Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1919, Volume I
The British Chargé ( Lindsay ) to the Acting Secretary of State
Sir: In accordance with instructions which I have received from the Canadian Government I have the honour to transmit to you, herewith, copy of an approved Minute of the Privy Council for Canada, approving, subject to certain modifications set forth in the Minute, a Report of the Canadian-American Fisheries Conference, dated 6th September, 1918.21
In forwarding you a copy of this document I have been requested by the Canadian Government to add that they are most anxious to learn the views of the United States Government in regard to the Canadian position on the points dealt with in the Minute of Council and I should be grateful if you would be good enough to communicate to me any views on the subject which the competent Department of the United States Government may desire to express. I understand that the Canadian authorities would be glad to be in possession of the opinion of the United States authorities on these matters at the earliest possible date.
I have [etc.]
Minute of the Privy Council for Canada, Approved March 11, 1919
The Committee of the Privy Council have had before them a Report, dated 5th March, 1919, from the Acting Secretary of State for External Affairs, submitting the Report of the Canadian American Fisheries Conference, dated 6th September, 1918.
The principal subjects under consideration at this Conference were:
- Privileges to the fishing vessels of either country in the ports of the other.
- Rehabilitation and protection of the sockeye salmon of the Fraser River System.
- Protection of the Pacific halibut fishery.
- Fishing by United States lobster well-smacks off Canadian Coast.
- Protection of the fisheries of Lake Champlain.
- Requirements imposed on Canadian fishing vessels passing through territorial waters of Alaska.
- Protection of the sturgeon fisheries.
- Protection of whales.
Taking up these questions in the reverse order of their enumeration, the Minister offers the following observations:—
(1) Protection of whales.
The Commissioners are of opinion that the subject of the protection of whales on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of both countries is one calling for world-wide international action, and they recommend that an international conference composed of representatives of the different maritime nations interested should be called to consider this important question, with a view to the saving of the whales from extinction and the perpetuation of the whaling industry. The Minister concurs in this suggestion.
(2) Protection of the sturgeon fisheries.
On this subject, the conference adopted a resolution setting forth that sturgeons are by far the most valuable fishes inhabiting North American waters; that the supply of this fish is diminishing, and in some waters had almost disappeared; that the remedial measures heretofore adopted are inadequate to arrest this rapid decline. They accordingly recommend that all sturgeon fishing in contiguous waters of the United States and Canada be suspended for at least five years, and that similar action should be taken by the legislative bodies controlling non-contiguous waters. The Conference commends the regulation adopted by Minute of the Privy Council approved by Your Excellency on the 22nd March, 1918, providing for a four years’ prohibition of sturgeon fishing of Lake Erie, conditional upon the bordering States of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, enacting similar legislation, and urges that such action be taken by these States. It also urges that provision be made for a longer period of closure as far as all boundary waters are concerned as well as waters not contiguous to the boundary of both countries. The Minister is of the opinion that the Canadian Government might profitably join in steps looking to the protection of this valuable industry.
(3) Requirements imposed on Canadian fishing vessels passing through territorial waters of Alaska.
The Canadian Commissioners brought up for consideration the difference in treatment accorded the Canadian fishing vessels on the Northern Pacific by the United States authorities and that accorded the United States fishing vessels by the Canadian authorities. On this matter the Conference reported as follows: [Page 253]
“On the Pacific Coast the United States fishing vessels leaving Washington ports for the Northern fishing grounds of Alaska, sail through the narrow territorial channels along the Coast of British Columbia, between the islands and the mainland, so as to escape the rougher outside waters, and are required neither to enter nor report at any Canadian customs office, while Canadian fishing vessels passing through similar channels along the Coast of Alaska to the fishing grounds on the high seas beyond, have been required to enter and clear at Ketchikan, thus not only losing time, but involving the payment of fees, which usually amount to from $12.00 to $15.00 on the larger vessels, on each occasion.
This matter was investigated during the hearings on the Pacific Coast, and was found to be substantially as above stated, for while the vessels were not cleared from Ketchikan for the fishing grounds, they were cleared for a Canadian port by way of the fishing grounds, and thus went from Ketchikan to the fishing grounds and thence back to a Canadian port.
The law under which entry and clearance was required was an enactment to prevent smuggling, and as there was some question as to whether a proper interpretation was being placed upon it, in requiring passing fishing vessels to enter and clear, the question was forthwith taken up by the Department of Commerce, which, after full consideration, found that the practice which had grown up was not warranted by law. It was forthwith discontinued.”
This cause of complaint and irritation which has existed in the Canadian vessel fisheries ever since the beginning of the Northern fishing voyages, has thus been removed.
The Minister observes that as a different interpretation had been placed upon this law for a long period, it would appear to be desirable, in order to avoid the possibility of controversy in the future, that in any convention framed upon this report the rights of Canada and of the United States in respect of the fishing vessels of either of them passing through the territorial waters of the other in the Northern Pacific should be declared and set forth.
(4) Protection of the fisheries on Lake Champlain.
The Canadian section of the Conference recommended to their Government that the net fishing in Missisquoi should be stopped. This was done by Order of Your Excellency in Council of the 18th February, 1918, and there is no further source of irritation upon that head.
(5) Fishing by United States lobster well-smacks off the Canadian coast.
