The U.S. Should Sign the Law of the Sea Treaty

Today is World Oceans Day - and in Washington, the U.S. Senate is in the midst of deciding whether or not to sign on to the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, which would expand protections for our planet's oceans.

NRDC is urging Americans to sign this letter to President Obama to tell him we want our country at the table while the world determines how to use, manage and protect the oceans.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS) establishes the international legal foundation for the conservation and sustainable use of the world's oceans, which cover more than 70% of the earth's surface. The Convention was concluded in 1982 and came into force in 1994. To date, 158 countries and the European Commission have joined the treaty.

The United States remains the primary industrial nation that has not.

The Convention defines the basic rights and obligations governing uses of the sea. Among other things, it requires cooperation in the conservation of marine resources in international waters, and requires nations to protect and preserve the marine environment.  

There is a remarkable constellation of varied interests that want to see the U.S. sign on to the Law of the Sea, including the offshore oil and gas industry, the U.S. Navy, shipping and shipbuilding,  the Departments of Defense and State, commercial fishing groups, and many members of the US Senate from both sides of the aisle. These industries and government interests support U.S. joining the convention because its provisions help protect vital U.S. economic and military interests.

A relatively small number of Senators oppose joining the treaty because they fear it would erode US sovereignty and otherwise prove detrimental to our national interests. This couldn't be further from the truth. Signing brings us to the table and gives us a voice in the international community about what we want to see happen with our seas. These Senators have signaled their intention to prolong the debate over the Convention and use valuable floor time in an effort to further postpone Senate action. That's why Presidential leadership is so critical. We need President Obama to press the Senate to approve the treaty quickly.

Join me this World Oceans Day in telling President Obama you want the U.S. to have a say in what happens to our seas.