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Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, November 25, 1887. Sir: Your No. 618, of the 12th instant, stating the result of your interviews with Lord Salisbury on the subject of the seal fisheries ini Behring Sea, is received.
The favorable response to our suggestion of mutually agreeing to a code of regulations is very satisfactory, and the subject will have inmediate attention. I am, etc.,
T. F. BAYARD.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps. No. 782.]
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, February 7, 1888. SIR: I have received your No. 618, of the 12th of November last containing an account of your interview with Lord Salisbury of the preceding day, in which his lordship expressed acquiescence in my proposal of an agreement between the United States and Great Britain in regard to the adoption of concurrent regulations for the preservation of fur seals in Behring Sea from extermination by destruction at improper seasons and by iinproper methods by the citizens of either country.
In response to his lordship's suggestion that this Government submit a sketch of a system of regulations for the purpose indicated, it may be expedient, before making a definite proposition, to describe some of the conditions of seal life; and for this purpose it is believed that a concise statement as to that part of the life of the seal which is spent in Belring Sea will be suficient.
All those who have made a study of the seals in Behring Sea are agreed that, on an average, from five to six months, that is to say, from the middle or toward the end of spring till the middle or end of October, are spent by them in those waters in breeding and in rearing their young. During this time they have their rookeries on the islands of St. Paul and St. George, which constitute the Pribilof group and belong to the United States, and on the Commander Islands, which belong to Russia. But the number of animals resorting to the latter group is small in comparison with that resorting to the former. The rest of the year they are supposed to spend in the open sea south of the Aleutian Islands.
Their migration northward, which has been stated as taking place during the spring and till the middle of June, is made through the numerous passes in the long chain of the Aleutian Islands, above which the courses of their travel converge chiefly to the Pribilof group. Dur. ing this migration the female seals are so advanced in pregnancy that they generally give birth to their young, which are commonly called pups, within two weeks after reaching the rookeries. Between the time of the birth of the pups and of the emigration of the seals from the islands in the autumn the females are occupied in suckling their young; and by far the largest part of the seals found at a distance from the islands in Behring Sea during the summer and early autumn are temales in search of food, which is made doubly necessary to enable them to suckle their young as well as to support a condition of renewed preg. nancy, which begins in a week or a little more after their delivery.
The male seals, or bulls, as they are commonly called, require little food while on the islands, where they remain guarding their harems, watching the rookeries, and sustaining existence on the large amount of blubber which they have secreted beneath their skins and which is gradually absorbed during the five or six succeeding months.
Moreover, it is impossible to distinguish the male from the female seals in the water, or pregnant females from those that are not so. When the animals are killed in the water with firearms many sink at once and are never recovered, and some authorities state that not more than one out of three of those so slaughtered is ever secured. This may, however, be an overestimate of the number lost.
It is thus apparent that to permit the destruction of the seals by the use of firearms, nets, or other mischievous means in Bering Sea would result in the speedy extermination of the race. There appears to be no difference of opiuion on this subject among experts. And the fact is so clearly and forcibly stated in the report of the inspector of fisheries for British Columbia of the 31st of December, 1886, that I will quote there. from the following pertinent passage:
There were killed this year, so far, from 40,000 to 50,000 fur seals, which have been taken by schooners from San Francisco and Victoria. The greater number were killed in Behring Sea, and were nearly all cows or female seals. This enormous catch, with the increase which will take place when the vessels fitting up every year are ready, will, I am afraid, soon deplete our fur-seal fishery, and it is a great pity that such a valuable industry could not in some way be protected. (Report of Thomas Mowat, inspector of fisheries for British Columbia; Sessional Papers, Vol. 15, No. 16, p. 268; Ottawa, 1887.)
The only way of obviating the lamentable result above predicted appears to be by the United States, Great Britain, and other interested powers taking concerted action to prevent their citizens or subjects from killing fur seals with firearms, or other destructive weapons, north of 500 of north latitude, and between 1600 of longitude west and 1700 of longitude east from Greenwich, during the period intervening between April 15 and November 1. To prevent the killing within a marine belt of 40 or 50 miles from the islands during that period would be ineffectual as a preservative measure. This would clearly be so during the approach of the seals to the islands. And after their arrival there such a limit of protection would also be insufficient, since the rapid progress of the seals through the water enables them to go great distances from the islands in so short a time that it has been calculated that an ordinary seal could go to the Aleutian Islands and back, in all a distance of 360 or 400 miles, in less than two days.
