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United States Department of State / Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1937. The British Commonwealth, Europe, Near East and Africa

Canada,   pp. 160-199 PDF (14.9 MB)

Page 186

the eastern markets became available. The fishing expanded so rap-
idly that by 1910 the evidence of serious depletion was unmistakable.
As the fishing area had to be expanded farther and farther to the
north-western high seas, the west coast fishing industry became
alarmed, and in 1917 the problem was referred by the Governments
of Canada and the United States to an international commission, for
study.33 Upon its recommendation a Treaty was concluded in
1923 34 providing for an annual close season of 3 months and a perma-
nent International Fisheries Commission to investigate and report
upon further measures for the preservation and development of the
  4. After 5 years of intensive study the permanent Commission
reported 35 that the stocks of halibut had greatly declined, that the
production of eggs and young had fallen to a dangerously low level,
and that the decline was continuing. Upon its recommendation a new
Treaty was concluded in 1930 granting regulatory powers. Under
the regulations adopted the main producing portion of the seas was
divided into two areas and for each area the quantity of halibut to be
taken in any year was specifically limited. Certain areas found to be
nurseries for young halibut were closed to all halibut fishing, and the
close season was extended.
  5. As a result of these regulations the decline in the fishery has
ceased and upbuilding has begun. With a view to preventing the
glutting of the markets, the fishermen in the different areas have been
arranging amongst themselves so to distribute their catches as to
cover, as nearly as practicable, the whole fishing season.
  6. Fishing operations carried on by means of 'Mother Ships' des-
patched from other countries and of a magnitude to endanger this
Northern Pacific fishery would seem to be entirely practicable. For
example, halibut fishing in Greenland waters has recently been carried
on from Great Britain by means of such ships, one or more of them
running up to 10,000 tons, which are equipped with freezing and cold
storage facilities and which receive their catch not only from accom-
panying fishing vessels but from small boats whose fishermen live on
the 'Mother Ship', the latter remaining on the fishing grounds until a
cargo is obtained or the season ends. The Greenland halibut fishery,
though thus intensively conducted for only a relatively few years, is
already in a seriously depleted condition.
  7. Although it was not by any means impracticable for fishermen
of other nations to have extended their halibut fishing operations to
the areas in question, they have not done so as yet. But should this
expedition invade these areas there is substantial reason to believe
that other nations would immediately follow suit.
  8. In all these circumstances it seems entirely clear that such in-
vasions would mean the end of the Northern Pacific halibut fishery
within a measurable future. In the first place, in the face of such
invasions it would become impracticable for Canada and the United
States any longer effectively to restrain the operations of their fisher-
men in this region. The operations of all parties, being unrestricted
and being more intensive because of the increased competition and
33 See Foreign Relations, 1918, pp. 432 ff.
  3 Signed March 2, 1923, ibid., 1923. vol. i, p. 468.
  3 For text of report, see ibid., 1928, vol. II, p. 7.

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