508. Editorial Note

In late January 1955, the Peruvian Government detained two United States flag fishing vessels, Tony B and Western Clipper, in the Port of Callao pending payment of fines for alleged illegal fishing in Peruvian territorial waters. In telegram 165, January 27, the Department instructed the Embassy in Lima to present a note, text provided in the telegram, to the Peruvian Government stating that the ships’ logs disclosed that they had fished no closer than 3½ miles to the Peruvian shore and therefore in waters the United States regarded as the high seas. The note also contained reference to the “conflicting views” of the two governments with respect to the question of what constituted territorial waters, and the statement that the “United States believes that enforcement action should not be taken before every effort has been made to resolve the matter, [Page 1024] preferably by a mutually satisfactory solution.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.236/1–2755) Despatch 377 from Lima, January 29, reported that the note had been delivered at noon the previous day to the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Aguilar Cornejo. (Ibid., 611.236/1–2955)

Despatch 397 from Lima, February 12, transmitted the text and an English translation of a Peruvian note, dated February 9, in reply to the United States note of January 28. The Peruvian note stated that the incident involving the Tony B and Western Clipper was now considered closed because the captains of the ships had paid their fines and departed, signifying to the Peruvians that they accepted the decision of the Government of Peru. With respect to possible discussions between the two governments, the note stated that the Foreign Minister thought it was first necessary to determine a common ground for any discussions. Peru considered the 3-mile limit obsolete and could not consent to limit its sovereignty to that area because of the importance of the fishing industry to Peru’s economy. The final section of the note stated that no more incidents would occur if United States flag vessels would request permission to fish within the Peruvian Maritime Zone of 200 miles, as they did in the case of Ecuador. According to the note, “boats of all flags can navigate freely in the Maritime Zone of Peru. It is only for the purpose of fishing that any boat should have permission, in accordance with our law.” (Ibid., 611.236/2–1255)