U.S. ratification of UNCLOS necessary to control overfishing
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will boost efforts to manage fishing populations in multiple ways. First, UNCLOS provides a clear legal framework for resolving disputes between countries over fishing rights, as for example the disputes between the U.S. and Canada. Secondly, becoming a party to UNCLOS gives the U.S. Coast Guard more legal tools to enforce existing regulations within the U.S. EEZ. Finally, by aceeding to UNCLOS the U.S. will be able to better lead on cooperative solutions to the global problem of overfishing.
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Not all Arctic resources are buried in the continental shelf. In the United States, fisheries and the seafood industry account for $30 billion domesti- cally, $12 billion in exports, and employ more than 100,000.38 In the southern Arctic region (Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska), they are leading employers and sustain the indigenous people.39 World-class fisheries are found in the Barents and Bering seas, the Central North Atlantic off Greenland and Iceland, and the Newfoundland and Labrador seas off the coast of northeastern Canada.40 Regulating and monitoring these stocks in the Arctic are critical economically and strategically. If not protected, the fisheries would be decimated by overfishing. The 110th Congress stated that ‘‘the United States should initiate international discussions and take necessary steps with other Arctic nations to negotiate an agreement or agreements for managing migratory, trans-boundary, and straddling fish stocks in the Arctic Ocean and establishing a new international fisheries management organization or organizations for the region.’’41
The United States remains in a holding pattern. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to close the Arctic to commercial fishing until it can be conducted sustainably, a management mechanism is developed, and we can implement an ecosystem-based management policy for Arctic resources.42 At some point, the United States cannot maintain this policy unilaterally and must enforce an international regime through patrolling and monitor- ing foreign fishing and fish-processing vessels in the region.
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In recognizing the sovereign rights and management authority of coastal States over living resources within their EEZs, the Convention brings most fisheries under the jurisdiction of coastal States. (Some 90 percent of living marine resources are harvested within 200 nautical miles of the coast.) The Convention imposes on coastal States a duty to conserve these resources and also imposes obligations upon all States to cooperate in the conservation of fisheries populations on the high seas and of populations that are found both on the high seas and within the EEZ (highly migratory stocks, such as tuna, as well as "straddling stocks"). In addition, it contains specific measures for the conservation of anadromous species, such as salmon, and for marine mammals, such as whales. These provisions of the Convention give the United States the right to regulate fisheries in the largest EEZ in the world, an area significantly greater than U.S. land territory, which contains some of the most resource-rich waters on the planet.