The Secretary of State to the Minister in Ecuador (Gonzalez)
Sir: Reference is made to your despatches No. 8, March 14, 1935, and No. 17, March 27, 1935,12 concerning the detention by the Ecuadoran authorities at Porto Chico, San Cristobal Island, Galápagos, of the American fishing vessel Seaboy and concerning the definition of the territorial waters or marginal seas of Ecuador, and also to despatch No. 4 of March 9, 1935, from the American Consulate General at Guayaquil,13 referred to in the prior despatch.[Page 515]
It appears from the Consulate General’s despatch that the boat Seaboy having entered the Harbor of Porto Chico on San Cristobal Island in the Galápagos Islands with a sick man on board was detained and a fine of $200 imposed upon the boat for fishing in territorial waters in violation of Ecuadoran fishing regulations. It does not appear from this despatch or from your despatches what was the location of the vessel at the time of the fishing for which this fine was imposed.
In your despatch No. 17 of March 27, 1935, you state that you have received from the Foreign Office a formal note transmitting a copy of the Registro Oficial, No. 257 of August 31, 1934, which contains the text of the “Maritime Fishing and Hunting Regulations”, promulgated on August 29, 1934. Careful consideration has been given to those articles of these regulations to which you direct the attention of the Department, that is, Articles 77, 78 and 129. It is noted that in Article 129 territorial waters off the coast of Ecuador are apparently defined as extending to a line “six miles away from the coast measured from the line of lowest tide”. In Article 77 fishing by foreign vessels is prohibited in accordance with certain provisions contained in the regulations “in territorial waters and adjacent free waters within perimeter of the archipelago”. It is not clear from this what waters are intended to be included within the perimeter of the archipelago, but it is clear that the prohibition against fishing extends even beyond territorial waters into certain adjacent free waters. In Article 78 territorial waters for the purpose of fishing zones are declared to be “those comprised within fifteen miles measured from the line of the lowest tide, at the most projecting points of the Islands.”
As these regulations extend the zone of the territorial waters far beyond the three-mile limit recognized by a majority of states, and consistently adhered to by the United States, as the zone in which territorial jurisdiction may rightfully be exercised, the Department desires that you present the following note to the Foreign Minister of Ecuador:
“I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s note of (insert date, date not given in despatch), transmitting a copy of the Registro Oficial No. 257 of August 31, 1934, containing the text of the ‘Maritime Fishing and Hunting Regulations’ promulgated by the Ecuadoran Government on August 29, 1934. You state that this publication was sent to the Foreign Office by the Minister of War with the request that it be forwarded to the Legation. This publication has been brought to the attention of my Government, and it has given careful consideration to the text of the ‘Maritime Fishing and Hunting Regulations’ contained therein.
“My Government requests me to express its concern regarding the provisions embodied in certain articles contained in those regulations [Page 516] purporting to define the limits of the territorial waters off the coast of Ecuador and in the Galápagos Islands, especially to the provisions contained in Articles 77, 78 and 129. It is observed that Article 129 provides that ‘fishing in general is free throughout the year …14 provided that it is done outside of the territorial waters, more than six miles away from the coast measured from the line of lowest tide’. This article apparently purports to extend the territorial waters of Ecuador to a distance of six miles from the coast. It is noted further that fishing by foreign vessels in the vicinity of the Galápagos Islands is prohibited in accordance with certain provisions contained in the regulations ‘in territorial waters and adjacent free waters within the perimeter of the archipelago’. In Article 78 for the purpose of fishing zones it is declared that ‘territorial waters are considered to be those comprised within fifteen miles measured from the line of the lowest tide, at the most projecting points of the Islands’. While the extent of the waters over which Ecuador purports to extend its authority for the purpose of fishing regulations in the vicinity of Galápagos Islands does not appear clearly from the texts of Articles 77 and 78, it does seem to be clear that under Article 78, territorial waters are defined as comprising those within fifteen miles of the Islands, measured from the line of the lowest tide at the most projecting points. My Government desires to point out that the regulations thus set forth in these articles purport to extend the territorial waters of Ecuador in the waters adjacent to the mainland and in the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands far beyond the three-mile limit recognized by a majority of states as delimiting the waters in which a state may properly exercise its jurisdiction under the rules of international law. My Government has consistently recognized this three-mile limit in its exercise of general jurisdiction, including jurisdiction with regard to fisheries, in the waters surrounding its coasts and cannot admit the right of the Ecuadoran Government to apply its fishing regulations to American vessels beyond the belt of three miles from low water mark.
“I am also instructed by my Government to call to your attention the recent detention of the boat Seaboy, a vessel of American registry, upon its entry into the harbor of Porto Chico in San Cristobal Island in the Galápagos Islands to secure medical attention for a member of its crew, and the imposition upon it of a fine of two hundred dollars under instructions from the Minister of War at Quito upon the grounds that it had violated the regulations with regard to fishing in territorial waters. The Legation is not informed as to where the Seaboy is charged by the Ecuadoran authorities with having been located at the time of the alleged breach of the fishing regulations. I should, therefore, appreciate being furnished with a statement of the facts concerning the location of the Seaboy upon the basis of which this fine was imposed.”
Very truly yours,