The pursuit of this practice has caused in the past much local irritation and dissatisfaction, and has also tended to deplete the lobster fisheries. The Conference, having considered the matter, reported as follows:— [Page 254]
“When at an early meeting of the Conference, the Canadian Section explained the unfair position in which the Canadian lobster fishermen on certain parts of the Nova Scotia Coast were being placed, by the United States lobster well-smacks fishing just outside the territorial waters during the close time for lobster fishing inside such waters, and using the local harbours as a base for this fishery by resorting thereto each night, under the cloak of coming in for shelter, which seems a clear breach of the spirit of intention of the treaty of 1818, the unfairness of the position was admitted by the United States section, and forthwith the Secretary of Commerce ordered that there be prepared, for submission to Congress, a Bill designed to prevent such fishing.
This prompt action was endorsed at the hearings at Boston by all the people who had been engaged in the industry, all of whom said they would not put any vessels in this fishery.
Thus, even before Congressional action could be completed, the end in view has been achieved, and there has been settled a question, which, though affecting up to the present only a limited portion of the Coast of Nova Scotia, was causing such growing unrest among the lobster fishermen there, as to threaten the total breakdown of the protective regulations designed for the conservation of the fishery, both inside and outside territorial waters.”
The Minister is of the opinion that in order to insure the permanence of the arrangement above set forth, and to guard against misunderstandings and consequent irritation in the future, it is desirable that any convention based hereon, should contain a declaration that such lobster wellsmacks fishing is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Treaty of 1818 and should, therefore, be permanently discontinued.
(6) Protection of the Pacific halibut fishery.
The Commissioners recommend that there should be a uniform close season for halibut fishing on the Pacific Coast for the United States and Canada, such close season to be from the 16th November to the 15th day of February in each year for ten years, and that the proper penalties for the violation of its provisions should be provided by each country. The Commissioners also recommend further investigation into the halibut fishing, and that Commissions be appointed under the suggested sockeye salmon fishery Treaty (dealt with in the paragraph immediately following), which shall also be charged with the supervision of the proposed halibut close season. The Minister concurs in this recommendation.
(7) Rehabilitation and protection of the sockeye salmon of the Fraser River system.
The Commissioners point out many difficulties in dealing with this problem and recommend that a Treaty be entered into between the two countries respecting the matter. With a view to expedition, [Page 255] they have submitted a draft of such proposed Treaty (Appendix A to their report) together with certain suggested regulations thereunder (Appendix B to their report). This proposed Treaty limits the time, season, and methods of sockeye salmon fishing in the Fraser River; requires the two countries to enforce by legislation and executive action such regulations, and defines the area over which the same are to be operative. It also provides for the appointment of an international fisheries commission to be composed of two Commissioners from each country to conduct investigations. The proposed Treaty to be in force for fifteen years and thereafter cancellable on two years’ notice. The Minister concurs in this recommendation.
(8) Privileges to the fishing vessels of either country in the ports of the other.
The Commissioners in their report have traced the history of this complex question which, taking its origin in the war of the Revolution, has for considerably more than a century periodically engaged the attention of British and American diplomatists. After an extensive review of the past and present conditions, they have made certain recommendations which read:—
“That Article 1 of the Treaty of the 20th October 1818, be amended so as to make available in either country to the fishing vessels of the other, the privileges covered by the instructions of the United States Secretary of Commerce to collectors of Customs of that country, dated February 21st, 1918, and by the Canadian Order in Council, dated March 8th, 1918, in substance as follows:—
- That the fishing vessels of either country may enter from the high seas any port of the other, and clear from such port back to the high seas and the fishing-grounds.
- That the fishing vessels of either country may dispose of their catches and purchase bait, ice, nets, lines, coal, oil, provisions, and all other supplies and outfits in the ports of either country.
- That the repairing of fishing implements in the ports of either country be allowed to the vessels of the other country.
- That the fishing vessels of either country may dress, salt, and otherwise prepare their catches on board such vessels within the territorial waters of the other country.
- That the fishing vessels of either country may ship their crews and trans-ship their catches in the ports of the other country.
- That the fishermen of either country may sell their catches in the ports of the other country [subject] to Customs’ [local] tariff, if any.[”]
It is understood that such an arrangement as is here proposed is to include both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. The Minister [Page 256] observes that the recommendations above numbered from one to six are virtually those in force at the present time under an Order of Your Excellency in Council, which provided for their continuance during the existence of the present war.
The Minister sees no objection to their adoption and incorporation in a treaty provided that:—
- The Treaty of 1818 be not amended, but its operation suspended so far and only so far as may be necessary to give effect to the new Treaty,
- Any Treaty to be entered into shall be for a fixed period not to exceed fifteen years and thereafter determinable with two years’ notice.
- The rights of Canadian and American fishing vessels respectively, in passing through the territorial waters of the other in the Northern Pacific, be declared and set forth in such Treaty.
- There be incorporated in the Treaty, the finding of the Conference, that the Lobster Well-Smacks fishing by citizens of the United States, just outside the territorial waters of Canada during the closed time for lobster fishing inside such waters, and using the local harbours as a base for this fishery, is contrary to the spirit and intention of the Treaty of 1818.
In addition to the subjects referred to them for discussion and deliberation, the Commissioners have considered the question of the removal of the duty on fresh fish entering the Dominion from the United States, and have recommended that the Canadian duty on fresh and frozen fish not including shell-fish, 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 either country into the other, and that such arrangement remains 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.
The Minister is of opinion that as this question did not form part of the subject matter of the reference to the Commissioners and relates to the fiscal policy of the country, it should not be dealt with in the proposed convention but if considered desirable it should form the subject of a separate negotiation.
The Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister of the Naval Service, recommends that subject to the modifications above set forth, the report of the Canadian-American Fisheries Conference receive the approval of Your Excellency.
The Committee concurring, recommend the same for Your Excellency’s approval accordingly.
Clerk of the Privy Council