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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎9v] (18/62)

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The record is made up of 1 file (31 folios). It was created in 10 Mar 1904-19 Jun 1918. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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2. Apparently nil the tribes fish for joearls wlierever they are to be
found, and no tribe has exercised a right excluding the other tribes from
any part of the fishery.
3. Oniy members of the tribes have hitherto fished for pearls in the
4i.—(«) Portions ol" some of the pearl hanks lie within the three-mile
territorial limit.
(b) Some of the banks extend from within the three-mile
territorial limit outwards for several miles.
(c) Some of the pearl banks are entirely outside the three-mile
territorial Jimit.
Tn all these cases the tribes have exercised an exclusive right for
fishing for pearls.
5. The tribes have not fished for pearls in the deep waters off tlie
banks, having no appliances for deep water fishing. It is apprehended
that divinsr for pearls in such deep waters would materially injure the
pearl fishery on the banks, and it is desired, if possible, to prevent
* dredging in such deep waters.
G. The action to be taken for the protection of the pearl fishery
would appear to depend on (1) the legal right of the tribes to a monopoly,
and (2) the power-of the British Government to act on their behalf.. It
is conceived that some precise delegation of authority to the British
.Government to act on hehalf of the tribes in this matter would be
7. Ti;e Law Officers would probably advise as to 'the legal rights of
the tribes within and also without the three-mile territorial limit, and as
to the nature and extent of the delegation to be obtained, and further
as to the procedure to be followed in expelling interlopers and dealing
with their boats and fishing appliances.
I have, &c.,
The Under Secretary of State, A. Godley.
Foreign Office.
Report by the Legal Adviser to the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. , dated
12th April 1904.
Two distinct questions are raised in the Despatch of the Government
of India.
1. First, there is the question whether the British Government is in
a position to assert and vindicate the rights possessed by the Chiefs over
the waters which adjoin their territories. This, it seems to me, is a
question of fact. If it is correct to say that the Chiefs have all agreed
to leave the protection of their interests in the hands of the British
Government, then the existence or non-existence of a treaty defining "
their relations or imposing on the Government the obligation of affording
that protection does not seem to mo material. So long as an/ act done
by officers of the Government can be proved to have been done under
the authority of the Chiefs whose territory may be concerned, then
those officers have, I think, a complete defence (see Carr v. Times, 1902,
A.C. 176). Nor do I think that any foreign fetate could complain of
such an act, provided of course that it was an act which, if done by the
Chief himself, would not have transgr ssed the rules of International'law.
2. As regards the extent of the jurisdiction of a State beyond the
limits of its own shores, I do not think I can do better than cite the
opinion of the Law Officers of the Government of India in the case of- r
the Mergui pearl fisheries, that jopinion having been approved by the r
Law Officers of the Crown. They wrote as follows: " We are of
" opinion that the British Government possesses territorial jurisdiction
" over the sea within a belt or zone of three miles from the shores of

About this item


The contents of the file relate to the British Government’s concerns over growing British and international interest in the Gulf’s pearling industry, hitherto almost exclusively exploited by the region’s indigenous inhabitants.

1) The first half of the file (folios 2-13) comprises copies of Government of India correspondence published in 1904 and 1905, which discuss Britain’s historic role in the Gulf in relation to the pearling industry. Themes covered include: Britain’s duty to protect the pearl banks for the benefit of the Arab pearl divers, acknowledgement of growing national and international interest in the pearl banks, the extent of territorial waters, and the likely result of any legal challenges to Britain’s refusal to allow foreign interests the opportunity to exploit the Gulf’s pearl banks.

2) Correspondence relating to an enquiry by a German businessman, concerning the pearl trade in the Gulf (folios 15-17).

3) Printed copies of correspondence (folios 20-23) from the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. Political Resident A senior ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul General) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Residency. (Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Cox) and the Bahrain Political Agent A mid-ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Agency. (Captain Charles Mackenzie), dated 1910, concerning the increasing trade in oyster shells in the Gulf, used for the production of mother of pearl. A drop in the numbers of oysters being fished is attributed to the mother of pearl industry. A German firm based in Bahrain, Wonckhaus & Co., is identified as a key exporter of oyster shells at Bahrain.

4) A letter (folio 27) intercepted by the Political Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. in Bahrain, from the Secretary of the Wolverine Motor Works, U.S.A., to Robert Wonckhaus & Co., dated 3 February 1915. The letter and accompanying leaflet (folios 28-29) relates to Wolverine Motor Works’ new combined compressor and propelling motor, designed specifically for use in the pearl fishing industry.

5) A typewritten extract from the Times of India Illustrated , dated 19 [month missing, presumed June] 1918 (folio 30) reporting on rumours that German financiers are buying up all the pearls available in Britain and France.

Extent and format
1 file (31 folios)

The contents of the file have been arranged in approximate chronological order, running from the earliest items at the front of the file to the latest at the end.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: The file is foliated from its front cover to inside back cover, using circled pencil numbers in the top-right corner of each recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. . There is an additional pagination system running throughout the file.

Folio 29 is a fold-out.

There is minor insect damage to papers throughout the file.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎9v] (18/62), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/3, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 17 February 2020]

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