AK House Majority
The 27th Alaska State Legislature, 2011 - 2012  
Sponsor Statement: House Joint Resolution 19

Urging Us To Ratify Law Of The Sea Treaty

Signed Into Law! Legis Resolve 8
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Ak Legislative Majority

Co-Chair, (H) CCM Com.
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Ak Majority Organization

Ak Majority Organization

Urging the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Posted: March 14, 2011 : v27-LS0608-B
Bill Version: CSHJR 19(RES)
Status: Legis Resolve 8 : 2011-07-19

HJR 19 urges the United States Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea treaty (LOST). This resolution will help Alaska’s Senate delegation bring the Law of the Sea treaty to the Senate floor for a vote on ratification. Ratification of this treaty is important to protect United States interests concerning the use and development of the high seas off Alaska.

The Law of the Sea treaty governs many aspects of oceans, such as mapping, state area control, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, transfer of technology and the settlement of disputes relating to ocean matters.

161 countries are signatories to the treaty, including all of the Arctic nations with the exception of the United States.

In her annual address to the Alaska State Legislature February 24, 2011, United States Senator Lisa Murkowski called on the Legislature to once again pass a resolution urging United States Senate ratification of UNCLOS. United States participation in the Law of the Sea Treaty was approved in 1994 by President Clinton after work was done on portions of the treaty to address concerns raised by President Reagan. Entities and persons on record supporting ratification are all United States Presidents since Reagan, the United States Coast Guard, the Department of the Navy, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, AT&T, The American Petroleum Institute, The International Association of Drilling Contractors, and the National Oceans Industries Association and many others.

Under the treaty, member nations can claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to 200 miles, with sovereign rights to explore, develop, and manage the resources within that zone. A claim can extend beyond the 200 mile limit if the continental shelf can be proven to extend beyond 200 miles. It is estimated that the northern seabed off Alaska and beyond the 200-mile limit could be as large as the state of California.

Key features of the Law of the Sea treaty include the following:

  • Coastal States exercise sovereignty over their territorial sea which may not exceed 12 nautical miles; foreign vessels are allowed "innocent passage" through those waters;

  • Ships and aircraft of all countries are allowed "transit passage" through straits used for international navigation; States bordering the straits can regulate navigational and other aspects of passage;

  • Coastal States have sovereign rights in the 200-nautical mile EEZ with respect to natural resources and certain economic activities, and exercise jurisdiction over marine science research and environmental protection;

  • All other States have freedom of navigation and over flight in the EEZ, as well as freedom to lay submarine cables and pipelines;

  • All States enjoy the traditional freedoms of navigation, over-flight, scientific research and fishing on the high seas; they are obliged to adopt, or cooperate with other States in adopting, measures to manage and conserve living resources;

  • States are bound to prevent and control marine pollution and are liable for damage caused by violation of their international obligations to combat such pollution;

  • All marine scientific research in the EEZ and on the continental shelf is subject to the consent of the coastal State, but in most cases they are obliged to grant consent to other States when the research is to be conducted for peaceful purposes and fulfils specified criteria;

  • States Parties are obliged to settle by peaceful means their disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention;

  • Disputes can be submitted to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea established under the Convention, to the International Court of Justice, or to arbitration. Arbitration is also available and, in certain circumstances, submission to it would be compulsory. The Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over deep seabed mining disputes.

The State of Alaska has much to gain from international recognition of the United States’ 200 mile EEZ and extended continental shelf and much to lose if we are the only Arctic nation not to extend our ocean boundaries.

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