Ratify Oceans Pact
Newsday, May 17, 2004
Last month, a blue-ribbon panel created by Congress and the Bush administration proposed a series of valuable measures to combat threats to the nation’s coastlines and the world’s seas. Just how serious the White House is about the panel’s report can be assessed by its response to a key recommendation: that the Senate ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, which is already in effect globally, having been approved by 145 countries.
The Commission on Ocean Policy’s report is being circulated to state governors before further action. But President George W. Bush need not – indeed, must not – wait. He should press fellow Republicans who control the Senate to promptly ratify the treaty.
If the Senate does not, the United States will miss its best chance to influence the next talks, scheduled for November, on implementing the treaty’s provisions.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously backed ratification last month and the White House says it is squarely in support of the treaty. But a few far-right- wing Republicans oppose it, and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), the Senate majority leader – who has close White House ties – shows no sign of moving for a vote.
There’s not enough opposition to prevent ratification or even to tie up the legislative process, though. What Frist seems to be doing is pandering to a few conservative senators. So it’s up to Bush to give the push needed to get the measure through.
The treaty was negotiated two decades ago, but President Ronald Reagan declined to support it because of provisions over future seabed mining. Those details were renegotiated at this country’s behest in 1994, however, and now the treaty has broad support from industry, marine interests and environmentalists, among others. But conservatives say the treaty’s early defects have not been corrected and that it would turn over too much authority to unresponsive United Nations control. Besides, they say, the U.S. Navy rules the waves anyway.
That’s absurdly pugnacious: The Navy itself supports the treaty, which retired Adm. James Watkins calls “the foundation of public order of the oceans.” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, says it’s only misguided discomfort with multilateralism that is standing in the way of ratification.
In fact, the United States has voluntarily abided by the treaty’s provisions, out of self-interest, for 20 years – but will have no say in its future unless it officially ratifies it. Now’s the time to correct that, and only Bush can make sure it gets done.
© Copyright 2004 Newsday, Inc.
Pass the Sea Treaty
Omaha World Herald, May 16, 2004
U.S. would lose control over international ocean decisions if the pact isn’t approved soon.
What do George Bush, Big Oil, the Navy and environmentalists all agree on, besides the fact that the sun will come up tomorrow? And why is that issue stuck in the Senate, held up by a small handful of lawmakers?
The first answer: LOST – The Law of the Sea Treaty. It’s the U.N. Convention that will (with the U.S. or without it) establish countries’ jurisdiction over their coasts and ocean. It will formalize territorial boundaries for exploring and exploiting natural resources, as well as, among other things, ensure the freedom of navigation and set regulations for deep seabed mining.
The second answer: Essentially, there are three objections.
Some conservative critics charge that the treaty will cost U.S. industries too much money. Paul Kelley, representing the U.S. oil and natural gas industry’s views at a recent congressional hearing, disagreed. He said that the royalty on petroleum “should not result in any additional cost to industry.” The potential benefits to industry, he said, outweigh “the modest revenue sharing provision” required by the treaty. If America doesn’t join the treaty, he said, industry officials worry that their offshore operations could be “adversely affected.”
Some critics contend that U.S. security interests would be compromised. Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April, said that U.S. participation in the treaty would aid worldwide mobility of our forces. “The customary international law we’ve relied upon for our navigation freedoms is under challenge. . . . Our participation in the (treaty) will better position us to initiate and influence future developments in the law of sea.”
Finally, there is the charge that the treaty impinges on U.S. sovereignty – specifically, that U.S. maritime activities would be subjected to “a highly politicized U.N. bureaucracy,” as one critic put it. This, or some version of it, is the same objection anti-U.N. forces raise to many treaties and international agreements.
This time it was Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who spoke to the issue. “In fact,” he said, “the convention does not make any U.S. military activities or, with one exception, any U.S. economic activities subject to the control of a bureaucracy of any kind. Rather, it establishes a set of rules highly favorable to U.S. freedom of action in the oceans.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Lugar chairs, has given the treaty its unanimous support.
Backers believe that if the treaty is allowed to reach the Senate floor (Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is considering the political implications of passage and hasn’t scheduled a vote), it will pass easily.
