Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Interior (Ickes) to President Roosevelt 28
Subject: Resources of the Continental Shelf and Coastal Fisheries
Pursuant to your direction in June 1943, the Departments of State and of the Interior have been giving study to methods whereby the United States may, within the general framework of the principles of international law, assert jurisdiction over the important fisheries and other natural resources of the waters, sea bed and subsoil of the continental shelf contiguous to our coasts. As a result of these studies, the two Departments have agreed upon the attached formulae, one with respect to the resources of the sea bed and subsoil of the continental shelf and the other with respect to fisheries in certain areas of the high seas contiguous to the coasts. The effect of the adoption of these formulae will be to assert jurisdiction and control over the mineral and other resources under the sea bed of the continental shelf, and to assert a policy of establishing conservation zones for the protection of coastal fishery resources. These zones are to be controlled and regulated exclusively by the United States in areas where only our nationals have developed and maintained fishing activities on a substantial scale. In areas where legitimate fishery activities have been developed and maintained by nationals of other countries, their rights are safeguarded and such countries are permitted to join in the regulation and control. The right of other countries to establish similar conservation zones off their shores in accordance with the same principles is conceded.
In view of the important bearing of this policy upon our foreign relations it is proposed, in case you approve the attached statements of policy, to make them known informally to representatives in Washington of the other governments whose interests may be concerned and whose concurrence is desirable, namely, Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, U.S.S.R., Great Britain, and Cuba, and to learn the reactions of those governments, before any steps are taken to give publicity to the policy. This appears particularly appropriate in view of the fact that the Department of State, with the collaboration of the Department of the Interior, previously had given joint consideration with Canada [Page 1491] and Newfoundland to a policy for the regulation and control of coastal fisheries. The representatives of those countries have contributed materially to the thought embodied in the statements of policy, and their concurrence in the policy is highly desirable because of our common fishery interests. The subject has also been brought informally to the attention of Mexican representatives and their favorable view was indicated. It is believed that in the case of Canada and Newfoundland, at least, there is substantial agreement and it is possible that those countries would appreciate an opportunity to take joint action with us, or to take action of their own concurrently with ours, to adopt the proposed policy. With respect to the resources of the subsoil and sea bed, however, there have as yet been no corresponding discussions with other governments.
Within a period of two months from the date of your approval and after consultation with the foreign governments concerned, the necessary documents will be submitted for signature and promulgation by you. In view of the past interest of Congress in this question, as manifested in a number of legislative proposals, you may wish to consider the advisability of formal or informal communication with the Congress or with some of its leaders prior to the issuance of any proclamations.29
Acting Secretary of State
Secretary of the Interior
Approved: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Date of Approval:
Mar. 31, 1945
- Approved by the President on March 31, 1945.↩
- In the proposed draft memorandum of December 19, 1944, for President Roosevelt (not printed), the final paragraph began: “When the reactions of the foreign governments concerned have been learned, a decision can be made regarding the steps which might be taken to make the policy public, such as the issuance of proclamations.” Mr. Ickes, in a letter to the Secretary of State on January 4, 1945 (not printed), suggested a different course. “In the interest of expediting this project,” he wrote, “might it not be desirable to obtain a decision from the President on all questions of substance prior to the proposed consultation with other governments? This is particularly important in connection with the timing of the public declarations of policy which, I think, should come at the earliest practicable moment. The point could be met by minor revisions in the last paragraph together with a line for the approval of the President and the date of such approval.” (811.0145/1–445) The Acting Secretary of State gave his approval in a letter dated January 23, 1945.↩