918, p. 456.