BERING SEA CONTROVERSY, an international dispute over the territorial status of that sea, chiefly between the United States and Great Britain, and growing out of attempts of the former to protect its fur-scaling indus tries there from the Canadian subjects of the latter. This industry rests on three great herds in the north Pacific, which resort regularly to certain islands in the breeding season, from May or June till the autumn storms, then move southward to about 35° N., and gradually work northward the next spring. At the islands the elder males remain with the young on the beach while the females go in search of food, some times 200 miles. The younger males, or gbach elors," two to four years old, herd apart, and should furnish all the commercial sealskins, the pelts of the old males being unsalable and the killing of females a blow at the continuance of the species. But this selection can only be made on shore; pelagic or ocean sealing is at best indiscriminate if done during migrations, and is almost exclusively of females during the breeding season, while every mother seal then killed means a young seal starved ashore. The largest of these °rookeries)) is on the Pribi lof Islands in Bering Sea, where the Russian American Company carried on sealing till their cession to the United States in 1867, when it was talcing some 40,000 seals a year; the herd being protected by restrictive regulations. In 1821 Alexander I issued a ulcase claiming Bering Sea as Russian property, and forbidding trespass on pain of confiscation; but the United States and Great Britain protested so vigorously that the claim was dropped. After the cession, the rivalry of competing companies would speedily have made an end to the seals in the Northern Ocean, as it long since had in the Southern, had not the United States leased the islands for 20 years to the Alaska Commercial Company (which then leased the Russian seal islands also) for $55,000 a year and $2.62% a slcin, restricting the catch to 100,000 a year. In fact the company kept a little under that mark; but the contract was so profitable that vessels were soon fitting out from British Co lumbia, Hawaii and Australia, which intercepted the seals as they passed between the Aleutian Islands northward or southward, or entered Bering Sea and caught the females as they ranged the seas for food. The poaching grew in volume, and a stream of protcst from the Alaska Company flowed in year after year to the government at Washington, which in 1:4:1 was goaded into officially reversing its former contention, and declared Bering Sea east of the treaty meridian of 1867 American waters; but took no further step till 1886, when under President Cleveland it seized and condemned three Canadian sealers. Great Britain pro tested, and proceedings were suspended pending discussion; but in 1887 five more were seized, and the question at once became a matter of serious diplomacy. Secretary Bayard attempted to convene delegates from Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Russia and Japan to meet with our own and frame regulations to prevent thc extirpation of the northern seals; but in June 1888 Great Britain withdrew, under pressure from Canada. In 1E89 several more Canadian vessels were seized, and Great Britain sent a practical menace of war if this were not stopped. There being but three alternatives, abandonment of the sealing interest to destruc tion, which the country would not endure; seiz ure of all poaching vessels, which meant war; and arbitration — the latter was decided on in 1890. The same year the Alaska Company, its lease expired, was succeeded by the North American Company; the herd, estimated in 1867 at over 3,000,000 on the Pribilof Islan-ds, had shrunk so enorinously under the pelagic sealing that the price had risen from $2.50 to $30 per slcin, and the new company's limit of capture was restricted to 20,000, with a royalty of $10 a skin. On 15 June 1891 a modus vivendi was agreed on for joint policing of Bering Sea by British and American vessels; and on 29 Feb. 1892 a treaty of arbitration was signed, under which on 23 March 1893 a tribunal met at Paris, composed of Baron de Courcel (France), Mar quis Emilo Visconti-Venosti (Italy), Judge Gregers W. W. Gram (Sweden-Norway), Lord Hannan (England), Sir John S. D. Thompson (Canada), Justice John M. Harlan and Senator John T. Morgan (United States). The United
States case was conducted by the Secretary of State (John W. Foster) ; counsel, Edward J. Phelps, James C. Carter, Frederick R. Coudert and Henry Blodget. The decision on the logical points was entirely against the United States; Bering Sea was held part of the high seas and no one s preserve, and seals fem. nature/ and no one's property. But on the point of equity in our case, that the preservatioh of the seals from extinction was a common interest of the civil ized world, it agreed with us and framed reg ulations binding for five years to prohibit all pelagic sealing within 60 miles of the Pribilofs, or from I May to 31 July in the north Pacific east of 180° or north of 35°, with othcr regula tions. The restrictions proved absurdly ineffec tive, and Great Britain would not antagonize Canada to make them less so; in 1894 the pelagic catch was the enormous one of 142,000, far beyond any former record, and for several more seasons was very great, till the herds showed signs of rapid exhaustion. Great Brit ain obstinately refused to rnake any change in the regulations till the fivc years were up, sent an expert to the spot who laid all the blame on the North American Company, and refused to send a delegate to meet those of Russia, Japan and the United States, who agreed to prohibit pelagic sealing to their sub jects if Great Britain would do so. Meantime, to put pressure on the latter, Congress prohib ited the importation of all sealslcins except the North American Company's, in order to destroy the market for Canadian-caught slcins and make their business unprofitable; but England still refused to agree to the provisional treaty, on the ground that it would injure Canada, was not necessary to protect the seals and that the North American Company was solely in fault But on 18 Nov. 1897 a joint meeting of Eng lish, American and Canadian experts was held, and unanimously supported the American con tention at every point, that the herds had dimin ished by from 66*5 to 130 per cent, and mark edly so even from 11396 to 1897; that the North American Company was handling its business with entire propriety; that pelagic sealing, in volving the killing off of the females, was the sole cause of the reduction, which was threat ening the entire extinction of the fur seal. Another year would bring about the time foc changing the Paris regulations, and the United States agreed to prohibit all seal killing, even on the Pribilofs, for a year, but Canada would not consent because it would scatter the crews of her sealing fleet. Meantime, Congress on 14 June 1898 appropriated $473,151.26 to pay for the Canadian vessels seized years before. On 30 May 1898 a joint Canadian and American commission was authorized; it met at Quebec in August, adjourned to November at Washing ton, continued till February 1899, adjourned to the summer and did not reassemble. Most un fortunately, its scope included all the questions1 at issue between the two governments: the seal-I ing problem became entangled at the outset with impossible bargains for general commer cial reciprocity, then with the Alaska boundary question (q.v.) made acute by the Klondilce gold discoveries, and at the adjournment not a single issue before it had been decided. The Paris regulations had expired, no new ones had been established, and the seals were left wholly without protection; while even so, as the United States forbade pelagic scaling to its citizens while England did not, all the profit of the perishing industry was being reaped by foreigners. The Canadian fleet of 1899 num bered 26 vessels, that of 1900 numbered 33, with a catch of over 35,000 each year, considerably more than half females. The same conditions continuing, the North American Company increased its efforts in order to obtain its share while the seals lasted; and in the Congressional session of 1901-02 it was seriously proposed to kill off the entire herd at once, and thus end the question by putting an end to the seals. In 1911, an international agreement pro vided for the conservation of the seal industry.
See ALASKA : COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT FUR-SEALS. Consult Henderson's 'American Diplomatic Questions' (New York 1901) ; Stanton's 'Bering Sea Controversy' (New York 1892) ; Snow, 'Treaties and Topics in American Diplomacy> (Boston 1894). See