Halibut Treaty

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The Halibut Treaty was a 1923 CanadianAmerican agreement concerning fishing rights in the northern Pacific Ocean.

The treaty established the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) as a mechanism for the joint management of the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) which, at that time, was in severe decline. The commission originally had four members but now has six, which are selected from industry and related government agencies. Half the members are Canadian and half are from the United States. The treaty also had a provision for a closed season, so halibut could not be fished during the more dangerous winter months. The treaty has been revised numerous times, often based on recommendations from the IPHC and its team of scientific researchers.


It was the first treaty negotiated by Canada, independent of Britain. Before this time Canada had always looked to Britain to ratify any international agreements they made. When informed of the treaty, Britain wished to sign the treaty along with Canada, as it had in the past, but Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King resisted. He insisted that the treaty was only a concern between Canada and the United States. Britain eventually acquiesced when Mackenzie King threatened to send independent representation to Washington, D.C., which would in effect completely bypass Britain's authority.

The ratification of the treaty paved the way for further British colony independence, including the Balfour Declaration at the Imperial Conference in 1926, which recognized that British Dominions were "autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate", and finally the Statute of Westminster in 1931 which repealed the Colonial Laws Validity Act and removed the last vestiges of the ability of the British government to create law which applied to its former colonies.