U.S. unilateral and ad hoc approach to marine conservation is impeding global cooperation and creating new trade barriers and conflicts
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Since President Reagan's announcement that the United States would adhere to the terms of UNCLOS, the United States has made little change in its policy of ad hoc regulation of marine issues. As a result of its ad hoc decision-making and "knee-jerk" responses to immediately perceived problems in the ocean environment, the United States has failed to create a comprehen- sive national plan. The U.S. ocean legislation fails to balance the needs of the ocean ecosystem with the needs of U.S. commercial fisheries and, therefore, conflicts with the express provisions of UNCLOS.
Moreover, the United States explicitly violates UNCLOS by unilaterally imposing its policies on those states it can control through strong-arm trade sanctions rather than recognizing and respecting each state's sovereign right to manage its own ocean space. Rather than cooperating in compromise agreements designed to achieve a plan benefitting each country involved, the United States' first response to a state with practices different from its own is to impose trade sanctions.
To comply with international law and to achieve the vision aspired to by UNCLOS, therefore, the United States must now revisit its approach to ocean policy-making and modify it to achieve harmony and cohesion. The United States must combine the myriad of scattered, conflicting legislation into one package de- signed to manage ocean resources while considering the interde- pendence of species and habitats. The United States also must cooperate globally, rather than act unilaterally, to achieve and not impede the goal of world environmental protection.