711.008 North Pacific/278½

Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Leo D. Sturgeon of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. Loring Christie, Counselor, External Affairs Department, Dominion of Canada.
Mr. Key (American Legation).8
Mr. Sturgeon.

Mr. Key and Mr. Sturgeon called by appointment on Mr. Christie in the External Affairs Department.

After being introduced to Mr. Christie by Mr. Key, and a few moments of general conversation, Mr. Sturgeon mentioned that in recent months the Department had been working on the problem of protecting the Alaska salmon fishery from the threat of Japanese fishing. He stated that in considering these problems the possible common interest of Canada had constantly been borne in mind, and also the possibility that what we are now doing may prove of only temporary effect; that some of those studying the situation feel that we may later be called upon to work out a broader and more permanent arrangement; and that we had therefore wished to let the Canadian authorities know, at least in a general wáy, how we are attempting to meet the situation created by Japanese fishing.

Mr. Christie said that he had been able to keep in touch with what we were doing through the American Legation and from reports of the Canadian Minister at Washington, and expressed appreciation of the cooperation that had been extended through these channels. He said that there had been considerable apprehension among Canadians, especially Canadian fishing interests, in regard to Japanese fishing [Page 170] operations in the North Pacific. He said that it was rather generally felt that when the Japanese shall have exhausted other fishing grounds they may attempt to exploit Canadian waters. Mr. Christie indicated that he had chiefly in mind Canadian halibut fishing waters.

Mr. Sturgeon mentioned that certain interests in the United States believed that eventually the best solution to the problem arising out of Japanese fishing in the Pacific would be an international convention among the interested powers for the protection and conservation of North Pacific fisheries. He inquired whether Mr. Christie had heard any talk in Canadian Government circles of the possibility of such a convention. Mr. Christie replied that there had been no formal discussion regarding an international convention, but that he had had some informal discussion on the subject with Dr. Found, Deputy Minister of the Fisheries Department. Mr. Christie made it clear that no formal consideration had been given to this question and stated that he understood that on the American side the taking of steps toward an international convention was a matter for the future and not one being given immediate consideration. Mr. Sturgeon replied that the matter was not under immediate consideration, and that the general situation would probably have to develop or “ripen” considerably before this stage was likely to be reached.

Mr. Sturgeon referred to reports and suggestions from certain American quarters to the effect that the time may have come when it would be advisable for Canada and the United States to consider taking joint action to protect the off-shore fisheries of Canada and Alaska against Japanese fishing. He inquired whether Mr. Christie’s Department had been similarly approached. After some hesitation Mr. Christie stated that there were some interests in Canada which were inclined to approach the fishing question from this angle, but he wondered whether they realized the significance of what they were urging. In the first place, he pointed out, Canadian interests have not thus far been directly affected by the Japanese fishing in Bristol Bay. It was rather the fear that the Japanese might after depleting the fisheries of the Bristol Bay area move southward, thus coming into conflict with Canadian interests, which was at the bottom of the agitation in favor of joint Canadian-American action. The inference from Mr. Christie’s remark was that the Canadian Government is not for the present at least thinking in terms of joint action.

Mr. Sturgeon asked Mr. Christie whether he had given any thought to the possible inadequacy of the traditional three-mile limit jurisdiction over territorial waters as it affects fisheries. Replying indirectly to this question, Mr. Christie referred to a recent article in the Saturday Evening Post in which the question “Are Fish Citizens?” was facetiously raised. Mr. Sturgeon stated that the American Government [Page 171] had not attempted to put forward any such narrow interpretation of the salmon fishery question as that contained in the magazine article referred to, but that the American Government had given thought to the fact that certain types of fisheries, such as salmon, have always pertained to the land and that, therefore, as a matter of equity it had been thought that certain superior economic claims could justly be put forward. Mr. Christie indicated sympathetic assent to this view and stated that he had read with much interest the American Government’s memorandum in regard to the Alaska fisheries which was presented to the Tokyo Government,9 a copy of which had been left with him by the Legation. He had noted that the memorandum contained many valid economic, if not legalistic, arguments which supported our general position with respect to foreign fishing.

At the conclusion of the conversation Mr. Christie expressed himself as gratified at the opportunity which the visit had given him for an exchange of views relative to fisheries in which Canada and the United States have common interest. He assured Mr. Sturgeon that everything that had been said would be treated in strict confidence. Mr. Sturgeon in turn stated that lie had not called to speak specifically of any particular phase of the fishery question and that on his part the conversation would be treated chiefly as background in connection with future duties. Mr. Christie then suggested that he would be glad to arrange for a conversation with the Deputy Minister of Fisheries.10 Mr. Sturgeon thanked Mr. Christie for the suggestion and for the consideration given him with respect to the conversation.

Leo D. Sturgeon
  1. David McK. Key, Second Secretary of Legation in Canada.
  2. See telegram No. 309, November 20, 1937, noon, to the Ambassador in Japan, Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. iv, p. 763.
  3. The conversation took place January 29, 1938.