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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎11r] (21/62)

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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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The material fa'jts may he stated as follows :—
1. The pearl fishery banks lie off the Arabian coast of the Persian
Gulf and otl" the coast of Bahrein. They extend, as shown on the
charts enclosed with the Government of India's letter, from Um-ul-
Kawain to near the head of the Gulf. His Majesty's Government has
identical agreements Avitli the Arab Chiefs of Ras -ul -Khaimah, Uin-ul-
Kawain, Ajman, Sliargah, Debai, Abu Dthabi and Balirein, by which
the Chiefs have praclically surrendered their foreign relations into the
hanils of the British Government. The territory of these Cliiefs
comprises the Arabian const of the Gulf off which the pearl bunks lie
up to the island of Bahrein, w f ith the exception of the promontory of
El Katr, with whose Chief the question of making a similar agreement is
now r under the consideration of His Majesty's Government. North of
Bahrein the sovereignty over the Arabian shore of the Gnlf belongs to
the Sultan of Turkey, with the exception of the territory of the Sheikh
of Koweit, who has special relations with His Majesty's Government.
2. Apparently all the tribes fish for pearls wherever they are to be
found ; and no tribe has exercised a right excluding the other tribes
from any part of the fishery.
3. Only members of the tribes have hitherto fished for pearls in these
4. [a) Portions of some of the pearl banks lie within the three-mile
territorial limit.
{b) Some of the banks extend from within the three-mile limit
outwards for several miles.
(<?) Some of the banks are entirely outside the three-mile limit.
In all these cases the tribes have exercised an exclusive and concurrent
right of fishing for pearls.
o. The tribes have not fished for pearls in the deep waters off the banks,
having no appliances for deep water fishing. It is apprehended that
dredging for pearls in such deep w r aters would materially injure the
pearl fishery on the banks ; and it 4s desired, if possible, to prevent
dredging in such deep waters.
6. 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 in
maintaining that monopoly. It is conceived that some preeise delegation
of authority to the British Government to act on behalf of the tribes in
this matter would be necessary. It must be added that none of the
tribes have any judicial system or courts of law for dealing with
trespassers or trespassing boats.
7. The Law Officers might be asked to 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.
Enclosure No. 4.
Foreign Office to 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. .
The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his
compliments to the Under Secretary of State lor India, and is directed
by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to transmit, to be laid
before the Secretary of Stste for India, a further section of confidential
^correspondence. (Foreign Office to the Law r Officer of the Crown,
19th October 1904.)
Foreign Office,
27th October 1904.

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' [‎11r] (21/62), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/3, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 21 February 2020]

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