On the Pribilot Islands themselves, where the killing is at present under the direction of the Alaska Commercial Company, which by the terms of its contract is not permitted to take over 100,000 skins a year, no females, pups, or old bulls are ever killed, and thus the breeding of the animals is not interfered with. The old bulls are the first to reach the islands, where they await the coming of the females. As the young bulls arrive they are driven away by the old bulls to the sandy part of the islands, by themselves. And these are the animals that are driven inland and there killed by clubbing, so that the skins are not perforated, and discrimination is exercised in each case.
That the extermination of the fur seals must soon take place unless they are protected from destruction in Behring Sea is shown by the fate of the animal in other parts of the world, in the absence of concerted action among the nations interested for its preservation. Formerly many thousands of seals were obtained annually from the South Pacitic Islands, and from the coasts of Chile and South Africa. They were also common in the Falkland Islands and the aljacent seas. But in thost islands, where hundreds of thousands of skins were torinerly obtained, there have been taken, according to best statistics, since 1880, less than 1,500 skins. In some places the indiscriminate slaughter, especially by use of firearms, has in a few years resulted in completely breaking up extensive rookeries.
At the present time it is estimated that out of an aggregate yearly yield of 185,000 seals from all parts of the globe, over 130,000, or more than two-thirds, are obtained from the rookeries on the American and Russian islands in Behring Sea. Of the remainder, the larger part are taken in Behring Sea, although such taking, at least on such a scale, in that quarter is a comparatively recent thing. But if the killing of the fur seal there with firearms, nets, and other destructive implements were permitted, hunters would abandon other and exhausted places of pursuit for the more productive tield of Behring Sea, where extermination of this valuable animal would also rapidly ensue.
It is manifestly for the interests of all nations that so deplorable a thing should not be allowed to occur. As las already been stated, on the Pribilof Islands this Government strictly limits the number of seals that may be killed under its own lease to an American company: and citizens of the United States have, during the past year, been arrested and ten American vessels seized for killing fur seals in Behring Sea.
England, however, has an especially great interest in this matter, in addition to that which she must feel in preventing the extermination of an animal which contributes so much to the gain and comfort of her people. Nearly all undressed tur-seal skins are sent to London, where they are dressed and dyed for the market, and where many of them are sold. It is stated that at least 10,000 people in that city find profitable employment in this work; far more than the total number of people engaged in hunting the sur seal in every part of the world. At the Pribilof Islands it is believed that there are not more than 400 persons so engaged; at Commander Islands, not more than 300; in the Northwest coast fishery, 11ot more than 525 Iudian hunters and 100 whites; and in the Cape llorn fishery, not more than 400 persons, of whom perlaps 300 are Chileans. Great Britain, therefore, in coöperating with the United States to prevent the destruction of fur seals in Belring Sea would also be perpetuating an extensive and valuable industryin which her own citizens have the most lucrative share.
I inclose for your information copy of a memorandum on the fur-seal fisheries of the world, prepared by Mr. A. Howard Clark, in response to a request made by this Department to the U.S. Fish Commissioner. I inclose also, for your further information, copy of a letter to me, (lateil December 3d last, from Mr. Jlenry W. Elliott, who has spent much time in Alaska, engaged in the study of seal life, upon which he is well kuown as an authority. I desire to call your especial attention to what is said by Mr. Elliott in respect to the new method of catching the seals with niets.
As the subject of this dispatch is one of great importance and of immediate urgency, I will ask that you give it as early attention as possible. I am, etc.,
T. F. BAYARD. (For inclosures see Senate Ex. Doc. No. 106, Fiftieth Congress, second session, pp. 90-96.)
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard. No. 690.]