It’s key that the Senate act soon. A review conference is set for this fall. If the United States hasn’t ratified the treaty, it can’t participate. Then, as one supporter noted, other nations could get together and roll back the protections U.S. negotiators worked so hard to insert into the treaty.
In addition, proponents have said that accepting the treaty is essential to getting U.S. allies’ backing of Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative for interdicting weapons of mass destruction at sea.
So many good reasons to pass it. So few weak and questionable reasons against. President Bush and his powerful allies on this issue shouldn’t let a few knee-jerk U.N. haters sink this vital treaty. Let us hope that its acronym, LOST, isn’t a prediction.
© Copyright 2004 The Omaha World-Herald Company
Treaty’s Foes Could Scuttle U.S. Interests
Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 2004
The Law of the Sea treaty has a little something for everyone – exploration rights for oil and gas drillers, protection of commercial shipping lanes, safe passage for U.S. troops, environmental provisions to protect habitat and to fight pollution.
That’s why ocean industries, environmentalists and the Department of Defense all are lobbying the Senate to make the United States the 146th country to ratify the international “constitution” of the sea.
Yesterday, an unprecedented alliance in defense of the treaty formed between the World Wildlife Fund and the American Petroleum Institute – groups generally on opposite sides of issues.
The stakes are that high. The treaty is needed to ensure safe passage, commercial viability and ultimately, the very survival of world’s oceans. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, appointed in 2001 by President Bush, and the privately funded Pew Oceans Commission, both diagnosed oceans as dangerously sick, largely due to human activity. The treaty is seen as an important step to restoring ocean health.
The Bush administration – generally no fan of international entanglements – picked the Law of the Sea as one of only five “urgent” treaty priorities. Representatives of the Departments of State and Defense and the Navy and Coast Guard have testified in its favor at congressional hearings.
Yet, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) has put the treaty on a back burner. Why? A group of hard-core anti-internationalists claims it would compromise U.S. sovereignty and surrender too much power to international organizations in a post-Sept. 11 world.
The Bush administration argues otherwise, and it’s right. As the world’s maritime superpower – the nation with the most underwater natural resources, largest exclusive offshore economic zone and strongest Navy – the United States has more to gain than any other country from predictability and order on the world’s oceans.
Both Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations, say the treaty will aid, not impede, the war on terrorism, primarily by easing troop movement through strategic points such as the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf or the narrow islands of Indonesia, where terrorists could pose a threat. They say the treaty would not jeopardize intelligence gathering or weapons inspection.
The treaty will ensure U.S. participation in negotiations over access to key energy resources of the future, such as the floor of the Arctic Ocean. In 2002, Russia submitted a claim to 45 percent of the Arctic’s bounty. The United States must protect its national interests.
Unlike other treaties that collapse when the United States declines to participate, the Law of the Sea will form the basis of maritime law whether the United States accepts it or not.
Further, this fall, key provisions, including some President Reagan fought hard for, will come up for amendment. The United States needs to be at that negotiating table.
The White House shouldn’t bow now to election-year pressure from the isolationist wing of its party. President Bush should push the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea.
© Copyright 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer.
Sea Treaty will aid U.S. War on Terrorism
The Miami Herald, May 30, 2004
OUR OPINION: SENATE SHOULD APPROVE INTERNATIONAL
PACT ON OCEANS
It’s a rare day when the oil and gas industries and environmental groups join forces to advocate for something, but that’s exactly the case with their support for Senate ratification of the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty. But despite the Bush administration’s support for the treaty’s approval, it is being held up by hard-line conservative senators who oppose any agreement with the United Nations.
Ready for ratification
The treaty has been in the works since 1973 with full U.S. participation. It covers navigation and overflight of the world’s oceans, as well as territorial rights and oversight of research, exploitation and conservation of ocean resources.
When the United States and other industrialized nations objected in 1982 to provisions covering deep-seabed mining, negotiations were resumed. As a result, an implementing agreement with changes agreeable to the objecting countries was formalized in 1994. Satisfied with the treaty’s terms, the United States signed that agreement, at which point the treaty was submitted to the Senate for ratification. It was stalled until 2003, when the Bush administration and other interests began nudging it forward.
