22. Memorandum of Conversation1 2


  • President Ford
  • Congressional Group on Fisheries
  • [Congressional Delegation Regarding the 200-mile Limit]
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The President: This is our second exposure to Law of the Sea today. I have heard a vivid presentation from some of you.

Edwin B. Forsythe: (R., New Jersey) We had to leave the meeting with Moore before it really got started. If you would permit Young and Emery to say a few words.

Young: You heard my Senator this morning. This is an issue where 99% of the Alaskan people— from left to right—support this bill. Feeling against State is rampant on this.

Look at the bill, it just gives us the right to manage fishing resources. People won’t understand why you are worried over foreign policy on an issue which hits us so hard.

The President: How about a triggering mechanism?

Del Clausen: (R., Calif.) It has one—July 1, 1976.

Forsythe: This bill would be superseded by a Law of the Sea Treaty.

One thing which surprised me was Secretary Kissinger saying if you could just give him two sessions next year, he would no longer oppose it.

[Page 2]

The President: Is there any chance of moving the date back to January 1.

Forsythe: Not on the floor today. But we would be willing to look favorably on a compromise like that if it came to conference on the Senate bill.

Clausen: A lot of people think the 200-mile limit issue is being held hostage to the seabed regime.

Forsythe: I think if we could work out something on triggering in conference, that might be possible.

David F. Emery: (R., Maine) This is the first bill I introduced. The feelings are high that Maine fishermen are starting to carry rifles. I agree that multilateral action is preferable to balkanizing the ocean, but no action is being taken.

[Examples of how we don’t protest other countries doing it and even protect them. Soviet Union—scallops; Brazil—shrimp. ]

William S. Cohen: (R., Maine) These people are good Republicans. They just don’t know why the State Department doesn’t protect our fish. Why do they give them away and make us then buy them back. No one is interested in helping people who just want to work hard for a living. More than anything else, I want to accomplish is the passage of this bill. Let it pass and we will work out the sticky details to take care of your problems.

Clausen: All the Democratic Presidential candidates are supporting this bill. All the conservative groups are back of it. There is a chance of getting Dellenback sent back, but there is no way if they don’t think you are with them. This bill only deals with the protection of species. We will fight the 200-mile territorial sea with you. We will fight with you for freedom of the seas. We unilaterally declared a 12-mile fishing zone in ′66. We need to do the same thing again.

The President: It’s clear that we are in favor of the concept. The only question is how you achieve it. We would prefer it not be triggered until after the second Law of the Sea meeting.

Cohen: If we could be sure it would be solved next year, that would be fine, but it has been going on for years.

[Page 3]

The President: How would you enforce it?

Forsythe: We think we would get agreement. We don’t advocate a picket line and use of force.

Cohen: We think the Japanese and the Soviet Union will go along. The Coast Guard is concerned about enforcement. But the Navy flies ASW patrols. They could cooperate.

The President: We would prefer an amendment which would extend the effective date past the two sessions.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 15, October 7, 1975–Ford, Congressional Group on Fisheries. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Ford and Scowcroft met with a Congressional delegation regarding potential 200-mile fisheries legislation.