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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎12v] (24/62)

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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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As regards the fisheries beyond lerritcmal waters, we tliink tliat a
distinction must be drawn between the hanks where the tribes have
practised pearl fishing and the deep zcate?'s in which no such fishery
has been carrisd on by them.
As regards the pearl banks, we think that, as a matter of inter
national law, they are capable of being the property ol tiie tribes to the
exclusion of all nations. In addition to the passage cited trom Vattel,
reference may be made to Puffendorfs Treatise " de jure Naturae efc
gentium," Book IV., Chapter V., Section 7, and to the recent work of
Professer Westlake, "International Law," Part 1., chapter 1), at pages
186 and 187, and the case of the pro lectio a of the Ceylon pearl banks
is a striking illustration of the assertion of this right iti practice.
Whether sueh rights, in (act, exist with regard to these particular pearl
banks in 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. is a question the answer to which cannot be
c^iven with any certainty, as it depends on the evidence available of
historical facts with reference to the enjoyment of these fisheries hy the
tribes and the exelusion ol" others from them. As far as we can judge,
upon the materials before us, we think that there are grounds lor
asserting the existence of such an exclusive right, and we do not think
that, in point of law, the fact that the enjoyment was by the tribes in
common would prevent the acquisition of the right in question. Having
regard to the relations of His Majesty's Government with the tribes on
the west shore of 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. , we think that the existence of this
exclusive right may be properly maintained on their behalf by His
Majesty's Government
With regard to the deep waters in which pearl fishing lias not been
carried on by the tribes we think the case is different. There is here no
defined area*at the bottom of the sea over which the right of fishing
has been exercised to the exclusion of other nations, as there is some
ground for saying was the case with regard to the pearl banks. We
cannot see thai the right claimed by the tribes to exclude other nations
from these deeper waters could be asserted with any reasonable chance of
(2) Having regard to the importance of protecting the deeper waters
and to the fact that for the reasons above indicated it cannot be
regarded as certain that the right, even to the pearl banks, could be
established to the satisfaction of any international tribunal, we think
that it would be preferable to discourage foreign interference by refusing
supplies, &c., as suggested in the papers before us. If such measures
prove inadequate it may be necessary, having obtained the authority of
the Chiefs for this purpose, to compel the removal of vessels engaged in
fishing on the pearl banks. Of course, measures of this kind must be
taken with caution, as international complications might result irom
any precipitate action. It might also be practicable—whether it should
be done or not is a matter of policy—to raise the question in a form
suitable for decision by the Hague Tribunal.
Fishing within the territorial waters may, of course, be prevented.
Generally. We desire to add that, having regard to the importance
of the question to the tribes, and the fact that we cannot be certain
of establishing the right claimed, it is probably desirable that the fishing
by foreigners should, if possible, be indirectly stopped without raising
the question internationally.
We have, &c.,
r. b. fjnlay,
The Right Hon. Edwahd Carson.
the Marquess of Lansdowne, K.G.,
&c., &c., &c.

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' [‎12v] (24/62), 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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