Statement of William H. Taft IV: Accession to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and Ratification of the 1994 Agreement Amending Part XI of the Law of the Sea Convention (October 21, 2003)
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.
The essential role of marine scientific research in understanding and managing the oceans is also secured. The Convention affirms the right of all States to conduct marine scientific research and sets forth obligations to promote and cooperate in such research. It confirms the right of coastal States to require consent for such research undertaken in marine areas under their jurisdiction. These rights are balanced by specific criteria to ensure that coastal States exercise the consent authority in a predictable and reasonable fashion to promote maximum access for research activities. More U.S. scientists conduct marine scientific research in foreign waters than scientists from almost all other countries combined.
Third, it might be argued that the United States should not join the Convention because we would have to pay a contribution based on a percentage of oil/gas production beyond 200 miles from shore. However, the revenue-sharing provisions of the Convention are reasonable. The United States has one of the broadest shelves in the world. Roughly 14% of our shelf is beyond 200 miles, and off Alaska it extends north to 600 miles. The revenue-sharing provision was instrumental in achieving guaranteed U.S. rights to these large areas. It is important to note that this revenue-sharing obligation does not apply to areas within 200 nautical miles and thus does not affect current revenues produced from the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Most important, this provision was developed by the United States in close cooperation with representatives of the U.S. oil and gas industry. The industry supports this provision. Finally, with a guaranteed seat on the Finance Committee of the International Seabed Authority, we would have an absolute veto over the distribution of all revenues generated from this revenue-sharing provision.
Having elaborated the basic elements of the Convention and Agreement and the advantages of U.S. accession, allow me to raise two final serious issues.
Because the global context for the Convention is rapidly and continually changing, a way needs to be found to ensure that the Convention continues to serve U.S. interests over time. We must ensure that, in obtaining the stability that comes with joining the Convention, we nonetheless retain sufficient flexibility to protect U.S. interests. After U.S. accession, the Executive Branch will conduct biennial reviews of how the Convention is being implemented and will seek to identify any changes in U.S. and/or international implementation that may be required to improve implementation and to better adapt the Convention to changes in the global environment. After ten years, the Executive Branch will conduct a more comprehensive evaluation to determine whether the Convention continues to serve U.S. interests. The results of these reviews will be shared with the Senate. (Another option that we considered is that of a sunset provision, i.e., limiting the length of time that the United States is a party to the Convention, which has disadvantages as well as advantages.) Needless to say, the United States could, of course, withdraw from the Convention if U.S. interests were seriously threatened.
In addition, I would like to note that the Convention includes simplified procedures for the adoption and entry into force of certain Convention amendments and implementation and enforcement measures that raise potential constitutional issues. We intend to sort these and other legal and policy issues out with the Senate, confident that they can be satisfactorily resolved.