The Under Secretary of State’s Special Assistant for Fisheries and Wildlife (Herrington) to the Assistant Under Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office (Fitzmaurice)


Dear Sir Gerald: I have just returned to Washington following approval by the General Assembly of the continental shelf and fisheries resolutions and participation in several meetings with representatives of the Secretary General to lay the groundwork for the [Page 1727] coming international conference on conservation of living resources of the sea. I am taking this opportunity to acquaint you with some of the highlights of the negotiations, as I saw them, and to discuss ways and means of coordinating our activities in preparation for the coming conference.

The negotiation of the fisheries resolution developed some interesting angles with the various co-sponsors taking an increasingly active part as they became better informed concerning the issues involved. Mr. Evans performed ably in your absence but on a number of occasions I missed your informed and extremely able support. I particularly remember how well you handled the points raised by Mr. Andersen during the meeting of the co-sponsors.

With respect to the continental shelf item, I thought we came out not too badly owing, in considerable measure, to the assistance of the Chairman, Ambassador Garcia Amador, and the forebearance of Mr. Andersen. After the first round or two of statements it was obvious that the co-sponsors had a rather solid line-up against us. If the Chairman had called for a vote at that stage or if Mr. Andersen had insisted on a vote, we would have been badly defeated. However, as a result of the Chairman limiting committee meetings to short sessions and arranging for informal discussions between the representatives of the sponsors of the resolution and sponsors of the amendments, the compromise was worked out and agreed upon by a wide majority. From our point of view, this compromise is not too bad since it sets a definite time in the not too distant future for completion of the International Law Commission report and consideration by the General Assembly. Later, in our negotiation of the fisheries question, the 1956 deadline was instrumental in getting agreement on the final fisheries resolution.

Developments with respect to the fisheries item were quite interesting. The resolution on the shelf, reaffirming the oneness of the topic of the regime of the continental shelf and regime of the high seas, was approved only a short time before the fisheries item was taken up. As a consequence, the opening United States statement was a bit out of line since it proposed settling the fisheries question separately from the other items included in the general topic. However, this worked out reasonably well later on. When we conceded this point (to which we were already committed by our vote on the continental shelf), it was taken by the opposition as a major concession on our part which assisted in getting agreement on the final resolution. As we realized, the title of our resolution “Economic Development, etc.” did not very accurately fit the actual contents and provided a broad target which drew comments such as “a package had been offered to the Committee under the label of a box of chocolates, which turned out to contain quite different contents”, [Page 1728] and references to a trojan horse. These were later brought together by the Soviet delegate in a statement that the co-sponsors had offered the Committee a package labelled “chocolates” which when opened turned out to contain a “trojan horse.”

The second day’s discussions were led off by Mr. Andersen followed by others of the co-sponsors, including Mr. Evans and Professor Roling,1 which served to somewhat reduce the apprehensions of those states not interested primarily in preventing or delaying United Nations action. A group of South American states then proposed amendments which were presented the following Monday morning. From the beginning, I had anticipated that we would have no difficulty in getting a majority to favor the general idea of a technical conservation conference, since we had received enough assurance of support to make that reasonably certain. The principal dangers were plausible amendments which would provide for delay in the time of the meeting or narrow the terms of reference so as to make it difficult for the conference to accomplish the desired objectives. The amendments as submitted essentially boiled down to these two items. One would have delayed the meeting until August, which would have made it too late to put it on the agenda of the 1955 General Assembly; the other somewhat narrowed the terms of reference by eliminating “regulations” from the references and stressing the scientific and technical.

After a meeting between the representatives of the co-sponsors and the sponsors of the amendments, followed by a meeting of the co-sponsors, a second informal meeting was brought to agreement by a proposal made by Professor Roling which he had discussed with Dr. Castañeda, Delegate of Mexico. This was based on the reasoning that the technical conference should report to the next meeting of the International Law Commission so that the Commission would have an opportunity to consider this report, to modify its fisheries recommendations if such modifications were indicated, and to submit these modifications to governments and get their comments back in its hands in time to prepare its final report for the 1956 meeting of the General Assembly. This proposal was supported by Mexico and Cuba but opposed by Colombia. However, when Costa Rica was won over to support this idea, the representatives of Chile and Peru apparently recognized that their position had been so weakened that they would be unable to hold a solid block of South American states in opposition to the proposal. They therefore reluctantly agreed. As a last gesture, the representative of Peru proposed the term “living resources of the sea” as a substitute for “fisheries”. I am not sure that he fully understood what [Page 1729] this difference would make. However, it has generally been interpreted by other members of the Committee as a chance to provide for the inclusion of such animals as whales and fur seals. No one has suggested any international problems concerned with conservation of sea weeds.

