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account of the advantage which results to the Japanese has already been noted, and it now appears that the seizure and probable confiscation of one of their vessels, for hunting where the Japanese sealers may hunt without danger of interference, has been followed by an outburst of indignation from the Canadian sealers, who are reported as demanding that all restrictions against pelagic sealing be abolished and that the Canadians be placed on an absolute equality with the Japanese. From the American point of view, it would seem more appropriate that the desired equality be obtained by securing the adherence of the Japanese to the award regulations, but in the light of the history of this question, it does not seem likely that the United States Government will interest itself in relieving the Canadian sealers from the disadvantages complained of, by either of these methods.
Unfortunately for the Canadian sealers, the responsibility for the difficulty in which they find themselves rests chiefly with the British Government, which presumably has given careful attention to the wishes of the sealers themselves. A brief review of the course of events and the negotiations which have brought about the present situation may not be without interest.
An examination of the records of the Fur Seal Arbitration Tribunal (Protocol LIV) discloses the fact that the preparation of the regulations to be adopted by that tribunal was entrusted to the three neutral arbitrators and, as originally proposed by them, the regulations were intended to apply to all the waters of Bering Sea and the Pacific Ocean, north of the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude, thereby including the Russian and Japanese seal herds as well as the Pribilof herd, for the reason assigned by the arbitrators, that it did not seem equitable to drive the pelagic sealers to Asiatic waters during the closed season in Bering Sea. Objection to such extension was made by the British arbitrators on the ground that inasmuch as the Japanese and Russian sealers were not bound by the regulations they would benefit gratuitously through the imposition on the British of such prohibition against sealing in Asiatic waters. This objection finally prevailed, but the point was yielded by the other arbitrators only in order that subsequent negotiations on the subject by the United States and Great Britain with Japan and Russia, to secure their adherence to the regulations, might not be prejudiced.
After the award was rendered, the United States and Great Britain, in compliance with the provision of Article VII of the Treaty, under which the arbitration was held, extended invitations to Japan and
Russia, among the other powers, requesting their adherence to the award regulations. Each of these governments responded, offering to become a party to the regulations and to enter upon negotiations for that purpose provided that the regulations should be extended so as to apply to Asiatic waters as well as to the waters of the award area. The United States thereupon proposed to Great Britain that the four powers should enter into a treaty to that end. At that time the Japanese pelagic sealers had not as yet invaded the eastern side of Bering Sea, and the Russians, as above stated, were prohibited by their own laws from engaging in pelagic sealing, and, apparently in the expectation that such conditions would continue undisturbed indefinitely, Great Britain informed the United States Government that:
Her Majesty's Government cannot recognize that Russia and Japan have any interest in the seal fisheries on the American side of the North Pacific.
The negotiations were vigorously pressed by the United States, but Great Britain's consent to the proposed extension of the regulations to Asiatic waters has never been given and consequently the adherence of Russia and Japan to the award regulations has never been secured.
It is to be noted that even then the Canadian sealers were actively engaged in pelagic sealing in Asiatic waters. They were not seriously interfered with by Japan, as prior to 1899 Japan was subject to extraterritorial jurisdiction and was consequently unable to enforce its laws and sealing restrictions against British subjects. They were equally free from interference by Russia in their operations outside of a limited prohibitive zone, established by agreement, around the Russian seal islands. Moreover, it was obviously to the advantage of the Canadian sealers to be able to resort to Asiatic waters, and engage in pelagic sealing there, free from any restrictions, during the three months constituting the closed season on the eastern side of Bering Sea under the award regulations. Such being the situation, it seems not unlikely that Great Britain's refusal to extend the regulations to Asiatic waters was not in conflict with the wishes of the Canadian sealing interests. It must be remembered, nevertheless, that the failure to extend the regulations by agreement between the four powers concerned has resulted, not only in bringing about the transfer of the Canadian pelagic sealers to Asiatic waters during the closed season in Bering Sea, which the neutral arbitrators particularly desired to avoid, but it has also resulted in opening Bering Sea to the Japanese sealers, unhampered by the restrictions of the award regulations. Under the circumstances, therefore, the Canadian
sealers cannot present a very strong claim for sympathy in their present difficulties, and, as between them and the Japanese, it is not a matter in which the United States can feel much concern, if the outcome is to give the Japanese what the Canadians may regard as the "lion's share" of the hunting.
There is another side to the question, however, and the United States cannot be expected to look on with indifference at the approaching extermination of the seal herd, through the unscientific and wasteful hunting methods of the pelagic sealers. The position of the United States has been, ever since the question was first subjected to scientific investigation, that the award regulations are wholly inadequate to protect and preserve the seal herd, and that pelagic sealing, if permitted at all, must inevitably result in the extermination of the herd for commercial purposes, and this view has been verified by the results of actual experience. The size of the herd was estimated in 1891 by Canadian and American commissioners to number about 1,000,000 seals. Since then it has steadily decreased, and last year the total number was estimated at about 185,000. For the past three or four years it has shown a regular diminution of not less than 20,000 annually, and there is every indication of a progressive annual diminution in the future, so long as pelagic sealing continues. In justification for attributing this decrease to the destructive methods of the pelagic sealers, it will be sufficient to refer to the conclusions jointly agreed upon by the scientific experts, appointed by the two governments in 1897, who found that the land killing, which is confined to the surplus bachelor seals and is carried on under the supervision of government officials, called for no criticism or objection.
