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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/679

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THE BERING SEA CONTROVERSY.

and explain many of the points made in order to be sure that they are clear to the lay reader. Second, the report has for some reason received practically no notice in the American press, and it is to be feared that the importance of the document has not been fully appreciated by the American public.

1. There is adequate evidence that since the year 1884, and down to the date of the inspection of the rookeries in 1897, the fur-seal herd of the Pribilof Islands, as measured on either the hauling grounds or breeding grounds, has declined in numbers at a rate varying from year to year.

This proposition is in effect a restatement of the first clause of the agreement of 1892, but it is much more definitely put. The decline is not made to date vaguely “since the Alaska purchase” (1867), but “since the year 1884.” This latter date is significant for a number of things. Prior to it for a period of thirteen years there had been no difficulty in securing the normal quota of 100,000 skins annually. In other words, up to that time the herd had remained in a state of equilibrium, yielding a maximum product. Again, this date marks the advent of pelagic sealing in Bering Sea, and the beginning of that remarkable expansion of the industry which culminated ten years later in 1894. The decline of the herd is thus made synonymous with the rise of pelagic sealing.

The real significance of this proposition, however, lies in the fact that the decline is declared to have been continuous to the present time. In other words, it did not stop or even slacken with the season of 1894. In this season, it will be remembered, the regulations of the Paris award, avowedly for the “protection and preservation of the fur-seal herd,” went into effect. Translated into direct statement, this proposition is an admission that the regulations have failed of their object.

2. In the absence for the earlier years of actual counts of the rookeries such as have been made in recent years, the best approximate measure of decline available is found in these facts:

a. About 100,000 male seals of recognized killable age were obtained from the hauling grounds each year from 1871 to 1889. The table of statistics given in Appendix I[1] shows, on the whole, a progressive increase in the number of hauling grounds driven and in the number of drives made, as well as a retardation of the date at which the quota was attained during a number of years prior to 1889.

b. In the year 1896, 28,964 killable seals were taken after continuing the driving till July 27th, and in 1897 19,189 after continuing the driving till August 11th. We have no reason to believe that during the period 1896 and 1897 a very much larger number of males of recognized killable age could have been taken on the hauling grounds.

The reduction between the years 1896 and 1897 in the number of killable seals taken, while an indication of decrease in the breeding herd, can not be

  1. See footnote on next page.