United States Moves Closer to Joining Ocean
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Thank you! WWF activists successfully spoke out for the protection of the world's oceans, sending 2,430 letters and making calls to the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October 2007. On October 31, 2007, the committee voted 17-4 for United States accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is a major step forward in the process of getting full U.S. participation in the treaty.
Earlier, more than 200 WWF supporters took the time to call Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chair of the committee, urging him to hold a hearing on the international Law of the Sea Convention. They succeeded -- Sen. Biden held a hearing in September 2007, at which the Bush administration strongly supported ratification of the treaty. Private sector and nongovernmental organization representatives testified at a second hearing in October.
The Law of the Sea Convention is an international treaty that fosters sustainable ocean use, protects navigation, and serves as a dynamic, living constitution for the world's oceans.
U.S. Ratification is Urgently Needed
Oceans cover two-thirds of the world's surface, and actions taken in one part of the world can gravely affect habitat and species halfway around the globe. The combined stresses of overfishing, wildlife trade, pollution, and climate change have put the world’s oceans and the plant and animal species they sustain in peril. Recent statistics underscore the severity of these trends: Two-thirds of fish stocks that supply the global market have been overexploited or fished to maximum capacity; more than half of the world's coral reefs are threatened by human activity; and close to one-fifth of Southeast Asia's reefs have been damaged or destroyed by coral bleaching.
Full implementation of the Law of the Sea Treaty is desperately needed. One of the treaty’s basic obligations is for all states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to conserve marine living species. The treaty sets standards and calls for establishing global and regional rules to help govern the conservation, protection and management of marine species.
The treaty is also important for security, to protect our U.S. naval activities throughout the world, and for sovereignty, in terms of declaring U.S. rights over the continental shelf and in the Exclusive Economic Zone (200 miles from the coast). By not being a party to the treaty, the United States loses all opportunity to manage and claim any rights in the Arctic.
The treaty was first put forward under President Reagan. At the time, the United States voiced concerns about a section of the treaty dealing with deep sea-bed mining. This section was renegotiated and President Clinton signed the new agreement in 1994. The Senate, however, has yet to give its approval (as required for all international treaties), making the United States one of the few countries not on board (Syria, Libya, Iran and North Korea are some of the few other countries that have not yet joined).
The convention enjoys broad, bipartisan support, including from President Bush, former Presidents Bush and Clinton, the U.S. Navy, marine industry groups and environmental organizations.
In 2004, WWF campaigners sent more than 32,000 letters asking their U.S. senators to support the Law of the Sea Convention. Unfortunately, it ran into a serious roadblock in the U.S. Senate. Although the Foreign Relations Committee, led by Chairman Dick Lugar, approved it unanimously, opponents kept it from moving to the floor.
Ocean Treaty Alerts