The reason for the push is that a crucial deadline on this agreement is set for a 10-year review this fall. If the United States isn’t a part of the treaty by then, it will have no say in any revisions made to the agreement. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2004, Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, testified that the treaty ”will support both the worldwide mobility of our forces and our traditional leadership role in maritime matters. . . . Our participation in the [treaty] will better position us to initiate and influence future developments in the law of the sea.” The treaty guarantees freedom of navigation rights, which the United States now relies on for troop passage through the Persian Gulf.
Admiral Clark said the treaty supports U.S. efforts in the war on terrorism: It ”ensures the freedom to get to the fight, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without a permission slip.”
Not subject to court
The treaty would allow the United States to opt out of its dispute-resolution provisions on issues related to the military and other law-enforcement areas. This means the United States would not be subject to the International Court of Justice, except on issues of deep-seabed mining. The administration, which opposes the international court, finds this acceptable.
After hearing from the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-0 for ratification. The Senate has done its homework on the Law of the Sea Treaty and finds it beneficial to the nation’s interests. Thus Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist should bring it to a full floor vote in June.
© Copyright 2004 The Miami Herald
Don’t Sink ‘Law of the Sea’
Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2004
There’s no good reason why the “Law of the Sea” — a set of global rules for navigating, mining and conserving the oceans — shouldn’t sail through the Senate, past the president and into law.
After all, the treaty, signed by 145 nations, counts among its supporters environmental, military and diplomatic officials in the Bush administration and oil industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, as well as environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Those unlikely partners came together because they believe the agreement would protect marine life below the waves while ensuring U.S. freedom of navigation on top of them. More than 28% of all U.S. exports and 48% of all U.S. imports depend on such transport rights.
So too does the nation’s security. Under current law, U.S. warships have no right to patrol such waterways as the Malacca Strait, an area in Southeast Asia where piracy is common and terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda sometimes traffic. The treaty would give U.S. military officials a legal basis for intervention.
The treaty has been in effect for 10 years without U.S. involvement. The big push to join came this year — and was labeled an urgent priority by Bush officials — because for the first time, in November, the document will be open for amendment.
Several dozen nations propose changes that could hurt U.S. interests, such as giving more rights to drill or mine in the Arctic seabed. If the U.S. doesn’t sign, it will have no voice in any such changes.
Moderate, expert consensus alone, however, isn’t enough to move international legislation through Congress. Just days after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the treaty 19 to 0 on Feb. 25, anti-internationalists took to conservative platforms such as Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and denounced it as a scheme to, as one opponent put it, “dissolve or diminish U.S. sovereignty and replace it with global governance.”
Playing to this chorus, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) now says the Senate may not have time to consider the document this legislative year.
Opponents of the treaty complain that signing nations agree to pay into an international “Seabed Authority” that would be able to tax oil and petroleum explorers up to 7% after 10 years. Many oil company experts, however, consider such taxes a minor expense of doing business.
By supporting U.S. membership, Frist can be a master and commander of domestic policy, advancing U.S. maritime interests as well as fostering a more positive foreign image of this nation.
© Copyright 2004 The Times Mirror Company.
Rescuing the Sea Pact
The Boston Globe, April 5, 2004
The Defense Department, environmentalists, and industry all support the long-delayed US ratification of the international Law of the Sea treaty. But there is a danger that Senate conservatives opposed to any multilateral agreements will keep the chamber from voting on it, at least until after November’s election.
This would leave the United States an outsider on the globe’s most comprehensive environmental accord and hurt a US effort to rally the support of allies for its own security initiative to stop the shipment by sea of weapons of mass destruction. Since other signatory countries to the treaty can begin amending it in November, failure of the Senate to ratify by then would also mean the United States could not fight to preserve features hard won by previous administrations’ negotiators.
Twenty years ago the United States and other industrial nations recoiled at the original draft of the treaty because of its restrictive provisions on deep seabed mining. By 1994, those concerns had been resolved by an extra agreement, and the treaty quickly won enough support in other capitals to take effect. It has since been ratified by more than 140 nations.
President Bush submitted the treaty and the amended section on seabed mining for approval in 2002, and last October the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings. In February the committee voted 19-0 to approve it for ratification. The holdup now is Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who in March conducted additional hearings.
