Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Smith) to the President1

  • Subject:
  • Fishing Rights in Coastal Waters
[Page 1696]

There is enclosed a suggested reply to the letter of August 6, 1953 addressed to you by Senators Daniel, Holland and Saltonstall,2 a copy of which was transmitted to the Secretary for suggested reply.

The suggested reply has been submitted to the Attorney General and has been approved by him.

Walter B. Smith


Suggested Reply

My Dear Senator Daniel: Your letter of August 6, 1953 indicates the concern of the fishing industry with respect to the effect of the Submerged Lands Act on the traditional position of the United States in regard to the limit of territorial waters.

As you point out, the position of the United States with respect to the limit of territorial waters and consequent exclusive fishing rights therein has a vital effect on the position of this Government with respect to claims to exclusive fishing rights by other countries.

It has been the traditional position of the United States that the limit of its territorial waters is three miles from low-water mark on the coast. Although this traditional position has not been changed by any policy determination of the Executive Branch of the Government or by the courts, nevertheless the Submerged Lands Act, as I understand it, leave coastal states, at least in the Gulf of Mexico, free under certain conditions to establish claims to territorial boundaries in excess of three miles from the coast.

Until such claims have been established in the appropriate tribunals I do not feel that a declaration by me, such as you suggest in your letter under reference, should be made. It will continue to be the policy of the United States to assert the right of its nationals to engage in fishing on the high seas outside of the three mile limit for territorial waters.


  1. Drafted by Yingling and Edward G. Piatt, Jr., of the Executive Secretariat’s Staff Operations.
  2. Not printed.