711.008 North Pacific/451½

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

At the suggestion of Mr. Moore and with the concurrence of Eu,13 Dr. Riddell14 was asked to come to the Department today in connection with the Alaska salmon fishery situation.

Mr. Hickerson15 said that Dr. Riddell would be familiar with the Alaska salmon fishery problem; that the Legation had shown interest in our handling of the problem; and that from time to time we had taken occasion to inform the Legation with regard to our efforts in the matter. He said that we were aware that at the moment the United States rather than Canada was concerned with regard to the question of alien fishing, but that the problem was one in which Canada might have greater interest later. He added, however, that at the present time we simply wished to inform Dr. Riddell relative to the present status of the matter. Dr. Riddell said that he would be very interested.

Mr. Sturgeon said that it might be best to begin with the assurances given to this country by Japan on March 25, 1938. He mentioned the essential points covered by these assurances and stated that, while American fishing interests had not accepted the arrangements with Japan as conclusive, they had apparently been gratified that a temporary solution had been found. Mr. Sturgeon mentioned that the Japanese assurances had been criticized on the ground that they failed to give explicit recognition to the special rights claimed by American fishing interests in the Bristol Bay area and on the ground that they contained no guarantee that Japanese nationals might not attempt to resume the activities complained of in the future. Dr. Riddell asked if the Japanese had “lived up” to their assurances. Mr. Sturgeon replied that it was an important fact that Coast Guard reports showed that the Japanese had lived up to their undertaking.

Mr. Sturgeon referred to the situation on the Pacific Coast and said that it seemed to be the situation there that tension had been considerably allayed as a result of our arrangement with Japan, but that there continued to be indication that the affected interests desire that something more be done toward obtaining a more comprehensive and permanent guarantee against alien fishing. He mentioned that the publicity resulting from the salmon fishery problem had stirred up a great deal of public interest; and that a number of well known persons [Page 339] had devoted study to the problem, with the result that the adequacy of the principle of the three-mile limit for fishery purposes has been brought into question. Mr. Sturgeon added that the Department and the Embassy in Tokyo had continued to give the matter study, but that no way had been found to do anything further with the Japanese about the matter, except that we had kept the Japanese Government informed with regard to the trend of sentiment in this country.

Mr. Hickerson said that he thought the matter could be summarized by saying that we had made an arrangement with Japan which the Japanese were living up to and which met our problem fairly well, but that this had not completely satisfied interests on the Pacific Coast.

Dr. Riddell asked if we had decided definitely upon any further action. Mr. Hickerson said that as yet we had not.

In more general discussion, Mr. Hickerson asked Dr. Riddell if he was familiar with legislation proposed in the Congress for the purpose of asserting jurisdiction over Alaska salmon fishing waters. When Dr. Riddell said that he was not especially familiar with the legislative proposals referred to, Mr. Sturgeon asked if he had had any indication of how Canadian public opinion had reacted to talk of legislation in this country. He said that he had not noticed anything in particular but that he had no doubt that British Columbians would favor legislation. He thought, however, that as the matter received attention in the East, opposition to the idea of legislation would very likely develop. He said he hoped, when he should visit Ottawa again, to go into this matter and later would like to bring us up to date about it.

At the conclusion of the conversation Dr. Riddell asked if we wished him to communicate to his Goverment a résumé of what had been said. Mr. Hickerson stated that he saw no objection to doing that.

  1. Division of European Affairs.
  2. W. A. Riddell, Counselor of the Canadian Legation.
  3. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs.