April 8, 1957 (22nd Parliament, 5th Session)


James Sinclair (Minister of Fisheries)


Mr. Sinclair:

I will be very glad to repeat my remarks of this afternoon on the matter. The treaty of 1911 was signed by the four nations. About 95 per cent of the fur seals are on the rookeries on the north American side, the Pribilof rookeries. Robben island, which used to belong to Japan, had a herd of less than 30,000 seals, and Commander island off Kamchatka had a herd of less than 50,000 seals. The actual kill from those two herds was very small in those years.
When I was in Japan I met the fisheries committee of the Japanese parliament to discuss the question of pelagic sealing. Robben island no longer belongs to Japan because Russia took away from Japan Robben island and Sakhalin after the war, so Japan now has no rookeries. I discussed with Dr. Babyan, the director of conservation in Moscow, the position of Commander island. They have a herd of almost 100,000 built up there now. In the early days there

was no killing on either Robben island, Pribilof islands or Commander island. Killing started on the the Pribilof islands when the herd began to build up. But in the years when neither Japan nor Russia gave any share of their kill or their absence of kill to Canada and the United States, no share of the kill on the north American side was turned over to Russia or Japan. As our kill is the big kill, averaging about 70,000 or 80,000 a year in recent years, although last year it was 120,000, we are the ones with the major interest.
The Pribilof seals do not frequent only the North American coast. The research work which was done in 1952 showed very clearly that the seals go up both coasts to their rookeries which is why these two countries have an interest in the rookeries on the Pribilof islands as well as the rookeries on the two islands on their side.
As far as forgoing revenue is concerned, we actually gain revenue because instead of 15 per cent of the Pribilof kill, which is the big kill, and 15 per cent of the two very small kills, on Robben and Commander islands, we have had 20 per cent of the kill on the Pribilof islands since the time that Russia first left the treaty. The 1911 treaty provided that notice could be given of leaving the treaty and Russia did so in 1917 and Japan in 1941 just before Pearl harbour.
We have certainly lost nothing. Up till now we have actually gained by the removal of these two nations as far as dollars and cents are concerned since we get 20 per cent of the Pribilof kill instead of 15 per cent. We would, however, lose in the future if they resumed pelagic sealing and cut down the herd on the Pribilofs, which they could very easily do by engaging again in pelagic sealing off the island of Hokaido in northern Japan and off Kamchatka where the seals pass very close to the shore.

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