The Counselor of the British Embassy (Wright) to Mr. Eugene H. Dooman, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn)

Ref: 1852/4/45

Dear Mr. Dooman: On the 9th of May you handed to Sir George Sansom (who has since left for the United Kingdom) two documents entitled (1) Proposed Decision with respect to Fisheries in Certain Areas of High Seas and (2) Proposed Decision with respect to Natural Resources of the Sub-Soil and sea bed of the Continental Shelf. You explained to Sansom that these documents represented policies agreed upon by the United States Government and that they were to be published in about one month’s time, but that it was desired to give His Majesty’s Government the opportunity of commenting on them first.

I have now received instructions from the Foreign Office who, while making no comment on document (2), are much concerned about the proposed publication of document (1) which, it is anticipated, would have serious repercussions on fisheries in north-western European waters. While the principle of control of off-coast fisheries by the coastal State, or States, might meet the needs of fisheries in the Western Hemisphere, the promulgation of this principle at the present time is considered likely to spread confusion in European fisheries, where the claims of individual States to off-coast fisheries would gravely impair the position of the United Kingdom industry, which obtains the bulk of its catches from waters situated nearer to the coast of other countries than to those of the United Kingdom. His Majesty’s Government would be glad of more time to consider the complications likely to arise and would therefore prefer that publication [Page 1513] by the United States Government should not take place or, at the least, should be postponed as long as possible.

If the United States Government considers it essential to make an announcement on the subject, it is hoped that they may agree to refrain from any public espousal of the principle of control by the coastal State, relying instead upon the de facto control which the geographical position of the United States enables that Government to exercise. In short, while agreeing with the idea of regional as opposed to global, regulations of fisheries, His Majesty’s Government would much prefer the emphasis to be laid on adherence to the principle of the three-mile limit and to the principle of international, as opposed to national, control of fisheries outside that limit. This would avoid emphasising the preponderant control which any one State might be able to obtain under the principle embodied in the proposed announcement.

An additional reason advanced by the Foreign Office for postponing a public announcement is that His Majesty’s Government hope shortly to convene a conference of the European fishing countries to consider a plan for the conservation of fish stocks in the North Sea by restricting the total tonnage of fishing vessels. This plan might well be stultified, if certain European countries receive any encouragement towards claiming a controlling interest in the fisheries near their coasts. It is possible that this conference might be timed to coincide with the resumption of the London Fisheries Conference of 1943.

I hope to be able to let you have very shortly a more detailed statement of the position taken by His Majesty’s Government in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Wright