Law of the Sea

The Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention ensures international stability and peaceful use of the world’s seas and oceans by governing all activities on, over and under international waters. The treaty clearly defines its signatories’ rights to offshore fishing, deep sea mining and navigation, while sustaining ocean resources for future generations. The treaty also guarantees the global mobility of United States armed forces and provides clearly defined laws for countries to follow in order to prevent international military incidents.

To date, 161 countries and the European Union have ratified the Treaty, while only 35 nations, including the United States, Libya and North Korea, have not. The U.S. would be the single largest beneficiary of the Law of the Sea Treaty because it has the longest coastline of any nation in the world.

The benefits of U.S. participation in the treaty include:

  • A Stronger Economy: For example, the treaty would grant the United States worldwide commercial access to undersea communications cables that keep America connected across the globe.  
  • Enhanced National Security: For example, the U.S. military would be in the strongest possible position to protect our legal rights to move through and over the world’s oceans (via ships and aircraft), and ensure unimpeded access to critical maritime transit routes. This includes traveling through geopolitically important choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz.  
  • Extension of U.S. Sovereignty: The treaty would strengthen America’s claim to the full outer continental shelf. In the case of Alaska, this would extend U.S. sovereignty 600 miles offshore, instead of the current 200-mile limit. 

Pew is a founding member of The American Sovereignty Campaign, a broad, diverse and distinguished group of national security, business and NGO leaders and organizations that are committed to expanding U.S. sovereignty and protecting vital national security and economic interests by promoting Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. Learn more about TASC at It is in the economic, national security and environmental interests for the United States to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty.

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