The Ambassador in Mexico ( Thurston ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1624

Sir: In the course of a recent conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs1 concerning arrangements preliminary to official discussion of a fisheries convention between the United States and Mexico, Senor Torres Bodet expressed to me the opinion that it would be difficult for the two countries to reconcile their divergent views with respect [Page 265] to the extent of national jurisdiction over territorial waters.2 His remarks on this subject may be of interest to the Department.

The Minister stated that Mexico’s contention is that its jurisdiction over territorial waters extends to the limit of the submerged continental shelf and in any event to a distance greater than the three-mile limit occasionally mentioned by us as constituting the accepted jurisdiction under international law. He said that the position of the United States on this point could be challenged because in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, concluded February 2, 1848, we had agreed with Mexico, in Article V, that “the boundary line between the two republics shall commence in the Gulf of Mexico, three leagues from land, opposite the mouth of the Río Grande …”, and because at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, held at Quitandinha, Brazil, in the fall of 1947, we had agreed (Articles 3 and 4 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) to the establishment of a hemispheric security region whose boundaries extend out to sea far beyond any previously claimed range of jurisdiction.

Respectfully yours,

Walter Thurston
  1. Jaime Torres Bodet
  2. For the Department’s note of January 24, 1946 to the Mexican Embassy setting forth the limiting conditions under which the United States could accept the application of the Mexican decree of October 29, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. xi, p. 1054. For the Mexican Presidential Decree “incorporating in the property of ‘Petroleos Mexieanos’ the subsoil of the lands covered by the territorial waters of the Gulf of Mexico and other lands specified therein”, February 25, 1949, see Department of State Publication No. 7825, Digest of International Law, vol. 4, p. 803.