U.S. ability to lead world in protecting marine environment hindered by its non party status to UNCLOS
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The Committee has heard from many witnesses that our failure to ratify this global treaty has hurt us to some extent economically, diplomatically and environmentally. These witnesses have rightly noted that our failure to ratify the Convention has hurt not only our international credibility, but also our ability to effect future changes in the terms and agreements upon which international law is based. The United States is a world leader in marine conservation, and our accession to UNCLOS will greatly help us advance international standards and practices.
While the United States is a world superpower, we must fully engage our fellow nations and secure the cooperation of the international community if we are to be successful in protecting our oceans and their resources. For example, currently the United States adheres to the fisheries conservation measures in the Law of the Sea and subsequent Straddling Stocks Agreement, and we treat them as customary international law. However, unless we become a signatory to the treaty, we are without recourse to enforce this Agreement’s terms with regard to other states which do not. We are also unable to fully represent U.S. interests in negotiating future changes or terms to both of these agreements. Both the Pew and the Federal Oceans Commission have recently recommended accession for this purpose: to secure a positive environmental framework for U.S. ocean management. In sum, it is impossible to be a world leader relative to the health of the oceans without full participation in the international rule of law that applies to them.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will have a positive effect on the environment as the conservation of ocean wildlife, the protection of delicate marine ecosystems, and the control of marine pollution are by their very nature multilateral issues. U.S. ratification will demonstrate U.S. commitment to address these problems in a cooperative manner at a time when some view U.S. policy as generally antithetical to multilateral arrangements. The environmental community strongly favors UNCLOS and U.S. ratification would send a message of support