Inhofe said he is concerned about “national security problems” that adoption of the treaty could create. But even at his hearing, Assistant Secretary of State John F. Turner was emphatic in stating the support of the administration, including the Defense Department: “Last October, five administration witnesses testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in strong support of the Law of the Sea Convention. . . . There are important reasons for the US to become a party to the convention.”
At a time when the Bush administration is trying to gather support for its antiproliferation initiative to interdict ships that are suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or their parts, the Senate should not put the country once again in the position of rejecting an international agreement. The Defense Department, especially the Navy, also seeks Senate approval for the enhanced protection the treaty provides for naval movements through international waters, especially at chokepoint straits. The Bush administration should make approval a priority, even if that upsets supporters who reflexively oppose every international accord.
Yes, Ratify Sea Treaty
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , July 16, 2004
In a harmonic convergence of truly historic proportions, the Bush administration, the military, oil and mining companies and environmental groups all agree that the U.S. Senate should ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Earlier this year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on a 19-0 vote, sent the treaty to the Senate floor with a recommendation for ratification. The administration has placed it on its list of treaties that deserve “urgent” action by the Senate.
So what’s the holdup? Apparently it’s Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who thinks approval of the treaty may damage the Republican Party with some members of its political base. Were the treaty to come up for a vote, insiders say, it would pass overwhelmingly. But some conservatives who are uncomfortable with any multilateral agreements have raised unwarranted fears about the consequences if the United States signs on to the treaty. Frist doesn’t want to offend those folks, so he’s allowing the treaty to languish. That’s a mistake for U.S. economic, maritime and security interests.
Here’s what one of Frist’s fellow Republicans, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, has to say about the treaty: “It can help ensure that our Navy ships and submarines can navigate freely to defend America’s national security, that our cargo vessels and tankers have access to all the world’s sea lanes and that we can control the vast riches up to 200 miles off our shores – and in some cases beyond – including the huge schools of fish in the ocean and the oil and gas that lie underneath it.”
Lugar is right. Contrary to what its critics claim, the treaty would enshrine – not disrupt – long-standing sea protocols and customs. It guarantees, for example, current custom on freedom of navigation of straits such as the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, which has become critical for U.S. troop transport. It would also guarantee the U.S. rights to fish and mine the seabed off its coasts, and it would provide environmental protection of rare resources. In no instance would it hand over U.S. security or economic interests to the United Nations, as its critics charge.
Beyond that, the treaty will play a key role in shaping the future of international agreements governing the seas. If the U.S. is not part of the convention, the result could be a diminished – and diminishing – voice in what shape that future will take. That’s clearly something the U.S. can’t afford to allow.
Avoiding such a result is in the hands of the Senate and, specifically, Frist, who can schedule a vote on the treaty any time. The Republican majority leader needs to get on board with his president and see to it that U.S. rights on the seas are maintained.
© Copyright 2004 Journal Sentinel, Inc.
Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty
The Tennessean, June 14, 2004
All nations have a stake in the passage of the Law of the Sea treaty, but no nation’s stake is as great as that of the United States.
The 1982 Law of the Sea treaty would govern the use of oceans for fishing, shipping, exploration, navigating and mining. The United States had a major hand in drafting it, and signed it in 1994 after some modifications. The treaty has been ratified by 145 other nations, including all other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. But not the United States.
For years, the problem was Jesse Helms, the North Carolina senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Helms opposed almost all multinational treaties. But when Helms retired and Sen. Richard Lugar assumed the committee’s leadership, the treaty’s chances brightened. Lugar enthusiastically supports the treaty: The Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed it last February.
Yet those who share Helms’ distaste for international cooperation have been urging that the treaty be quietly shelved. A 10-year ratification deadline for the treaty comes this fall: If the United States has not ratified it by then, the nation will not be able to participate in the implementation plans.
It defies common sense that the world’s largest economic and military power would miss the opportunity to serve its own long-term interests. The treaty would protect this nation’s rights to navigate and fly over oceans, which is crucial to the U.S. military. It would protect the nation’s right to explore and exploit natural resources, to fish and to research the oceans. Becoming a party to the treaty would also give the United States the right to participate and lead in subsequent international debate of oceanic issues.
