711.008 North Pacific/265

The Under Secretary of State ( Welles ) to the Counselor of the Department of State ( Moore )

Dear Judge Moore: In the course of a conversation which I had the opportunity of having with the President Sunday72 afternoon at the White House, he happened to tell me that he had seen our memorandum to the Japanese Government73 on the subject of the Alaskan fisheries and that he was heartily in accord with the step proposed. He added that he had been thinking a good deal about the subject and I understood him to say that he had dictated a memorandum74 on it which I assume will be sent to you.

He asked me to say to you that he felt the time had come when the United States should consider a pretty far-reaching move with regard to this whole subject. He said that what he had in mind was an Executive proclamation by the President, declaring that on account of the peculiar scientific conditions which exist with regard to the habits of salmon and which consequently affect the salmon fisheries industry, the waters of the Pacific Ocean between the three mile limit and that point of the ocean bed where the water reaches a depth of 100 fathoms, must be considered as territorial waters indispensable to the proper safeguarding of this important portion of the food supply of the American people. He stated that he had under consideration the proclamation of these waters as territorial waters of the United States and as a national game preserve within which no fishing, whether American or of any other nationality, could be undertaken, except upon the prior issuance of a license permitting such fishing, to be issued by the Government of the United States.

The President called special attention to the fact that these territorial waters for the purpose indicated should extend from the United States-Canada boundary north of Prince Rupert, around the Aleutian Islands, to the center point of the Bering Strait dividing the Soviet Union from the United States. The President emphasized the fact that Bering Strait, as he recalled it, did not attain a depth of more than about 150 to 200 feet and that, consequently, such proclamation on his part would make Bering Strait a closed channel for fishing purposes, except for such fisheries as might be licensed [Page 771] by the Soviet Union or by the United States. When the proper time came he indicated the step to be taken should be explained to the Soviet Union so that they would understand that the step taken was in no way directed against them, but was undertaken solely for the protection of our own national resources.

The President believed that as a first step you might request the Navy Department to supply you with the ocean charts which they have available and which will show where the 100 fathom line, above referred to, runs so that we may be certain in advance that, from the technical standpoint, there will be no difficulty involved in the delimitation of the territorial waters he has in mind.

If there are any points above mentioned which are not very clear—inasmuch as you know I am not familiar with the subject matter of this question which you have been handling—you may wish to get further clarification directly from the President. Insofar as I can recall, the specific suggestions which he mentioned are contained above.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. November 21.
  2. See telegram No. 309, November 20, noon, to the Ambassador in Japan, p. 763.
  3. Infra.