It was agreed by the commission of 1892 that “excessive killing by man” was the cause of the decline of the herd. As to the “man” in question the two sets of commissioners differed diametrically. The Americans placed the responsibility with the pelagic sealer; the British, with the lessees through their methods of sealing on land.
To any one who is at all familiar with the conspicuous part which the theories of close killing, and especially overdriving, played in the British contention before the Paris Tribunal of Arbitration, this full and frank vindication comes as a refreshing surprise. That it should be agreed to by British scientific experts ought to revive even Dr. Mendenhall's faith. It is true that the statement is carefully limited to the seasons under observation, but neither the principle nor the methods of land killing have been altered within the past half century except in so far as they have been improved. It was an absurd and foolish theory which ascribed to the treatment of the non-breeding and superfluous male life of a herd of polygamous animals responsibility for the decline of its breeding stock, but it served a purpose useful to Canadian interests before the Paris tribunal. It is now forever eliminated from the fur-seal question.
This statement is true, though wholly irrelevant to the question of the efficiency of the regulations themselves. Moreover, it stands as an implied impeachment of the active and efficient patrol fleet constantly maintained by the United States and Great Britain for the enforcement of the regulations governing the pelagic industry. For example, there were in 1896 five American and three British vessels engaged in active patrol of the waters of Bering Sea. One would think it a foregone conclusion that the pelagic industry should be law-abiding, whether of its own volition or not. In addition to all this, however, the regulations are as admirably suited to the needs of the pelagic sealer as if he had himself prepared them. There is, therefore, no reasonable incentive to violate them. Viewed in this light, this statement seems ludicrous, but it has a justification not evident at first sight.