The North Pacific Sealing Convention of 1911
Pacific Historical Review
By the year 191 I the North Pacific fur seal was little more than a reminder of the greed and rapacity of man. The magnificient American herd on the Pribilof Islands had been reduced in numbers from approximately 4,000,000 in 1867 to a rapidly dwindling ioo,ooo.' At the rate the work of slaughter was being carried on it would be a matter of only a few years before the fur seal, one of the most beautiful of wild creatures, would become practically extinct. The story of how the herd was saved and
... rehabilitated, in spite of seemingly insuperable obstacles, should, therefore, be of more than passing interest and significance. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the North Pacific Sealing Convention of 1911 I was a major victory in the struggle for the conservation of natural resources, a signal triumph for diplomacy, and a landmark in the history of international cooperation. At the outset it will be necessary to say something about the habits of the fur seal. This animal is highly polygamous, and the most powerful males, known as beachmasters, gather about them a harem of females, numbering from about twenty to fifty, and fight off their rivals. Since the beachmaster is usually able to maintain his ascendancy for a considerable period of time, it is estimated that not more than one male in a hundred is necessary for the propagation of the herd. It follows, then, that the judicious elimination of a large number of bachelor 1 The manuscript materials which were used for the diplomatic aspects of this study were found in the Division of Communications and Records, Department of State, file 1797; file 711.417; and Series 99, volume 22. 2 A parallel decimation had occurred on Russia's Commander Islands, the only other important seal rookeries in the North Pacific.