Volume #12 - 1064.|
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS
CONSERVATION OF FISHERIES IN THE HIGH SEAS
Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Deputy Minister of Fisheries
March 15th, 1946|
Following the meeting in Mr. Macdonnell's office on March 4th to discuss the conservation of fisheries in the High Seas, a memorandum was drawn up in this Department embodying the conclusions reached by the officials present. I enclose a copy and should be glad to have your comments.
It seems to me that the next step should be to have the memorandum, with any revisions which may appear desirable, submitted to your Minister. If he approves of the position taken, I should like to put the question before the Prime Minister with a view to having it submitted for Cabinet consideration.
N. A. R[OBERTSON]
[Ottawa,] March 14, 1946
CONSERVATION OF FISHERIES IN THE HIGH SEAS
On September 28th, 1945, the President of the United States issued a Proclamation in the following terms:
"The Government of the United States regards it as proper to establish conservation zones in those areas of the high seas contiguous to the coasts of the United States wherein fishing activities have been or in the future may be developed and maintained on a substantial scale. Where such activities have been or shall hereafter be developed and maintained by its nationals alone, the United States regards it as proper to establish explicitly bounded conservation zones in which fishing activities shall be subject to the regulation and control of the United States. Where such activities have been or shall hereafter be legitimately developed and maintained jointly by nationals of the United States and nationals of other states, explicitly bounded conservation zones may be established under agreements between the United States and such other States; and all fishing activities in such zones shall be subject to regulation and control as provided in such agreements. The right of any State to establish conservation zones off its shores in accordance with the above principles is conceded, provided that corresponding recognition is given to any fishing interests of nationals of the United States which may exist in such areas".
The views of the Canadian authorities had been sought by the United States Government prior to the issuance of the Proclamation. However, after discussions between officials of the Departments of External Affairs and Fisheries, it was decided that no comments should be offered until Ministerial approval had been obtained, since it was felt that acceptance of the principle of fisheries conservation zones in the High Seas would mark a new development in international law. It did not prove practicable to submit the question to Ministers before the United States Government announced its position. Since then, the subject has received further official consideration and the view has been taken that it would be desirable to obtain an expression of Government policy at this time, in view of the fact that discussions may have to be held with the United States authorities in the near future.
The establishment of conservation zones in the High Seas is designed to prevent over-fishing and the depletion of fishery resources. Although the Presidential Proclamation was expressed in general terms, it is understood that the United States Government is primarily concerned with conservation in the Pacific, and that it has particularly in mind the manner in which Japanese vessels operated before the war in waters off the Alaska coast. These fisheries had been built up by the United States and there was believed to be serious danger that unregulated Japanese operations might seriously deplete them. It is possible that other countries will wish to launch large scale operations in the Pacific which would have a harmful effect on the fishery resources adjacent to North America.The principle of the conservation of High Seas fisheries is considered to be sound and in the general interest. Moreover, the method of ensuring conservation outlined in the Presidential Proclamation seems both reasonable and practical, so long as:
the regulations laid down are not discriminatory or exclusive; and
due regard is had to the desirability of reaching agreement with neighbouring states as to the appropriate measures of conservation in respect of fisheries in which there is a joint interest.
The most desirable course might be to reach agreement on the above principles through an appropriate international body. The matter might, for instance, be placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, for reference to the Legal Committee thereof, having in mind the formulation of an appropriate Convention.
The direct interests of Canadian Fishermen appear to be:
To avoid being barred from, or discriminated against in, conservation zones established by the United States and other countries (e.g., off the Pacific coast States and Mexico).
To support the principle of conservation in areas adjacent to Canada in order to prevent their being depleted by unregulated operations on the part of foreign nationals.
The following courses appear to be open to the Canadian Government:
To make no comment on the Presidential Proclamation.
To express disagreement with United States policy.
To accept and endorse United States policy without qualification.
To express conditional agreement with United States policy.
It is recommended that the last of these alternatives be followed, since there appears to be no doubt that the long-term interests of Canadian fisher-men would be best served by the adoption of a policy of conservation. However, we should make the point that no State or States establishing a conservation zone in the High Seas should have the right to exclude or other wise discriminate against the nationals of foreign States who are prepared to abide by the regulations. Moreover, it is in the interests of Canada, and in the general interest, to support the development of international law by agreement between States rather than by unilateral declaration on the part of any one State. It is therefore proposed that the Government adopt the following policy, to be communicated to the United States Government at an appropriate time:
Agreement with the principle of conservation zones which Canada might wish to establish in areas off the Canadian coast where substantial fishing activities are carried on by its nationals alone.
Readiness to discuss with the United States the establishment of joint conservation zones in areas where nationals of the two countries maintain fishing activities.
Emphasis on the importance of not excluding or discriminating against nationals of other States; such foreign nationals should be permitted to fish freely in conservation zones so long as they observe the regulations; and no discrimination should be practiced either directly or indirectly through such devices as excessive licensing fees.
In order to remove any doubts as to the propriety of this position in international law, it would be desirable to have this question examined at the earliest possible by the United Nations Organization or other appropriate international body with a view to reaching general agreement on the rights to be exercised by States in respect of the conservation of high seas fisheries in waters contiguous to their coasts.