The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Costa Rica ( Davis )

No. 18

The Secretary of State refers to the Embassy’s unclassified Despatch No. 617 of December 15, 1948, confidential Despatch No. 580 of November [Page 266] 24, 1948, confidential Airgram No. A–349 of October 13, 1948,1 and other correspondence concerning Decrees No. 116 and 190 of Costa, Rica relative to fisheries control by Costa Rica in waters off her coasts.

The accomplishments of the Embassy in its discussions of September 9, 1948 with the Foreign Minister, and on September 18 and October 10 with the Acting Foreign Minister, in which it presented this Government’s position with regard to fishery conservation zones, are to be commended. The results of these discussions included (1) a proffer on the part of Father Nunez, Acting Foreign Minister, to enter into negotiations with United States representatives looking toward a fisheries agreement between Costa Rica and the United States; and (2) with respect to Decree No. 190 entitled “Law of Maritime Hunting and Fishing”, the omission of any definition of the extent of Costa Rican territorial waters, the phraseology having been deliberately left vague in view of the possibilities of a convention with this Government. In these and other regards, the instructions of the Department’s confidential Airgram No. A–151 of August 30, 1948 were carried out by the Embassy in an able manner.

Unfortunately, the Department was not in a position in the Fall of 1948 to undertake the negotiations referred to; and action upon Father Nunez’ suggestion of negotiations was deferred. At the same time, in view of Father Nunez’ statement that Costa Rica did not propose, on the basis of Decree No. 190, to exercise jurisdiction beyond the three-mile limit of territorial waters, it was felt inadvisable to file reservations with respect to the 200–mile claim over the coastal seas asserted by Decree No. 116, published July 28, 1948 about two months before Decree No. 190 was issued.

In its confidential Despatch No. 580 of November 24, 1948,2 however, the Embassy forwarded information on the visit to the Embassy of Mr. Roger Stone, Director of the Department of Fishing Conservation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Costa Rica. In the course of his visit, Mr. Stone indicated a cautious or negative view with regard to the possibility of a fisheries treaty with the United States, and the Embassy stated that it was clear that, so far as Mr. Stone was concerned, the United States would have to “sell” a fisheries treaty to Costa Rica.

It now appears that the Department may, in the near future, be in a position to undertake negotiations for a fisheries conservation convention with Costa Rica. In addition, since the Embassy’s approach to the Foreign Office on this general subject, negotiations for a convention between this Government and the Mexican Government have [Page 267] taken place at Mexico City, as a result of which a convention was signed at Mexico City on January 25, 1949.3 The convention, which provides for the scientific investigation of the tuna and tuna-like fishes, and of fishes used as bait in the tuna fishery, might serve as a model for an agreement between the United States and Costa Rica. A copy of the convention is enclosed, together with press release No. 53 of January 24, 1949 concerning it.4

Having regard to all these factors, and to the fact that Decrees No. 116 and 190 taken together erect a basis in Costa Rican law for immediate action by Costa Rica for the exercise of jurisdiction seaward, the question arises whether this Government should now take action to reserve its rights and interests so far as concerns any effects upon United States commerce of either decree. As the Embassy is aware, this Government filed reservations with respect to similar decrees of Argentina, Chile, and Peru in July 1948. Insofar as inaction on the part of the United States might later be claimed to signify acquiescence in the Costa Rican claims, reservations should now be filed except if (1) a fisheries convention between the United States and Costa Rica is possible in the near future and (2) the filing of reservations were to render such a convention less probable.

On the assumption that the Department would be prepared within three months to undertake negotiations for a convention based upon the United States-Mexico Convention enclosed, the Embassy is requested to advise the Department concerning the wisdom of postponing reservations, taking into account the possibly diverse opinions of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Agriculture on the desirability or possibility of a fisheries convention with the United States.

If approach is made to officials of the Costa Rican Government in regard to the subject, the Embassy should not make any definitive statements about the time or probability of any negotiations.5

There is enclosed for the Embassy’s information a copy of the Department’s letter of January 14, 19496 to Mr. Tom Sandoz of the [Page 268] Columbia River Packers Association, Incorporated, Astoria, Oregon, and five other Pacific Coast representatives of the tuna industry.

There is also enclosed for the Embassy’s information copies of the notes of reservation filed by this Government on July 2, 1948 at Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Lima with respect to the decrees of Argentina, Chile, and Peru respectively.7 These notes are declassified.

  1. None printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For the convention for establishment of an international commission for the scientific investigation of tuna, signed January 25, 1949, see Department of State TIAS 2094, 1 UST 513, or 99 UNTS 3. For summary statement of this convention which resulted from recommendations made by delegates to the Mexico City conference, October 25 to November 4, 1948, which met to discuss fish conservation matters of common concern to the United States and Mexico, see Department of State pub. 7825, Digest of International Law, vol. 4, p. 1029.
  4. Department of State Bulletin, February 6, 1949, p. 174.
  5. For a convention for the establishment of an Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, signed at Washington by representatives of the United States and Costa Rica, May 31, 1949, see Department of State TIAS 2044, or 1 UST 230. For a press release on this subject, see Department of State Bulletin, June 12, 1949, p. 766.
  6. Not printed.
  7. See airgram 151, August 30, p. 263.