This treaty was negotiated between Canada and the United States in 1923. It provided a closed season for halibut and established a commission of four -- two from each country -- for investigating and recommending to the two Governments measures for restoring the dwindling stocks of halibut.
The Convention was revised in 1930, when powers of making regulations subject to approval of the two governments were bestowed on the Commission. These powers were further extended in the 1937 revision of the Convention which is in effect today.
During the past three years negotiations took place on the official level for a further revision of the Convention.
After several drafts passed back and forth between us and the United States, the following new substantive provisions have met with general approval on both sides.
(1) The name of the Commission, now known as "The International Fisheries Commission" is to be changed to that of "The International Pacific Halibut Commission". The reason for the change is to enable ready identification and to distinguish the Commission from other fishery commissions which we now have.
(2) The number of commissioners is to be increased from four to six -- three from each country. This was a United States proposal. The reason for it is that in the United States, unlike in Canada, fishery jurisdiction is vested in each state and the federal Government only acquires some jurisdiction by virtue of a treaty made with another country. In this case the United States Government wanted to give Alaska representation on the Commission. The two commissioners now appointed represent the federal Government and the industry at large.
(3) The Commission is to have power to establish more than one open season. There was some doubt as to the Commission's power to do this under the existing treaty. The granting of this power was considered necessary to allow the Commission to extend fishing over more than one period of time. The scientists of the Commission advanced the hypothesis that during a concentrated short season, some fishing grounds may be under-exploited. The experiment of dividing up the season would be useful to determine to some extent whether this hypothesis is correct.
(4) Power to limit or prohibit the incidental catch of halibut that may be taken by vessels fishing for other species. The Commission already has power to regulate the catch of halibut taken incidentally during the closed season by boats fishing for other species. The additional power would give the Commission the right to regulate such incidental catch also during the open season.
The Secretary of State for External Affairs concurs in this recommendation to Cabinet. It is our desire to have the treaty signed in Ottawa on March 2nd, that being the 30th anniversary of the signing of the first Halibut Convention. That was the first treaty to be signed by Canada in her own right and the Canadian signatory then was the father of the present Minister of Veterans' Affairs. I recommend therefore that the Canadian signatories on this occasion be the Honourable Hugues Lapointe and myself.