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U.S. Department of State 
96/03/19 Fact Sheet: US Oceans Policy & Law of the Sea Convention 
Bureau of Public Affairs 

                               Fact Sheet 
         U.S. Oceans Policy and the Law of the Sea Convention 
On July 29, 1994, the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part 
XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was 
adopted and opened for signature at the United Nations in New York. The 
Agreement fundamentally changed the provisions of the Convention (Part 
XI) that establish a system for regulating the mining of mineral 
resources from the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction. The purpose 
of the Agreement is to remove the obstacles to the acceptance of the 
Convention that have prevented the United States and other 
industrialized countries from moving  to become parties to it. 

The United States believes that the Agreement satisfactorily addresses 
long-held objections to the Convention's seabed mining provisions. 
Therefore, the United States signed the Agreement and has submitted the 
Law of the Sea Convention and the Agreement together as a package to the 
Senate for advice and consent. Entry into force of a widely accepted and 
comprehensive law of the sea convention--to which the United States can 
become a Party--has been a consistent objective of successive United 
States Administrations since negotiations began on such a convention 
over two decades ago. As of    March 19, 1996, 87 governments are Party 
to the Convention, including Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Australia. 
Background: United States   Oceans Interests 
The United States has important and diverse interests in the oceans. As 
the world's pre-eminent naval power, the United States has a national 
security interest in the ability to freely navigate and overfly the 
oceans as essential preconditions for projecting military power. The end 
of the Cold War has,  if anything, highlighted this need. Ensuring the 
free flow of commercial navigation is likewise a basic concern for the 
United States as a major trading power, whose economic growth and 
employment is inextricably linked with a robust and growing export 
sector. By far, the bulk of international trade is transported by sea. 

At the same time, the United States, with one of the longest coastlines 
of any nation in the world, has basic resource and environmental 
interests in the oceans. The seabed of the deep oceans offers the 
potential for economically and strategically important mineral 
resources. Inshore and coastal waters generate vital economic 
activities--fisheries, offshore minerals development, ports and 
transportation facilities and, increasingly, recreation and tourism. The 
health and well-being of coastal populations--the majority of Americans 
live in coastal areas--are intimately linked to the quality of the 
coastal marine environment. 

Understanding the oceans, including their role in global processes, is 
one of the frontiers of human scientific investigation, and the United 
States is a leader in the conduct of marine scientific research. 
Further, such research is essential for understanding and addressing 
problems associated with the use and protection of the marine 
environment, including marine pollution, conservation of fish and other 
marine living species, and forecasting of weather and climate 

Pursuit of these objectives, however, requires careful and often 
difficult balancing of interests. As a coastal nation, for example, we 
naturally tend to seek maximum control over the waters off our shores. 
Equally, as a major maritime power, we often view such efforts on the 
part of others as unwarranted limitations on legitimate rights of 

Moreover, traditional perceptions of the inexhaustability of marine 
resources and of the capacity of the oceans to neutralize wastes have 
changed, as marine species have been progressively depleted by 
harvesting and their habitats damaged or threatened by pollution and a 
variety of human activities. Maintaining the health and productive 
capacity of the oceans while seeking to meet the economic aspirations of 
growing populations also requires difficult choices. 

Striking the balances necessary to implement United States oceans policy 
must be viewed in the international context. Living resources migrate. 
Likewise, marine ecosystems and ocean currents, which transport 
pollutants and otherwise affect environmental interests, extend across 
maritime boundaries and jurisdictional limits. National security and 
commercial shipping interests are also international in scope. 
Achievement of oceans policy objectives thus requires international 
cooperation at the bilateral, regional, and global level. The 
alternative is increased competition, and conflict over control of the 
oceans and marine resources to the potential detriment of United States 
interests and the marine environment generally. 
The United Nations Convention  On the Law of the Sea 
United States oceans policy has always had as a basic objective the 
application of the rule of law to the uses and conservation of the 
oceans. The United States was a leader in the international community's 
effort to develop an over-all legal framework for the oceans in the 
Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which began its 
substantive work in 1974. 