The shipping industry, the oil industry, environmentalists, the State Department and the Pentagon all support the treaty. President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist should not let the Senate miss this crucial historic opportunity.
© Copyright 2004 The Tennessean
Set Sail on Ocean Policy
Bangor Daily News, April 22, 2004
The Law of the Sea Convention has a 19th-century-sounding name and a crucial role in the 21st. If the Bush administration had its way, the United States would have passed this important agreement by now, including this nation in the international discussions and debates over ocean navigation, use of the seabed, conservation and research.
Instead, after Republican senators, most prominently Richard Lugar of Indiana, had navigated it through the Foreign Relations Committee, it ran into opposition from those who believed the United Nations’ convention would undermine U.S. sovereignty. Though a wide range of conservative lawmakers have disputed this, opponents seem unmoved. Since then a hearing before the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee produced more favorable testimony.
John F. Turner, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, affirmed the convention’s advantages to the United States there, saying, “U.S. mobility and access have been preserved and enjoyed over the past 20 years largely due to the convention’s stable, widely accepted legal framework. It would be risky to assume that it is possible to preserve indefinitely the stable situation that the United States currently enjoys.”
Indeed, if the United States does not ratify the pact this year, it could be cut out of the rewriting of the convention’s rules on navigation, fishing and seabed mining, according to news reports.
The pact includes 145 parties and is the accepted standard of ocean law. In the United States, it is supported by the Navy, the congressionally chartered U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, environmental groups and, Sen. Lugar notes, many ocean industries, including oil, natural gas, shipping, fishing and underwater communication cables.
Even the one area of previous conflict, over seabed mining in areas more than 200 miles from shore, have been addressed. The convention has been around since 1982, but was objected to then by President Ronald Reagan, who was concerned about provisions concerning deep-sea mining, but he supported it otherwise, according to William Howard Taft IV, legal advisor to the State Department. Those provisions have since been improved, and Mr. Taft pointed out the treaty was considered so favorable to U.S. interests that President Reagan in 1983 ordered the government to abide by the non-deep seabed provisions of the convention.
The opposition that remains seems to distrust all international agreements. That is not only a minority stance it is also an impossible one. As long as boats cross oceans and airplanes fly, isolationist policies do not help this nation’s security and they unnecessarily impede its industry.
President Bush has been patient in allowing the objections of a small number of people to be heard, but now should urge the Senate to vote on and pass the convention. A wide range of senators would support ratification of the convention; the country should not be excluded from participating in this vital agreement because of the fears of a few.
© Copyright 2004 Bangor Daily News.
It’s Time to Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty
Anchorage Daily News, January 14, 2004
In 1982, the United Nations completed work on a treaty called U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States objected to the original treaty and during renegotiation in 1994 gained agreement on changes to those parts to which we objected.
As with all treaties, after negotiation and signing the treaty was submitted to the Senate for its “advice and consent.” The Law of the Sea treaty went to the Senate nine years ago, where for several reasons nothing happened.
Now it appears that things are about to change. Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, held two hearings in October, then stated his goal was to present a letter of advice and consent to the president early in 2004.
More than 140 nations have ratified the treaty. The treaty is wide-ranging, and it is clearly in the interests of the United States to ratify. Our nation is surrounded by three oceans. The oceans are an integral part of the lives of every American.
Alaska, with more than half the coastline of the United States, could well be profoundly affected by ratification in the generations ahead. But the time is now for Alaskans to start thinking about changes that will be facilitated by the treaty.
The first witness to testify before the Foreign Relations Committee last October was Sen. Ted Stevens, who testified in favor of ratification.
What are the challenges and opportunities that may well be presented Alaskans in the later years of the 21st century?
They all center about the changing climate and the extended periods of access to the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. With less ice come both concerns and opportunities. They center around international security, national security, marine transportation, economic development and diplomacy.
International security is a growing concern everywhere. Alaska has the only U.S. coastline on the Arctic Ocean. It is more than 1,000 miles long and sparsely populated. This provides numerous locations for illegal entry, drug trafficking and other terrorist activity. Counters to this vulnerability might come in several forms: increased presence, increased surveillance.
