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

Mr. Cecil60 called on me this morning and handed me the attached letter61 from Mr. Michael Wright, Counselor of the British Embassy. The letter requested that certain amendments be made to the proposed fishery policy with a view to meeting certain needs of the British position.

After reading the letter I told Mr. Cecil that matters had gone too far for us to consider making the changes proposed in the letter by Mr. Wright. It was my opinion however that we could effectively meet the points stressed in the letter by making appropriate observations in the press release which we anticipated making simultaneously with the publication of the policy statement.

I told Mr. Cecil that I was somewhat disappointed that the British Foreign Office had not quite gotten the point of the policy statement, and I gave him a fairly extended account of such problems as the Alaska salmon, the halibut fishery, and so on. I said that in these cases we found ourselves obliged to anticipate in some satisfactory manner probable threats to those important resources. I pointed out however that we knew of no condition in the North Sea which was in any way parallel to such cases as those I had just enumerated. So far as I knew, there was no fishing ground in the public waters of the North Sea which had been exclusively fished by the nationals of any one country; so that it might be said that all fishing grounds in the North Sea were of common interest to the countries operating in those waters. I therefore saw no reason for objection to the principle which we propose to follow in analogous cases over on our side: that is, through agreements between the United States and the foreign countries concerned.

Mr. Cecil said that while what I had said might be literally correct, there was some possibility of our principle being obliquely invoked by an ultra-nationalistic European country and used to support a claim to control over fisheries on the high seas by the coastal state. He therefore thought that it might be possible for us to make it clear in the statement of policy that we did not expect it to have application anywhere other than the waters in the Western Hemisphere. I told Mr. Cecil again that I thought we could put the matter in proper perspective in our proposed press release. I said that it was perfectly true that we had no direct interest in European fishing problems, but [Page 1519] that I wished to make it clear that we were indirectly interested in such problems. It was quite possible that the North Sea fisheries might be depleted in a few years, in which case we would probably find Europeans fishing over on this side in numbers which might seriously affect our own resources.

I said that it was not our intention in any way to embarrass any European country but that nevertheless there were actual and potential threats to our resources which we could not overlook.

I reminded Mr. Cecil that I had told Sir George Sansom62 that some action might be expected on our part sometime in June. I said that our schedule had been somewhat disarranged by changes in the Presidency and in the Secretaryship of State, and that therefore I did not expect any action to be taken in the immediate future toward proclaiming the fishery policy.

1 asked Mr. Cecil if any mention had been made by the Foreign Office of the continental shelf policy. He replied in the negative. He threw out the guess that the British Government had very little interest in the matter.

  1. Robert Cecil, Second Secretary of the British Embassy.
  2. Supra.
  3. See memorandum of conversation dated May 9, p. 1504.