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
London, February 18, 1888. (Received February 28.) SIR: I received yesterday your instruction No. 782, under date of February 7, relative to the Alaskan seal tisheries. I immediately addressed a note to Lord Salisbury, inclosing for his perusal one of the printed copies of the instruction, and requesting an appoiutment for an early interview on the subject.
I also sent a note to the Russian ambassador, and an interview with bim is arranged for the 21st instant.
The whole matter will receive my immediate and thorough attention and I hope for a favorable result. Meanwhile I would ask your consideration of the manner in which you would propose to carry out the regulations of these tisheries that may be agreed upon by the countries interested. Would not legislation be necessary; and, if so, is there any hope of obtaining it on the part of Congress? I have, etc.,
E. J. PHELPS.
Mr. Phelps to Mr. Bayard.
(Extract.) No. 692.]
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
London, February 25, 1884 (Received March 6.) SIR: Referring to your instructions, nunbered 789, of February 7, 1888, in reference to the Alaska seal fisheries, and to my reply thereto, numbered 690, of February 18, I have the honor to inform you that I have since had interviews on the subject with Lord Salisbury and with M. de Staal, the Russian ambassador.
Lord Salisbury assents to your proposition to establish, by mutual arrangement between the governments interested, a close time for fur: seals, between April 15 and November 1, and between 1600 of longitude west and 1700 of longitude east, in the Behring Sea.
He will also join the United States Government in any preventive measures it may be thought best to adopt, by orders issued to the naval vessels in that region of the respective governments.
I have this morning telegraphed you for additional printed copies of instructions 782 for the use ot ller Majesty's Government.
The Russian ambassador concurs, so far as his personal opinion is concerned, in the propriety of the proposed measures for the protection of the seals, and has promised to communicate at once with his Government in regard to it. I have furnished him with copies of instructions 782 for the use of his Government. I have, etc.,
E. J. PHELPS.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps. No. 810.)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, March 2, 1888. Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 690, of the 18th ultimo, in relation to the Alaskan seal fisheries, and bave pleasure in observing the promptitude with which the business has been conducted.
It is hoped that Lord Salisbury will give it favorable consideration, as there can be no doubt of the importance of preserving the seal tisheries in Behring Sea, and it is also desirable that this should be done by an arrangement between the governments interested, without the United States being called upon to consider what special measures of its own the exceptional character of the property in question might require it to take in case of the refusal of foreign powers to give their cooperation.
Whether legislation would be necessary to enable the United States and Great Britain to carry out measures for the protection of the seals would depend much upon the character of the regulations; but it is probable that legislation would be required.
The manner of protecting the seals would depend upon the kind of arrangement which Great Britain would be willing to make with the United States for the policing of the seas and for the trial of Britishi subjects violating the regulations which the two Governments may agree upon for such protection. As it appears to this Government, the commerce carried on in and about Behring Sea is so limited in variety and extent that the present efforts of this Government to protect the seals need not be complicated by considerations which are of great importance in highways of commerce and render the interference by the officers of one Government with the merchant vessels of another on the high seas inadmissible. But even in regard to those parts of the globe where commerce is extensively carried on, the United States and Great Britain' have, for a common purpose, abated in a measure their objection to such interference and agreed that it might be made by the naval vessels of either country.
Reference is made to the treaty concluded at Washington on tlie 7th of April, 1862, between the United States and Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade, under which the joint policivg of the seas by the naval vessels of the contracting parties was provided for. In this convention no limitation was imposed as to the part of the high seas of the world in which visitation and search of the merchant vessels of one of the contracting parties might be made by a naval vessel of the other party. In the present case, however, the range within which visitation and search would be required is so limited, and the commerce there carried on so insignificant, that it is scarcely thought necessary to refer to the slave-trade convention for a precedent, nor is it deemed necessary that the performance of police duty should be by the naval vessels of the contracting parties.
In regard to the trial of offenders for violation of the proposed regu. lations, provision might be made for such trial by handing over the alleged offender to the courts of his own country.
A precedent for such procedure is found in the treaty signed at the
T. F. BAYARD.
WASHINGTON, March 26, 1888. (Received March 29.) SIR: With reference to the proposal that concerted action be taken by Great Britain, the United States, and other interested powers, in order