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Marine Log

May 15, 2007

Bush seeks Senate action on Law of Sea Convention

President Bush today issued a statement urging the Senate to act favorably on U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea during this session of Congress. Senate approval is the final step for the U.S. to formally join more than 140 nations that have already ratified or accessed to the Convention.

"This strong message from the President should spark the Senate to act to join the Law of the Sea," said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. "The Law of the Sea is the constitution of the oceans. It covers management of shipping and navigation, deep seas mining, fishing and puts the U.S. on firm footing to address the challenge of climate change."

The treaty went into effect in 1994 but the United States has not yet joined it. The members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted unanimously for accession in 2004 but the measure was not brought to the floor for a vote.

One hundred and fifty two nations and the European Commission have joined the treaty.

The U.S. has voluntarily complied with the entire convention since 1983 so accession would not require any changes in U.S. policy.

The Law of the Sea also contains provisions important for national security and industry. The ability for the U.S. military to navigate on and fly over areas of ocean is now dependant on customary law which is subject to change. By providing a legal framework for activities important for national security, the Law of the Sea would protect the military's ability to conduct business over the oceans.

All major U.S. ocean industries, including the offshore oil and gas, maritime transportation and commerce, fishing and shipbuilding support U.S. accession to the Convention.

In addition to urging Senate action on the Convention, a statement by President Bush on maritime protection issued today said he had instructed the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to submit a proposal for international measures that would enhance protection of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the area including the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Last June, the President issued a proclamation establishing the Monument, a 1,200-mile stretch of coral islands, seamounts, banks, and shoals that are home to some 7,000 marine species.

The United States will propose that the IMO designate the entire area as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA)-- similar to areas such as the Florida Keys, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Galapagos Archipelago -- which will alert mariners to exercise caution in the ecologically important, sensitive, and hazardous area they are entering.

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