The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Howard)
Excellency: I have the honor to invite your attention to the fact that pike-perch in Lake Champlain, which annually migrate to the Canadian waters of Missisquoi Bay at the northern end of the Lake for the purpose of spawning, are being taken with seines under licenses issued by the Canadian authorities. The spawning season usually lasts from about March first to April fifteenth and it is understood that the licenses are issued for this period, although it has been reported that individuals continue illegally to fish with seines until well along into the month of May. During this time when the fish are passing into the Canadian waters they are taken in very large quantities without having had an opportunity to spawn, thus serving to destroy in large measure the future supply of this valuable food fish.
The question of conserving the pike-perch fisheries in Lake Cham-plain was discussed by the American-Canadian Fisheries Conference held in 1918.30 The report of this Conference, signed by the Commissioners for the United States and the Commissioners for the Dominion of Canada at Lake Champlain, New York, September 6, 1918,31 contained the following statement with reference to the protection of the fisheries of Lake Champlain:
“At the Boston hearings representatives from the States of New York and Vermont appeared to urge better protection of the fisheries in Missisquoi Bay, the Canadian portion of Lake Champlain. This matter had received preliminary consideration by the conference during its sittings in Washington, D. C.[Page 512]
“It was explained that for some years past these two States, with the cooperation and assistance of the Federal Government, were endeavoring to make Lake Champlain a favorite tourist resort, as, owing to its character, it could not support any extensive commercial fishing. To this end both States were prohibiting all net fishing, but the most important spawning grounds for pike-perch, the most valuable fish in the lake, are in the portion thereof that is in Canadian territory, and there each spring, when the fish crowd into these waters to spawn, they are caught with, seines. Thus the good effects of the work of the two States were being largely nullified.
“It was also explained that the United States Bureau of Fisheries operates a pike-perch hatchery on the lake and that it was prepared to enlarge the hatchery and increase its work if the net fishing were stopped.
“While this matter was not explicitly referred to the conference for consideration, it was one of which it could take cognizance. It was, therefore, left with the Canadian delegation for such action as they felt justified in taking.
“Following the return of the Canadian section to Ottawa, after hearings at St. John, it laid the facts before the Canadian Government, and recommended that all net fishing in Missisquoi Bay should be stopped. This recommendation was approved, and the fishery regulations for the Province of Quebec were amended accordingly by Order in Council of February 18, 1918.” (Page 37)
The amendment, prohibiting net fishing in Missisquoi Bay and in the Canadian waters of Lake Champlain, was later incorporated in an Order in Council of October 22, 1921, which in turn was rescinded by a subsequent Order in Council, dated March 1, 1922.
Since the promulgation of the Order in Council of March 1, 1922, it appears that net fishing has been authorized in Missisquoi Bay under licenses issued by Canadian authorities, and that at the present time fish are being gathered in by seines night and day.
The harmful effect which this seining is having upon the Lake Champlain Fishery is apparent.
I have the honor, therefore, to express the hope that you will present the matter to the Government of Canada and ascertain whether that Government would be willing to cooperate with this Government in conserving this fishery by prohibiting net fishing in the Canadian waters during the spawning season. If the prohibition inaugurated by the Order in Council of February 18, 1918, were reestablished by the Canadian authorities, it would be a source of gratitude to the United States and particularly to the people living in the vicinity of Lake Champlain, who feel greatly aggrieved at the existing practice. It is suggested that the furtherance of good will which discontinuance of the seining would occasion would no doubt outweigh the economic loss to individuals who have profited from the seining operations. Since this Government understands [Page 513] that the operations complained of are now being vigorously prosecuted, it is hopeful that the Canadian authorities may see their way clear to take immediate action in the premises. I shall appreciate it if you will inform me as soon as feasible as to the disposition of the Canadian Government in this matter.