As the Arctic Ocean becomes more accessible by non-ice-strengthened ships, it becomes another ocean that must be protected. The United States, as the world’s last superpower, must assume that role. That means the Navy must build ships that can operate in free-floating ice and extreme cold weather. That means the Coast Guard should establish a real Arctic Ocean presence. Failure to take such steps will cede control of the Arctic to whichever nation chooses to assume it.
Naturally, a more accessible Arctic will mean increased intercontinental maritime shipping. The journey between Seattle and Hamburg, using the Arctic Ocean route, is 40 percent shorter than the routes through either of the canals. Extending the shipping season using ice-strengthened ships could demand conventional cargo exchange facilities, where cargo can be transferred between ice-strengthened and conventional ships. Ports such as Adak or Dutch Harbor come to mind.
Ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty will have the greatest effect on economic development in Alaska. After conducting the required ocean bottom surveys, the United States will be able to extend the outer limits of its continental shelf and claim the resources on or under the sea floor on the Chukchi Cap in the Arctic and the “doughnut hole” in the Bering Sea. Some estimate that the area gained will be as much as one-half the size of Alaska. The fossil fuel potential of these areas is unknown but will be evaluated carefully.
On the diplomatic front, completing the surveys with Canada could also provide data for creation of an agreed Arctic Ocean maritime boundary between our countries.
Ratification of the Law of Sea treaty will create opportunity for Alaska. It will require research and stimulate new education needs. Most importantly, it will demand that we all think of the future, well beyond the horizon of two to six years normally used in our country. Though changes in the Arctic may occur over generations, properly preparing will take decades. Truly, the future is now.
George Newton is serving his second term as chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. He is a retired Navy captain and a former nuclear submarine commander and has long been a supporter of research in Alaska. He lives in McLean, Va.
© Copyright 2004 Anchorage Daily News.
Ratify Law of the Sea Treaty
Oregon Live, April 29, 2004
An opportunity for the United States to participate in international decisions concerning ocean management is in serious danger of being squandered. Our oceans are too important to neglect. Our U.S. senators should have the opportunity to vote on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to enable the United States to be an active participant in setting international ocean policies. Oregonians -with our long tradition of appreciating the bounty and beauty of oceans -have strong reasons to support effective international mechanisms to address global ocean challenges.
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, commonly known as the “Law of the Sea,” is the treaty defining the rights and responsibilities of the world’s nations. It confirms traditional freedoms of navigation and overflight and establishes protocols for the setting of maritime boundaries, allowing the U.S. to meet national security requirements and conduct humanitarian and law enforcement operations in distant waters. It codifies exclusive U.S. economic rights to explore and use resources of the ocean and its seabed within 200 nautical miles of the shoreline. It establishes a stewardship framework for the marine environment, encouraging cooperative agreements among nations f or conservation and management of fisheries and cetaceans, creating dispute resolution procedures, and providing for prevention, reduction, and control of various sorts of pollution, including invasive species. The Law of the Sea also facilitates marine scientific research, crucial to understanding the oceans and their role in weather and climate.
Called the “the foundation of public order of the oceans” by Admiral James Watkins, former Chief of Naval Operations and current Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the treaty has now been ratified by 145 nations. Incredibly, however, the U.S. has not ratified the Law of the Sea. Despite the hard work of the U.S. delegates and support of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, the treaty was not ratified due to objections raised during the Reagan Administration that related to deep seabed mining. In 1994, when the Law of the Sea entered into force for ratifying nations, those problems were resolved with an implementation agreement.
This spring, under the leadership of Senator Richard Lugar, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Law of the Sea was expected to sail through the Senate. Ratification had the strong support of the Bush Administration, the Pew Oceans Commission, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, and the Departments of Defense, State, and Commerce. Recently however, vague and unfounded concerns about national security and deep-sea mining have stalled a Senate vote. If the U.S. neglects this long-awaited opportunity to ratify the Law of the Sea, our scientists and policymakers will be left out of important international ocean management decisions, such as the decisions of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and the International Seabed Authority., to the detriment of U.S. security, economics, and the environment.
No important U.S. interest is served by continued nonadherence to the Law of the Sea. As concerned Oregonians, U.S. citizens, and ocean conservationists, we urge Senator Frist to schedule a vote and the Senate to immediately ratify the Law of the Sea treaty.
© Copyright 2004 Oregon Live.