711.008 North Pacific/500

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Canada (Simmons)

No. 1580

Sir: I desire that you seek an interview with the Secretary of State for External Affairs16 and, with general reference to the conservation measures which the Governments of the United States and Canada have adopted with regard to fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean, present to him in such manner as you may deem most effective the substance of the following paragraphs.

[Page 340]

The Government of the United States has for some time given careful thought and study to the problem of regulating maritime fisheries, and to the supplemental question of what, if any, international action it might be desirable or practicable to take with regard to certain fisheries which lie beyond but contiguous to territorial waters. This Government has given especial consideration in this connection to the important halibut and salmon fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean, which lie both within and beyond the territorial waters of the United States and Canada, and with respect to which it is now desired to place before the Canadian Government the following observations and suggestions:

This Government has observed that while a marked change in the international fishery situation has developed from the employment of modernized fishing methods, with the consequent increase in the exploitation of the sea fisheries, no comparable progress has been made toward the protection of these fisheries from possible depletion through unregulated fishing operations. Reference is made in particular to the activities of the modern trawler and the factory ship, which, with the aid of special refrigeration facilities, are capable of operating from distant bases over wide sea areas. Representatives of American fishing interests and the fishery authorities of this Government are agreed that there is in this situation a serious threat to valuable and indispensable food resources, and also to the conservation measures which have been placed in effect by the Governments of Canada and the United States with respect to halibut and salmon fisheries in the North Pacific Ocean. It is well known that the salmon are exposed to interception and ruinous exploitation in the course of their migration from the high seas shoreward into territorial waters and that the halibut fishing banks lie both within and beyond territorial waters. Accordingly there is, in the case of both fisheries, the problem of ensuring that the conservation programs of the United States and Canada shall not be undermined by the unrestricted fishing of the nationals of other countries.

The past activities of factory ships have been especially disturbing and affected interests are concerned over what may occur should the activity of such vessels increase. It will be recalled that in the autumn of 1936 the Canadian and United States Governments successfully made joint efforts to prevent a so-called “mothership”, then being fitted out in Norway, from carrying on halibut fishing operations beyond territorial waters17 but in areas included within the scope of an existing halibut convention.18 Although no similar threat to their joint halibut conservation measures is in sight, the increased use of [Page 341] modernized fishing methods may hasten the day when the threat of foreign exploitation will again materialize. It would seem the part of wisdom for the two Governments to anticipate and make whatever preparations may be possible to meet such an eventuality.

As the study of the general situation of the North Pacific fisheries has progressed, it has become evident that there are circumstances which render the protection of these fisheries of common concern to the fishery interests of the United States and Canada. Heretofore, the chief threat of the factory ship to the fishery resources of the North Pacific was witnessed in the Bristol Bay area. Nevertheless, the halibut and salmon fisheries of British Columbia and other Pacific Coast areas are exposed to possible operations of factory ships beyond the limits of territorial waters. In a number of these areas Canadian and American nationals have traditionally shared the resources, and the Governments of the United States and Canada have recognized a common interest in these resources by the conclusion of conventions for the conservation of the halibut and salmon. The American Government, therefore, believes that it will be apparent that any threat to the perpetuation of the fisheries in question would endanger alike vital interests of American and Canadian nationals, and at the same time directly conflict with the conservation efforts of the international fishery commissions set up by the Governments of Canada and the United States.

The United States Government has come to no conclusions as to what it may be desirable or practicable to do in this situation. However, the circumstances set forth have suggested the need of arrangements for a joint Canadian-American study of the problem of affording protection to those high seas coastal fisheries above mentioned which are of special concern and interest to both Canadian and American nationals.

Without interfering in any way with the labors of agencies already established by the two Governments under the Halibut and Sockeye Salmon19 Conventions, it is believed that an inquiry might best begin with investigation and study of purely economic and scientific matters relating to the general need of protecting high seas fisheries against possible overexploitation. Briefly, the task would appear to be to assemble and give study to such statistical, biological and economic data as may be necessary to establish the condition of the fisheries and fishery resources, and the probable effects of existing fishing methods upon the future supply of the principal species of fish. The fishery authorities of the United States and Canada, together with the North [Page 342] American Council on Fishery Investigation, appear to possess a great deal of the data necessary to an inquiry of this character. A thorough analysis of the data available or readily obtainable may provide the basis of conclusions as to conservation measures which may be necessary in particular circumstances, especially measures which it may appear necessary to consider toward further safeguarding the important Canadian and American interest in the fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean.

I desire that you inquire whether the Canadian Government would be prepared to take steps toward approaching the problem with a common objective and on parallel lines. This Government some two years ago assigned to an officer in the Department of State the duty of giving this subject special attention and of correlating studies and action relating to the subject on the part of other concerned agencies of this Government. Please inquire whether the Government of Canada has made any such arrangement or would be willing similarly to assign to some officer or officers a corresponding duty. This Government conceives that, were the Canadian Government to do this, a procedure would thereby become possible between the two Governments the essence of which would be consultation and conference to which the officers assigned by the two Governments could be parties, each of these officers acting as liaison with other officers and agencies of his own government. By this process, the two Governments could cooperate in the study of this problem from the point of view of common concern and interest without the setting up of any elaborate machinery. It is our concept that, in case this suggestion is favorably acted upon by the Canadian Government, an effective liaison between the two Governments for handling of matters relating to the subject under reference would thus be created and study by each and by both of the Governments of those features of this problem which are of greatest immediate concern would be greatly facilitated.

This Government hopes that the Canadian Government will be favorably disposed toward this suggestion and that it will find itself in a position at an early date to make the arrangement which the suggestion envisages.

In connection with your presentation of this matter to the Secretary of State for External Affairs, it is suggested that you might usefully refer to the Department’s telegram no. 406, November 16, 1936, 4 p.m., to London,20 a copy of which is enclosed. I desire that you endeavor to obtain an early response from the Canadian Government.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
R. Walton Moore
  1. Mackenzie King.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. ii, pp. 183 ff.
  3. Convention revising the convention of May 9, 1930, for the preservation of the halibut fishery of the Northern Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, signed at Ottawa, January 29, 1937, Department of State Treaty Series No. 917, or 50 Stat. 1351.
  4. Convention between the United States and Canada for the Protection of the Fraser River Sockeye Salmon Fisheries, signed May 26, 1930, Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. i, p. 504.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. ii, p. 185.