It has further been established beyond controversy that owing to the polygamous habits and reproductive capacity of the seals, if the killing of the female seals was discontinued by the prohibition of pelagic sealing and only the superfluous male seals were killed, as is now the case, under government supervision and regulations on the islands, the herd would, in a comparatively short period, be restored to a numerical strength large enough to guarantee an annual supply sufficient to meet the demands of commerce.
In its efforts to save the seal herd from certain destruction, the United States has repeatedly and urgently sought to supersede the award regulations altogether by an international agreement for the abandonment of pelagic sealing, or, at the very least, to have the award regulations revised, so as to more closely limit the operations of the pelagic sealers, but without success in either direction. Great Britain has invariably refused
to do anything that would change existing conditions. Japan and Russia, on the other hand, have heretofore expressed themselves as willing and ready to enter into a joint agreement for the better protection of the fur seals, and presumably they are still willing to do so. Indeed, such an agreement would now be more than ever to the advantage of Japan in view of the acquisition by Japan of the fur seal herd having its breeding grounds on Robben Island lying adjacent to the coast of Sakhalin Island, ceded by Russia to Japan at the close of the late war. The concurrence of Great Britain, however, is essential to the success of any such arrangement, and if that cannot be obtained the ultimate destruction of the American seal herd for commercial purposes seems to be inevitable. That being the case, there is much to be said in favor of the alternative proposition which has been under consideration in Congress on two or three occasions and was recommended by President Roosevelt in his annual message of December 3, 1906, in these words:
In case we are compelled to abandon the hope of making arrangements with other governments to put an end to the hideous cruelty now incident to pelagic sealing, it will be a question for your serious consideration how far we should continue to protect and maintain the seal herd on land with the result of continuing such a practise, and whether it is not better to end the practise by exterminating the herd ourselves in the most humane way possible.
In addition to the humane considerations thus urged for taking such action, it also may fairly be taken into consideration that if the matter is to be dealt with on a purely commercial basis it would certainly be to the advantage of the United States to secure for itself all the remaining skins by killing the herd while on the islands; thus, at the same time, putting an end to the considerable annual expense involved in maintaining the patrol in Bering Sea and the guard upon the islands for any further period, and avoiding as well any chance of the recurrence of international complications in the future.
The position of the Canadian sealing interests on this proposition is disclosed by a resolution passed by the British Columbia Legislative Assembly when the suggestion was first under consideration in Congress. After reciting that the United States proposed to authorize the killing of all the male and female seals, with an exception of a nucleus for breeding purposes, in case a satisfactory settlement was not arrived at, the resolution continues as follows:
And whereas, the exercise of such a presumed authority is contrary to the finding of the Bering Sea Tribunal, and a direct violation of the spirit of the agreement entered into between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States, and an unwarrantable interference with and infringement upon the undoubted rights of British subject: etc., etc.
It is to be regretted that the Canadian interests have confined their attention so closely to their own side of the case, for it cannot fail to occur to an impartial observer that if the destruction of the seal herd on land by the United States is "a direct violation of the spirit of the agreement entered into between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States," then it is equally a violation of such agreement to destroy the seal herd by pelagic sealing.
THE RECENT AGREEMENTS CONCLUDED BETWEEN JAPAN AND FRANCE.
The text of the agreements concluded between Japan and France on June 10, last, has been received for publication just as the JOURNAL is going to press, and too late for extended comment on this important development of international relations in the far East. The general purport of these agreements was disclosed soon after they were made, but their exact terms have not heretofore been announced, and they are published here as furnishing in themselves a comment more important than an editorial one on a situation which is of particular interest to this country.
When the United States departed from its traditional policy of continental integrity, the question of entangling alliances was at the same time taken down from the shelf, where it had been so securely put away by Washington, and it is now showing unexpected signs of activity in the light of the possible advantages to be derived from similar international agreements applying directly to the interests of the United States in Asia.
The authorized English translation of the agreements referred to is as follows:
ARRANGEMENT CONCLUDED BETWEEN JAPAN AND FRANCE ON JUNE 10TH, 1907.
The Government of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and the Government of the French Republic, animated by the desire to strengthen the relations of amity existing between them and to remove from those relations all causes of misunderstanding for the future, have decided to conclude the following arrangement:
The Government of Japan and of France being agreed to respect the independence and integrity of China as well as the principle of equal treatment in that country for the commerce and subjects or citizens of all nations and having special interest to have order and pacific state of things preserved, especially in the regions of the Chinese Empire adjacent to the territories where they have rights of sovereignty, protection or occupation, engage to support each other by assuring peace and security in those regions with a view to maintain respective situation and the territorial rights of the High Contracting Parties on the continent of Asia.