350. Telegram From the Delegation to the Conference on the Law of the Sea to the Department of State1

957. Law of Sea. During talk yesterday Drew (Canada) informed me he had had conversation with Portugese, Spanish, French and other Eur Dels to demonstrate that Canadian proposal would not affect their historic fishing off Canadian coasts. He said most fishing by these countries was in Grand Banks well away from proposed 12-mile contiguous zone and insofar as this was not so in the case of French their right to fish within 12 miles, and in fact within Canadian territorial sea was covered by treaty which would remain in effect in case Canadian proposal adopted. He recognized that even if Canada were able to satisfy Western Eur countries on basis of facts or through special undertakings or agreements, problem would still remain for these countries in areas close to Iceland, Norway, Denmark and North Africa (for French particularly off Tunisia). He said he disposed to do everything possible meet reasonable and legitimate concern of these countries.

He was noncommittal to idea of modification Canadian proposal in terms Art 66 to provide for regulatory powers rather than exclusive fishing rights ( Deptel 9512). He more responsive idea working out practical solutions special problems or giving individual or public assurances to countries that adoption Canadian proposal would not be used to exclude interested countries from historic fishing areas. He agreed I should proceed to call series meetings with interested countries to clarify facts and explore possibility of some method gain their support proposal.

Drew said he had taken very strong stand with his govt on importance presentation their proposal and it had authorized him do so on his assurance US would make no concessions on three-mile rule because of security considerations with which Canada could not take issue. He said if US had any idea of compromise, such as six miles, he should be told at once, with full explanation of reasons in order that he might explain shift to his govt. I assured him there was no possibility of US shift.

It evident that essential first step is to determine facts concerning effects Canadian proposal on fishing off Canadian coast, following which consideration can be given to possibility modification Canadian proposal to take care of historic fishing rights or alternatively to bilateral [Page 668] arrangements and public assurances which would enable Eur powers support Canadian proposal. It clear, nevertheless, that something more than promises required.

Pfeiffer (Germany) eager work out some formula that would enable his Del and other Eur powers support Canadian proposal. Danish Del has indicated US Del they would be glad negotiate special agreements. Drew reports that Simonnet (French Minister Merchant Marine) much more objective than Gros and had considerably whittled down Gros’ estimates of French catch in Grand Banks and adjacent areas.3

It present view US Del fisheries advisers that recognition historic fishing rights likely have no adverse effect on attitudes toward Canadian proposal of Afro-Asian countries, particularly Eastern Asians, because Japanese apparently do not generally fish within 12 miles their coasts. Tentative estimate is that Japanese could not benefit from any such qualification.

It unlikely that our conversations Canadians and Eur countries can progress rapidly enough to point where changes in Western Eur attitudes can be expected soon. Perhaps such point will not be reached until last two weeks conference. It likely we will not have their vote for crucial initial hurdle in committee.

In this fluid situation we concerned re possibility UK six-mile compromise move. Assuming Soviet formula or so-called flexible formula is defeated and Canadian proposal receives simple majority we will have some leeway attempt build up necessary two-thirds in plenary. Should no proposal receive simple majority in committee presumably at that point UK might make move. UK could also move compromise in plenary should Canadian proposal fail of two-thirds. US Del still of view that UK compromise, even assuming US support, has even less chance of acceptance than Canadian proposal. Introduction proposal at any stage prior to plenary consideration could have serious divisive effects adverse to Canadian proposal; if moved in plenary it would, adopting UK argument (para 4 Deptel 951) place on US rejecting last attempt secure agreement since we would have to oppose it.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/3–2558. Confidential. Repeated to London. Received at 3:36 p.m.
  2. Telegram 951 to Geneva, March 22, transmitted the text of the British aide-mémoire cited in footnote 2, supra.
  3. Simonnet, Gros, and other members of the French Delegation discussed the Canadian proposal with Dean late on March 21. Dean reported that they were “most deeply exercised” about the idea and stated that it would seriously affect French fishing practices. (Telegram 929 from Geneva, March 22; Department of State, Central Files, 399.731/3–2258)