SEAL FISHERIES. The controversy con cerning the sealing interest in Bering sea be tween the United States and Great Britain has involved an elaborate discussion with respect to the characteristics and habits of the seals, and the question whether their cus tom of going in herds through the open sea to certain islands at stated periods of the year for breeding purposes, made them the lawful prey of any captor, or whether the United States could assert over them a prop erty right growing out of the fact that un questionably the home of the animal was in the territory of the United States. This sub ject occupied the attention of the Paris tri bunal under the treaty for the settlement of claims growing out of the seizure of vessels engaged in the seal fishery. The discussions were of great interest and extended to the general question so much mooted by writers on the subject, whether international law had any real basis other than the mere consent of nations to specific propositions. That par ticular controversy was decided against the United States and the proceedings may be referred to for information on the subject. See INTERNATIONAL aw.
Rev. St. § 1956 (as amended April 21, 1910) prohibits the killing within the lim its of Alaska or its waters of fur seals and various other fur-bearing animals under penalty of fine or imprisonment, or both, and forfeiture of vessels found engaged in vio lating the section, but power is given to the secretary of commerce to make regulations authorizing the killing of such animals.
By the act of April 21, 1910, the killing of fur seals shall be exercised by officers, agents or employees of the United States or natives of Pribilof Islands acting under them and by no other person. Only males shall be killed and only ninety-five per cent. of three year old males killed in any one year. The skins are to•be sold by the government. These is
lands are declared a special reservation, on which landing is forbidden except for un avoidable cause. Killing shall not be done by firearms. It is unlawful to kill any fe male seal or any seal less than one year old ; and to kill any seal in the waters adjacent to the Pribilof Islands, or on the beaches or cliffs where they haul up. No citizen of the United States or person owing obedience to its laws, nor any person belonging to or on board a United States vessel, shall kill or hunt fur seals in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether in the territorial waters of the United States or in the open sea.
The act of congress of August 24, 1912, re citing a convention with Great Britain, Japan and Russia, provides that no United States citizen or person owing obedience to Its laws shall kill or capture seals more than three miles from the coast line of any United States territory, excepting the aborigines when fishing in canoes or undecked boats manned by not more than five such. Killing seals on Pribilof Island is forbidden for five years. Pelagic sealing is defined as meaning the killing, capturing, or pursuing in any manner fur seals while the same are in the water.
It has been held by United States courts that the waters of Bering sea are those with in the three-mile zone from Alaska: La Nin fa, 75 Fed. 513, 21 C. C. A. 434; In re Coop er, 143 U. S. 472, 12 Sup. Ct. 453, 36 L. Ed. 232. R. S. § 1956 is violated though the ani mals are taken by boats sent out to a dis tance from the vessel seized ; The Alexan der, 60 Fed. 914. See The James G. Swan, 50 id. 108. A vessel is liable to forfeiture if her boats take seals within the prohibited zone though she does not go there ;. U. S. v. The Jane Gray, 77 Fed. 908, under act of 1894.