The agenda I suggested has been tentatively approved by the group in New York with only minor changes. I am enclosing a copy representing the suggestions as they left the meeting on December 18. I am also including a copy of suggested annotations.2

It is planned to obtain background conference papers covering the agenda but to keep them to a minimum. It has been tentatively agreed to request Mr. Michael Graham of the United Kingdom to prepare a paper on the first agenda item. Dr. Schaefer, Director of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, will be requested to prepare a paper on the second item. I expect that Dr. Kask and I will be asked to collaborate in preparing a paper on item 3(a) and FAO to prepare a paper on 3(b). In addition, the various governments will be invited to submit such papers as they see fit bearing on the various items and sub items of the agenda. Final decision on the agenda and background papers will be made at the January 10 meeting of the technical advisory committee and invitations issued immediately. It would be helpful if you let Mr. Graham know of the probable invitations as soon as possible so that he can be getting his thoughts in order. If he is reluctant to undertake the task, I hope that you can use your influence since it is important that we have a sound paper to start off with and all agreed that he is the obvious choice to prepare it.

In my opinion, it is very important that the co-sponsors of the resolution leading to this conference, and representatives of other interested countries, develop agenda papers in such a way as to lead to the conclusions that we are seeking. In view of the short time we have for preparation, this will take a considerable degree of coordination. In order to facilitate this, I have in mind the possibility of coming to Europe the latter half of January to discuss these matters with the interested people in your country and other concerned European and Scandinavian governments. Mr. Andersen has suggested a meeting with the representatives of the Scandinavian countries separately from those of the other European countries. This matter is therefore being taken up with these countries to see if they would be interested in arranging such a meeting. I would particularly like to discuss the general subject with Mr. Graham.

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I particularly enjoyed this final informal meeting since by this time the co-sponsors were sufficiently well organized and informed so that the actual promotion work was done almost entirely by Professor Roling, Mr. Andersen and Chairman Garcia, with the United States and the United Kingdom saying practically nothing.

The principal problem posed by the final resolution is that it requires the conference to convene by April 18, 1955, leaving an unusually short period for organizing the conference and preparing papers. However, this appeared to be the only solution and in discussions with the Secretariat it was agreed that it could be done if the interested parties gave the matter prompt attention. If anything, it gives the advantage to those countries which are coordinated and know where they wish the conference to go. The changes in the resolution, somewhat narrowing the terms of reference, have made it necessary to consider how the conference might be handled so that it will lead to the conclusions we had in mind. I therefore worked out suggestions for an agenda which I discussed with Mr. Andersen and Mr. Ozere of Canada, with which they agreed. I then arranged a meeting with Dr. Rosenborg, to whom the Secretary General has delegated responsibility for making arrangements for the conference. This meeting included Mr. Andersen, Chairman Garcia, Dr. Castañeda of Mexico, Dr. Kask and Mr. Ozere of Canada, and myself. I suggested that the Secretary General appoint a committee of technically competent people to assist him in arranging an agenda, background papers, and guidance during the conference. In the course of this and several later meetings, it was suggested that this group might be made up of Dr. Fredrickson, Secretary General of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; Dr. Schaefer, Director of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission; Dr. Kask, Chairman of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada; Dr. B. N. Chopra or Mr. Boon Indrambarya of the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Council; Dr. D’Ancona of the Mediterranean Fisheries Council, Dr. Von Bonde of South Africa, Mr. Vecorina or Mr. Solar of Peru, and Dr. Finn of FAO. I did not suggest anyone from the United States or United Kingdom, feeling that it might be better for us to operate in the background. It would also keep us free to work with the co-sponsors in developing an effective plan for a coordinated approach to the conference. Tentative plans will be developed before Christmas by such members of this Committee as can be brought together. It will be finalized at a meeting of the full committee called for the 10th of January.

I would like to have your ideas concerning the desirability and possibility of meeting together with representatives of the other European countries primarily interested in this matter, particularly the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. I [Page 1731] would greatly appreciate having your suggestions in this matter. In view of the short time available it will be necessary to proceed as expeditiously as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Wm. C. Herrington
  1. B. V. A. Röling, member of the Netherlands Delegation at the United Nations.
  2. Neither found attached to the source text.