Volume #21 - 490.|
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs|
CABINET DOCUMENT NO. 229-55|
November 18th, 1955|
NORTH PACIFIC FUR SEALS CONFERENCE|
A conference on North Pacific fur seals will meet in Washington on November 28, 1955, and the participants will be Canada, the United States, the Soviet Union and Japan. The purpose of the conference is the negotiation of a convention to replace that of 1911 between the same four countries (the United Kingdom represented Canada in 1911).211 Russian co-operation under the 1911 convention was never complete, and it ceased in 1924.212 The convention was denounced by Japan in October, 1940.213 Since 1942 a bilateral agreement between the United States and Canada has taken the place of the convention insofar as these two countries are concerned.214 By the Yoshida-Dulles exchange of letters of February 7, 1951, Japan undertook voluntarily to prohibit pelagic sealing by its nationals until a new convention could be negotiated.215
2. Since 1911, Canada has joined in a number of regional agreements for the conservation of fish and sea mammals, and such agreements are desirable not only for conservation reasons but also because they help to prevent international disputes. If Japan and the Soviet Union agree to a new convention at the Washington meeting, this will be some indication of their willingness to join in similar agreements for the conservation of fish. If, on the other hand, no convention is agreed to, there is a possibility that the Soviet Union might make direct concessions to Japan in order to reach bilateral understandings on fur seals and fish.
3. The 1911 convention was negotiated because widespread pelagic sealing (the killing of seals at sea) had seriously reduced the number of fur seals in the North Pacific. The Convention prohibited pelagic sealing, and the result was a great increase in the number of seals. Preliminary discussions between United States, Japanese and Canadian officials show that there is general agreement on the desirability of continued conservation of the seal herds by controls on pelagic sealing. Japanese officials maintain, however, that the seals are too numerous and that they are depleting stocks of fish, and thus Japan will likely propose that the new convention should permit limited pelagic sealing. Because of the difficulties of enforcement, there has probably always been some pelagic sealing along the Japanese coast. It is not desirable to include a provision in an international agreement, if its observance is almost impossible for one of the signatories. The United States has proposed that the new convention should "provide for the maximum sustainable productivity of the fur seal herds, modified to the extent found to be appropriate because of any demonstrable effect of these herds upon commercially important stocks of fish." The Canadian delegation should support acceptance of this formula or one like it, and could accept provisions for limited pelagic sealing, if the Japanese delegation makes a sufficiently strong case. The skins taken by Japan pelagically could be deducted from her share from the Pribilof Islands.
4. The alternative to pelagic sealing is to kill the seals on the islands to which they go each year for mating. These islands are the Pribilof Islands (United States territory), the Commander Islands (Soviet) and Robben Island (formerly Japanese, now under Soviet control). As far as is known the Pribilof herd is many times the size of that on either the Commander or Robben Islands. In return for agreeing to prohibit pelagic sealing, in which some Canadians engaged, Canada received 15% of the skins from the seals killed annually on the Pribilof Islands under the 1911 convention. This was increased to 20% under the bilateral agreement of 1942 with the United States, under which the two countries divided up the share which formerly went to Japan. In recent years the net proceeds from the sale of Canada's share of the skins have averaged over $600,000 annually, which sum has been paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. As Japan is now anxious to resume participation in a fur seal convention, the United States has proposed that the new convention should distribute the Pribilof skins according to the shares in the 1911 convention. This is a reasonable proposal and should be supported by the Canadian delegation.
5. Under the 1911 convention, Canada was also to receive 15% of the skins from the Commander Islands, and 10% of the skins from Robben Island. The total value of the Commander skins received up until the Soviet Union ceased co-operation in 1924 was less than $6,000. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan, Japan renounced its sovereignty over Robben Island, but the territory was not ceded to another state. The Soviet Union is exercising de facto control, but the delegation should ensure that the wording of the new convention does not prejudice the final decision on the sovereignty over Robben Island. The total skins received by Canada from this island under the 1911 convention were worth about $11,000.
6. There have been no preliminary discussions with Soviet officials, and the Soviet Union has not given any indication as to whether or not it will agree to divide the skins from the Commander and Robben Islands in accordance with the 1911 convention. The delegation should press for such an arrangement, but if it is not possible to secure Soviet acceptance, the practical importance to Canada will not be very great in view of the small number of skins from these islands received in the past. It may be that a concession could be made on this question to the Soviet Union in order to secure agreement on other points.
7. It is proposed that the new convention should provide for a scheme for co-ordinated or joint research on fur seals and on their management. The delegation should support this proposal. The research reports will assist in formulating future policy on the size of the seal herds.
8. The 1911 convention permits pelagic sealing by Indians and other aborigines by primitive methods. The number of seals taken by Canadian Indians in recent years is small. The United States has proposed that there be no corresponding article in the new convention. The delegation should oppose this suggestion, but if it is agreed to, the Canadian Indians might be compensated from our share of the Pribilof skins.
9. The United States has suggested dropping the provisions in the 1911 convention on sea otters and patrols, as they have been inoperative. The provision on enforcement is, however, similar to that recently incorporated in the North Pacific Fisheries convention, and so it is suggested that it be retained.
10. The Secretary of State for External Affairs, with the concurrence of the Minister of Fisheries, therefore recommends:
(a) That a delegation to be named by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, in consultation with the Minister of Fisheries, be authorized to negotiate and sign a North Pacific fur seals convention with representatives of the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union;
(b) That the head of the Canadian delegation so named and one other nominee be granted full powers to sign a convention, subject to subsequent ratification by Canada, based upon the 1911 convention, with the modifications set out hereunder;
(c) That the convention should provide for the maximum sustainable productivity of the fur seal herds, modified to the extent found to be appropriate because of any demonstrable effect of these herds upon commercially important stocks of fish, and that this formula may be interpreted to provide for pelagic sealing on a limited government-controlled scale;
(d) That the delegation should seek a division of fur seal skins based on that in the 1911 convention, on the understanding that it may not be possible for the other parties to secure a share of the skins from the islands under Soviet control, due care being taken to ensure that the wording of the convention does not prejudice the question of the sovereignty over Robben Island;
(e) That the convention should provide for a scheme for co-ordinated or joint research on fur seals and on their management and on the problems connected therewith;
(f) That the delegation should seek the retention of the provision on the rights of Indians, but may agree to its elimination;
(g) That the delegation should support the retention of the provisions of the 1911 convention on enforcement and the omission of the provisions on sea otters and patrols.216