05/30/2012 - The Convention of the Law of the Sea is again under consideration by the U.S. Senate. If the U.S. finally becomes party to this treaty, it will be a boon for our national security and economic interests. U.S. accession will codify our maritime rights and give us new tools to advance national interests.
The convention's primary functions are to define maritime zones, preserve freedom of navigation, allocate resource rights, establish the certainty necessary for various businesses that depend on the sea, and protect the marine environment. Flaws in the treaty regarding deep-seabed mining, which prevented President Ronald Reagan from supporting it, were fixed in 1994. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have supported ratification, as do Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, because it is in the best interest of our nation. Yet the U.S. remains one of the few major countries not party to the convention.
The treaty provides substantial economic benefits to the U.S. It accords coastal states the right to declare an "Exclusive Economic Zone" where they have exclusive rights to explore and exploit, and the responsibility to conserve and manage, living and nonliving resources extending 200 nautical miles seaward from their shoreline. Our nation's exclusive zone would be larger than that of any country in the world—covering an area greater than the landmass of the lower 48 states. In addition, the zone can be extended beyond 200 nautical miles if certain geological criteria are met; this has significant potential benefits where the U.S.'s continental shelves may be as broad as 600 miles, such as off Alaska, where vast natural resources lie.
Read the full editorial, Time to Join The Law of the Sea Treaty, on the Wall Street Journal's website (subscription required).