U.S. has most interest in protections, both for environmental and security reasons, provided by convention for restricting activity within its EEZ
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Of course, many nations have a vigorous interest on both sides of this dichotomy, but none more so than the United States. With the largest claimed EEZ of any nation (due in part to the long coast of Alaska, the Aleutian islands and Pacific territories) the U.S. is a coastal nation and as such demands protection for its coastal natural resources. From this perspective, the United States may wish to limit transport by other nations in its EEZ to protect habitats or to ensure that illegal fishing is not occurring. Indeed, the United States has imposed mandatory ship reporting requirements to protect right whales12, and is seeking approval of the International Maritime Organization for limitations on transit in the northwest Hawaiian islands, which has recently been designated a National Monument. But with the largest and most wide ranging blue water Navy, the U.S. is a maritime nation that must maintain its existing rights to passage throughout the world’s oceans and seas. Moreover, the U.S. is reliant on international shipping imports and restrictions on navigation will raise costs to U.S. consumers. These conflicts are concentrated in nations’ territorial seas and straits, although conflicts in the wider boundaries of the EEZ are emerging.
A natural effect of this split interest is that any one sided argument about the perils of the U.S. joining the Convention is immediately contradicted. For example, alarmist arguments that Convention nations have or will impose limitations on transit are contradicted by the fact that the U.S. does impose some limits to transit in our own EEZ and has plans to continue to do so. Indeed, the very fact that the U.S. has perhaps the world’s strongest interest in both protection of coastal resources and right of free transit on, under and above the ocean, is the most compelling reason to join the Convention. As four former U.S. Coast Guard Commandants stated in a letter urging the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support accession to the treaty:
As a global maritime power and a nation with one of the longest coastlines, the United States has strong interests both in preserving freedom of the seas and in protecting our own coastal areas, including offshore marine resources. The Convention strikes the right balance between these sets of interests13.
Balancing U.S. Interests in the UN Law of the Sea Convention
. Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University: Durham, NC, October 2007 (8p). [ More (4 quotes) ]