Memorandum by the Legal Adviser ( Hackworth ) to the Secretary of State
Subject: Coastal Fisheries and Resources of the Continental Shelf
At the discussion yesterday regarding the proposed issue of proclamations—one concerning the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the Continental Shelf, and another announcing a policy of the United States concerning coastal fisheries in certain areas of the high seas—you asked that I examine the provisions of the United Nations Charter66 for the purpose of determining whether the proposed policy might in some way run counter to such provisions or to the underlying aims and purposes.
The proposed proclamation:
The proposed proclamation concerning the natural resources of the subsoil and the seabed of the Continental Shelf declares it to be the policy of the United States to regard these natural resources beneath the seas but contiguous to the coasts of the United States as appertaining to the United States, subject to its jurisdiction and control. It also states that in cases where the Continental Shelf extends to the shores of another State or is shared with an adjacent State, the boundary shall be determined by the United States and the State concerned.
Likewise, the proclamation declares that the character as high seas of the waters above the Continental Shelf and the right to their free and unimpeded navigation are in no way to be affected.
The second proposed proclamation states that in view of the pressing need for the conservation and protection of fishery resources, the Government of the United States regards it as proper to establish conservation zones in those areas of the high seas contiguous to the coasts of the United States wherein fishing activities have been or may be developed and maintained on a substantial scale; that where such activities have been developed and maintained by its nationals alone, the United States regards it as proper to establish explicitly the bounded conservation zones in which all fishing activities shall be [Page 1521] subject to the regulation and control of the United States and may, when conditions warrant, be limited to the United States; and that where such activities have been legitimately developed and maintained by nationals of other States, explicitly bounded conservation zones may be established under agreements between the United States and such other States.
The right of any other State to establish conservation zones off its shores in accordance with these principles is conceded, provided that corresponding recognition be given to any fishing interests of nationals of the United States in such areas.
Here, as in the other proclamation, the character as high seas of the areas in which such conservation zones would be established and the right of free and unimpeded navigation are recognized.
It will thus be seen that the proclamations relate to economic matters, i.e., the development of natural resources in the subsoil areas of the Continental Shelf, and the conservation and development of fisheries in certain areas contiguous to our coasts.
The Chapter of the United Nations:
Chapter I of the Charter of the United Nations states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to achieve “international cooperation in the solving of international problems of an economic … character”.
Chapter IX states that with a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations, the United Nations shall promote:
- Conditions of economic and social progress and development; and
- Solutions of international economic and related problems.
Chapter X states that the Economic and Social Council may make or initiate studies and reports with respect to international economic matters, etc.
It will thus be seen that the Charter speaks of international cooperation in solving problems of an economic character, of promoting conditions of economic progress and development, of solutions of economic and related problems, and provides that the Economic and Social Council may make studies and reports on such matters. The language of the Charter is very general in character and in no wise inhibits or was intended to inhibit governments from taking independent steps to improve their economic condition. The proclamations here in question are designed to improve the economic conditions of the United States and its nationals. I see in them nothing that would be inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter.[Page 1522]
Should other States consider that action taken by the United States under the proclamations infringes upon their rights and should a dispute result, the matter might conceivably be brought before the General Assembly or the Security Council, or both, or if the dispute were legal in character, it might be referred to the International Court of Justice.
I am therefore of the opinion that from the standpoint of the Charter action with respect to the proclamations need not be delayed.
- For text, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 993, or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1031.↩