The Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Interior (Ickes)

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Reference is made to your letter of December 7, 1944,24 regarding the resources of the continental shelf adjacent to the coasts of the United States, with which you transmit a memorandum for our joint submission to the President.

I am happy to learn that we are in complete agreement on the drafts of the proposed policy with respect to the natural resources of the sea [Page 1489] bed and subsoil of the continental shelf and with respect to fisheries off our coasts.

I note that you suggest that we join in submitting to the President a memorandum, together with drafts of proclamations to be prepared in this Department. However, I am doubtful as to the desirability of submitting proclamations at the present time. I have noted from the last sentence of your letter, that we are in agreement that in case the proposed policy meets with the President’s approval, it should be made known informally to the other governments primarily concerned, and the reactions of those governments learned, before steps are taken to make the policy public. It seems to me that it would be preferable to obtain the President’s approval, and to take the matter up with the other governments, namely Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, U.S.S.R., Great Britain, and Cuba, before submitting proclamations. This procedure, it seems to me, would more likely keep the other governments in a favorable frame of mind.

As you are aware, the subject of such jurisdiction over fisheries has for more than eighteen months been under informal discussion with Canada,25 and has more recently been taken up informally with Newfoundland and Mexico.26 Representatives of Canada and Newfoundland have contributed materially in the formulation of the statement on fisheries; and it is believed that both these countries will be in substantial agreement with the policy and may welcome an opportunity to take joint action with us, or to take unilateral action concurrently with ours, in making known their adherence to the proposed principles. From the standpoint of our foreign relations with Canada, especially, it would be desirable to avoid public unilateral action by our Government until the Canadian Government has been informed of the action proposed.

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Consequently, I suggest that we submit to the President a joint memorandum along the lines of the one attached.27

Sincerely yours,

Edward E. Stettinius, Jr.
  1. Not printed; Mr. Ickes gave his complete approval to the proposed policy drafts. He enclosed in his letter a proposed memorandum to President Roosevelt which was incorporated in the final draft as the first paragraph. (811.0145/11–2844)
  2. On June 14, 1943, the Canadian Assistant Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, Hugh Llewelyn Keenleyside, proposed to the Department of State that new principles for the protection of coastal fisheries be worked out between the two countries. After informal discussions within the Department, and with representatives of Canada and Newfoundland, a meeting was held in Ottawa January 24–25, 1944, to consider a common policy toward coastal fisheries jurisdiction. Technical discussions followed on February 17–18 culminating in an all-day meeting at the Department of State on February 19 under the chairmanship of Joseph C. Grew. Further discussions were postponed due to the decision to formulate a unilateral policy under the auspices of the Departments of State and of the Interior.
  3. An Informal Joint Mexican-American Commission on International Fisheries was established in December, 1943. Under the chairmanship of Ira N. Gabrielson, the committee included E. Dana Durand, U.S. Tariff Commissioner; Cmdr. Rigoberto Otál Briceño, Jefe, Dirección de Pesca e Industrias Conexas, Secretaría de Marina; and Jose Lorenzo Cossio of the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. Two meetings were held in 1944: the first in Mexico City in early April, and the second in Washington in mid-September. During the latter meeting, a recommendation was made that both countries undertake joint action to preserve coastal fisheries.
  4. Infra.