Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Eugene H. Dooman, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn)

Mr. Gromov49 called this afternoon at my request.

I handed Mr. Gromov a copy of the proposed decision with regard to coastal fisheries and suggested that he read it before I made an explanatory statement. Mr. Gromov read the paper and asked whether Congress would enact a law placing the proposed policy into operation. I replied that it had not as yet been decided how the proposed policy would be established, but so far as I knew no thought had been given to the possibility of doing so by legislation. I added that perhaps the explanation which I proposed to give him would put the matter into a clear perspective.

I said that this Government had for some time been giving thought to various conditions which might adversely affect the fishery resources [Page 1507] in international waters off the coast of the American Continent. We had in mind recent improvements in the technique of fishing, such as factory ships, and we were somewhat concerned over the probability of a rapid depletion of the fishery resources of Europe. We have been expecting increased pressure on the fishery resources on this side of the Atlantic, and also on this side of the Pacific, and after thorough study of the problem the interested agencies of this Government had agreed upon a concept which was designed to promote the conservation of these resources.

Mr. Gromov asked whether we intended to assert sovereignty over waters beyond the three mile limit and if so how we proposed to do it. I replied that it was important for me to emphasize that it is not our intention to assert sovereignty beyond the three mile limit, but merely to assert control over fishing operations in certain areas inclusive of the known fishing grounds and such grounds as might be developed hereafter. I referred to the fact that the Soviet Government itself asserts control over waters between the three mile limit and the fourteen mile limit, but it was not my understanding that the Soviet Government had asserted sovereignty over those waters. Further, it was not our intention to exclude from the prescribed conservation areas the nationals of those countries that had either a historic or legal interest in the fisheries. On the contrary, the proposed policy decision was designed to safeguard such interests. However, we did expect nationals of other governments to conform to the same fishing regulations as those which American fishermen would be required to observe.

I explained to Mr. Gromov that the paper which I handed him was not to be regarded at the present moment as an official decision of the American Government, but rather as an indication of a decision which I hoped would be taken within the next few weeks. We believed that it would be in line with the general concepts of comity to acquaint friendly governments with our line of thinking prior to the taking of any definitive action. I requested, therefore, that Mr. Gromov would make this point clear to his Government and at the same time communicate our request that if the Soviet Government should think well of the proposed decision it would see its way clear to taking action concurrently with this Government.

I next handed Mr. Gromov a copy of the proposed decision with regard to mineral resources in the continental shelf, which I requested him to read. After Mr. Gromov had read the paper, I referred briefly to recent advances in drilling techniques and other improvements in the technology of mining for oil. I adverted to the oil wells that have been in operation off the coast of California and in the Gulf of Mexico, and I said that there was no reason now why it would not be possible for drilling to be carried out through great [Page 1508] depths of water and at substantial distances from the coast. I said the American people had never adhered to the view that the natural resources within the jurisdiction of the United States were available exclusively to the American people. The fact is that foreigners are permitted to operate mines within the United States on same conditions as citizens of this country. Similarly, it was not our intention to reserve the resources of the continental shelf exclusively to citizens of the United States. On the other hand, it was important that we should take necessary precautions against the draining of pools of oil within the United States by operations carried on at some distance from the coasts of this country. Furthermore, it was important that we should have some measure of control, from point of view of international security, over the operations of foreigners in close proximity to our shores.

I explained that here again the proposed policy should not be regarded at this time as a definitive statement of American policy, but that it was proposed by some appropriate means to establish the principles set forth in the paper within the next few weeks. It was also our opinion that the adoption by the Soviet Government of a similar policy would be in the interest of the Soviet Union and we therefore hoped that the Soviet Government would see its way clear to taking action concurrently with the proposed action of this Government.

Mr. Gromov asked whether we had approached other foreign governments along the lines of the approach which I had been making. I replied that we had. I said that in respect of the fisheries, we had been in close consultation with the Canadian Government for a substantial period of time and that we had also had informal discussions with the Mexican Government. We had already advised several other governments of our proposed decisions and were in the process of approaching others, and I named the various governments referred to.

Mr. Gromov then asked if we proposed to invite foreign governments to enter into a convention which would embrace our proposed policy decision. I replied that so far as I knew, it was not our intention, at least in the first instance, to propose the conclusion of any such convention. Perhaps at some future date it might be desirable to consider some such procedure. I added that there had been some thought given in both official and private quarters in the United States of the desirability of proposing to the Soviet Government, after the conclusion of the war in the Pacific, a joint study of fishing conditions in the Bering Sea with a view to an agreement delineating our respective fishing areas. Mr. Gromov said that he did not believe that there were any extensive fishing operations by Soviet nationals [Page 1509] in the Bering Sea. I remarked that we had received a number of indications of fairly extensive operations in the waters referred to by Soviet citizens, and that it semed to us desirable to have a survey made as soon as practicable and before conditions had become somewhat crystallized.

Mr. Gromov said that he would appropriately inform his Government of the observations that we had made and would forward at his earliest convenience the various papers which we had handed him. In conclusion he asked when we intended to promulgate our new policies. I replied that I could not give him any definite indication for the reason that the time set would depend in considerable measure on the character of the responses and comments to be made by the various foreign governments approached. For that reason I suggested that it would be extremely helpful if he could procure at an early date some expression of his Government’s views.

  1. Anatoli B. Gromov, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy. Merritt N. Gootes of the Division of Eastern European Affairs was also present.