U.S. Accession to the UN Convention On the Law of the Sea
The treaty champions the rights of the American people in the conservation of their offshore living marine resources, particularly fish. Ninety percent of the living marine resources are harvested within 200 miles of the coast. The convention confirms the validity of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, proclaimed by President Reagan in 1983. The treaty's provisions relating to the conservation and management of living marine resources are consistent with U.S. law, policy, and practice. Its provisions on the conservation of high seas fishery resources are more critical today than they were a few years ago because of the dramatic overfishing that has occurred worldwide just in the past decade. The dispute settlement provisions of the convention as they relate to high seas fisheries will help us ensure that overfishing does not occur on the high seas adjacent to our 200-mile zone in a manner detrimental to the interests of our fishing industry.
The convention champions the rights of the American people to protect the marine mammals that inhabit the vast ocean space. Americans care about whales and giant sea turtles and other important sea creatures. Poll after poll confirms this interest, and the treaty sets up the mechanisms whereby the United States can work to respond to these uniquely international issues.
This treaty champions the rights of the American people in the environmental arena. How does it do this? It is the strongest and most comprehensive environmental treaty in existence or likely to emerge for quite some time. The convention establishes, for the first time, a comprehensive legal framework for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. By addressing all sources of marine pollution, such as pollution from vessels, seabed activities, ocean dumping, and land-based sources, it promotes the continuing improvement in the health of the world's oceans. This treaty effectively and expressly finds the right balance between economic and environmental interests. Of particular note, it finds the right balance between America's interests as a coastal state in protecting its environment and natural resources with the American armed forces' rights and freedoms of navigation around the world.
Boundaries have been the root of many a war throughout the history of civilization. This convention and the acceptance that it has secured throughout the world, largely as the result of U.S. leadership, is truly remarkable. Through 10 years of tenacious negotiations, such understandings and commitments were obtained with over 160 governments. To bring international stability to claims of national jurisdiction in the oceans is the convention's greatest accomplishment.
Vital U.S. security interests are protected by the treaty. Spokesmen from the Defense Department are here to address these issues, so let me note only that in the post-Cold War era the United States must ensure that the lines of communication over and under the sea and through the air are freely available in order to project power to distant regions. Constant vigilance and a willingness to assert our rights is always required. But the job is easier if there is fundamental international agreement on a comprehensive, widely accepted convention. We had better think long and hard before we discard the sea treaty on ocean law--an agreement that contains a consensus on these basic fundamental issues, not only among our long-time NATO allies and the OECD countries, but among the countries of the former Soviet Union, the former Eastern bloc nations, the Middle East countries, and China, among others.