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

Sir: With further reference to your communication of the 19th ultimo in regard to the recommendations contained in the official report of the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference, the American members of the Conference are pleased to note your statement that, in a recent communication from the British Government, 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 on the entire report of the Conference.

Your further statement that it is the understanding of your Department that the American members of the Conference felt that the matters of the sockeye salmon fishery treaty and the port privileges treaty were the most important topics considered by the Conference (which are now receiving the attention of your Department) expresses the view shared by the American members; and in this connection it may be stated that the port privileges now enjoyed by Canada and the United States were granted to cover the period of the war only. (See Executive Order of Feb. 20 [21?], 1918, and Order in Council of Mar. 8, 1918, pp. 5 and 6 of the printed hearings of the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference.18)

In addition to the sockeye salmon fishery treaty and port privileges treaty, the other subjects referred to in your communication, concerning which I am submitting herewith for your information the views of the American members of the Conference, are as follows:

1. The restriction of fishing by the use of lobster well-smacks, owned by citizens of the United States, off the Canadian coast:

Under date of February 25, 1918, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, and referred to the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, which, if enacted into law, would have put an end to the practice of American well-smacks taking lobsters in the waters referred to. The passage of this bill was urged in several communications by both the Department of State and the Department of Commerce, but the 6tfth Congress adjourned without any action being taken regarding it. At my request, Representative William S. Greene, Chairman of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries of the House of Representatives, has consented [Page 248] to introduce this bill in the present Congress. Every effort will be made by this Department to have the same enacted into law, in accordance with the assurance given the Canadian members of the Conference, and it is suggested that your Department also lend assistance in this direction.

2. Protection of food fishes in Lake Champlain:

This matter has been settled by the action of the Canadian authorities, in removing, by an Order in Council of February 18, 1918, the embarrassing conditions on Lake Champlain.

3. Difficulties arising out of the requirements imposed on Canadian fishing vessels passing through the territorial waters of the United States:

As stated by you, these difficulties were removed by the action of the Department of Commerce in modifying certain of its regulations.

4. Protection of whale fisheries:

It is the view of American members of the Conference that action in this matter should be deferred for some time to come, in fact, until after the more important matters considered by the Conference have been settled.

5. The protection of the Pacific halibut fishery:

It is believed that this matter could be taken care of by concurrent legislation by Canada and the United States. In this direction, I have approved a request of the Commissioner of Fisheries of this Department, who is a member of the Conference, for permission to confer with Mr. William A. Found, Superintendent of Fisheries of Canada, also a member of the Conference, concerning the matter and to consider the provisions that should be incorporated in such legislation and draft a bill which later can be formally considered by the two governments and probably be submitted to Congress and Parliament at the next regular sessions. In accordance with your suggestion, a draft of such legislation will, before submission to Congress, be forwarded to your Department for submission to the British Government for its information. At the same time, this Department would be pleased to receive any suggestions or amendments that your Department may deem advisable respecting the provisions of the proposed bill.

6. Sturgeon fishery:

The regulation of the sturgeon fishery presents special difficulties because of the commingling of international, national, and State interests. The American members of the Conference offer the suggestion [Page 249] that, for the immediate present, the various States having sturgeon fishing be advised by the Department of State of the recommendations of the Canadian Fisheries Conference as regards the protection of sturgeons and urged to take appropriate action. In this connection it is understood that some of the States are already proceeding in essential accord with the report of the Conference. If such State legislation can not be secured, the question as to whether the protection of sturgeon in the international boundary waters should be made a subject of a separate treaty with Great Britain could be given consideration by this Department and the Department of State.

Referring further to the matter relating to the protection of the sturgeon and the waters in which the fishery has been active, attention is invited to the Resolution on the subject adopted by the Conference at its hearing in the city of Washington, January 22, 1918. (See page 39 of the accompanying copy of the report of hearings, printed for the use of the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House of Representatives.19) It is understood that sturgeon are found in all the boundary waters between Canada and the United States from Puget Sound on the west to Passamaquoddy Bay on the east.

7. Canadian duty on fresh, and fresh frozen fish, etc.

Note is made of your reference to the paragraph of the Conference report on this subject and to the quoted statement of the Honorable G. J. Desbarats, Deputy Minister of the Naval Service, Dominion of Canada, contained in his letter of September 28, 1919, relative to this matter. In response, therefore, to your request for an expression of views upon the desirability of insisting upon action upon the tariff question in the course of negotiation with the British Government, for the further carrying out of the recommendations of the Conference, it is believed that this subject should be carefully considered by the Canadian Government with a view to its possible reactions upon the two pending treaties (sockeye salmon and port privileges treaties). Fresh and fresh frozen fish are now duty free in the United States. The spirit which ran throughout the hearings of the Conference on both coasts was that of a “50–50,” fully reciprocal arrangement. The United States is a large fish importer; Canada is a small one. The amount of revenue concerned is trifling, and the advantage to Canada of free use of our ports and of our full cooperation respecting the protection of sockeye salmon is of infinitely greater worth than the results of the duty, however considered.

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It is believed that this is fully understood by the Canadian executive authorities, but that there were possibly circumstances which made it inconvenient for them to open in any measure the tariff question at the time of the conclusion of the Conference. How far these conditions now prevail is not known to us. Circumstances may have altered since the close of the war. As the subject is one which, in its essence, is a matter of domestic policy for Canada, save as regards the reactions, possibly, which we have pointed out, and as it did not come within the formal scope of the Conference, we have felt that it could only be dealt with by a suggestion and to the substantial effect above indicated. There would be no objection on the part of this Department to a proposal for the free interchange of all fish products, both fresh and manufactured, though it is realized that this opens possibilities of antagonism on the part of fish canning interests in this country which might at present confuse the important pending issues. It would therefore be wise, in our judgment, to proceed with the utmost caution in this direction.

Referring to the concluding paragraph of your letter, this Department will be pleased to comply with the suggestion contained therein that 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, your Department be further communicated with in order that arrangements may be made with the British Government for a joint publication thereof.

In this connection, I have to state that the report of the hearings of the Conference which were held on the Atlantic coast was printed by the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries for its use and that, following the hearings on the Pacific Coast, a request was made of the committee to print the report thereof together with the Atlantic Coast hearings in one volume, and that the Chairman of the Committee replied that as there was no legislation pending before it at the time that would make it necessary to print this report for the information of the Committee he did not feel warranted in asking to have it printed. For your information, a copy of the Chairman’s letter is herewith inclosed.20 The American members of the Conference believe that owing to the importance of the matter, the report of all the hearings held by it, together with the final report of the Conference and exhibits, should be published, and it is therefore thought that the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which will have before it the consideration of the salmon fishery and port privileges treaties, might favorably consider a request to have the [Page 251] matter printed as a committee document. This Department would be pleased to supplement any request made by your Department of this committee for the printing of this report.


William C. Redfield