Law of the Sea

June 2011
in part the Pew Environmental Group
The Law of the Sea (LOS) convention ensures international stability and peaceful use of the world's seas and oceans governing all activities on, over and under international waters.

 The treaty clearly defines its members' rights to offshore fishing, deep sea mining and navigation, while sustaining ocean resources for future generations. The treaty also guarantees safe passage in international waters of military planes and ships for peaceable means and provides clearly defined laws for countries to follow in order to avoid international military incidents.

USA has not ratified

To date, 158 countries and the European Community have signed and ratified the Treaty while only 21 nations, including the United States, Libya and North Korea, have signed but not ratified. The United States would be the single largest beneficiary of the Law of the Sea Treaty because it has the longest coastline of any nation in the world. By ratifying, the U.S. can shape international laws to ensure that our own national interests are safeguarded. Currently, the U.S. is leaving all decisions about international waters up to other countries.

To date in the U.S., the Law of the Sea has yet to come to a congressional vote. It has been stymied by opponents to the bill that see it as contradictory to free enterprise. Ratifying the treaty, however, will secure existing U.S. ocean rights, rather than leave them subject to encroachment by other nations or to evolving international law that could remove or impinge upon existing boundaries. Additionally, with the Arctic undergoing major environmental upheaval due to climate change, rights to navigation, sea bed exploration, and oil extraction are eagerly sought by bordering nations. The Law of the Sea would secure these rights for the U.S., the country with more coastline than any other and give the U.S. a place at the table of decision makers.

Pew has worked with a diverse group of stakeholders that includes business interests, energy companies and conservationists along with the highest levels of the U.S. military to ratify the Law of the Sea. The treaty enjoys broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate and is supported by former Presidents William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush.

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