The resulting United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 
concluded in 1982, provides a comprehensive legal framework governing 
uses of the oceans and the rights and obligations of States relating 
thereto. It achieved consensus on the nature and extent of jurisdiction 
that States may exercise off their coasts: a territorial sea of a 
maximum breadth  of 12 nautical miles and coastal State jurisdiction 
over fisheries and other resources (e.g., oil and gas) in a  200 
nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and on the continental 
shelf where it extends beyond the EEZ. It balances extended coastal 
State jurisdiction with provision for preservation and elaboration of 
rights of navigation and overflight in these areas and guarantees of 
passage through and over straits used for international navigation and 

The Convention advances the interests of the United States as a coastal 
State. It achieves this, inter alia, by providing for an EEZ out to 200 
nautical miles from shore and by securing our rights regarding resources 
and artificial islands, installations, and structures for economic 
purposes over the full extent of the continental shelf. These provisions 
fully comport with United States oil and gas leasing practices, domestic 
management of coastal fishery resources, and international fisheries 

The Convention provides for the conservation of marine living resources, 
including coastal fisheries populations, straddling stocks (fisheries 
populations whose range includes both areas of the EEZ and the high 
seas), and highly migratory species and marine mammals, such as whales. 

As a far-reaching environmental accord addressing vessel source 
pollution, pollution from seabed activities, ocean dumping, and land-
based sources of marine pollution, the Convention promotes continuing 
improvement in the health of the world's oceans. 

In light of the essential role of marine scientific research in 
understanding and managing the oceans, the Convention sets forth 
criteria and procedures to promote access to marine areas, including 
coastal waters, for research activities. 

The Convention facilitates solutions to the increasingly complex 
problems of the uses of the ocean--solutions that respect the essential 
balance between our interests as both a coastal and a maritime nation. 

Through its dispute settlement provisions, the Convention provides for 
mechanisms to enhance compliance by Parties with the Convention's 

Early adherence by the United States to the Convention and the Agreement 
is important to maintain a stable legal regime for all uses of the sea, 
which covers more than 70% of the surface of the globe. Maintenance of 
such stability is vital to United States national security and economic 

[Box item]
The Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI Of the United 
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 

The new agreement--the Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part 
XI of the Convention on the Law of the Sea--incorporates legally binding 
changes in the deep sea-bed mining provisions of the LOS Convention that 
satisfactorily address the objections of the United States and other 
industrialized countries. Generally, the new agreement will ensure that 
the United States, and others with major economic interests at stake, 
have adequate influence over future decisions on possible deep seabed 
mining and that the administration of the deep seabed mining regime is 
based on free-market principles. 

The reformed seabed mining provisions do not set forth a detailed 
system, seeking to anticipate   all phases of potential activity 
associated with mining of the deep seabed. Instead, they set forth sound 
commercial and economic principles upon which to develop rules and 
regulations establishing a management regime for commercial mining when 
interest in commercial mining emerges. 

Specifically, the Agreement: 

-- Deletes the objectionable mandatory transfer of technology 
-- Includes provisions to ensure that market-oriented approaches are 
taken to the management of the resources of the deep seabed, replacing 
Part XI's interventionist and centralized economic planning approach; 
-- Scales back the institutions and links their activation and operation 
to the actual development of concrete interest in deep seabed mining; 
-- Guarantees the United States a seat on the Council of the 
International Seabed Authority, where substantive decisions are made by 
a chambered voting arrangement, the effect of which is to allow the 
United States and two other industrialized countries acting in concert 
to block a decision; 
-- Guarantees the United States and other major contributors seats on 
the Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over all budgetary and 
financial matters; 
-- Recognizes the seabed mine site claims established on the basis of 
the exploration already conducted by United States companies and 
provides assured access for any future qualified U.S. miners; 
-- Deletes the provisions that would have allowed amendments to enter 
into force for the United States without its approval; and 
-- Provides that the United States can block funding for liberation 
movements as distribution of revenues accumulated as a result of 
royalties can only take place on the basis of a consensus decision in 
the Council. 

[End box]

March 19, 1996
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