I am proud Congress and the
President approved Alaskan suggestions now part of the UN Convention
on the Law of the Sea, which include:
Many of the provisions in the
Convention are consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act on living
resource management, conservation and exploitation. Before passage
of this Act fisheries around the world, including those off the
coast of Alaska, were being overfished, primarily by distant
In 1987, the Driftnet Impact
Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act - directed the Secretary
of State to negotiate observer and enforcement agreements with
nations whose vessels used large scale driftnets on the high
seas. It also began the process that eventually led to the U.S.
recommendation that the U.N. adopt our suggestion for a global
moratorium on large-scale driftnet fishing on the high seas.
The "Convention on Conservation
and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea"
otherwise know as the "Donut Hole," and the "1995
U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement" attempted to better define the
obligations and redress for countries where highly migratory
species and straddling fish stocks originate.
The Donut Hole agreement was
the model for the global treaty that became the 1995 U.N. Fish
Stocks Agreement. I carried the commitment to ratify this agreement
to the United Nations General Assembly, and the U.S. did the
right thing by ratifying it in August of 1996. I believe the
"Donut Hole" and U.N. Fish Stocks Agreements cleared
up many concerns that had been voiced about the efficacy of enforcing
living marine resource laws internationally under the Convention.
The agreements have proven to be critical first steps toward
cooperative international management of transboundary stocks.
I recommend the ratification
of the Convention on the Law of the Sea and related agreements
provided the following concerns are adequately addressed.
The quotas for all groundfish
combined in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands are capped at
a maximum of 2 million metric tons annually, which include pollock,
pacific cod, yellowfin sole, turbot, arrowtooth flounder, rock
sole, Alaska plaice, sablefish, pacific ocean perch, northern
rockfish, rougheye, atka mackerel, and squid. This cap is enforced
regardless of the maximum recommended acceptable biological catch
levels. This is one of the longest standing conservation measures
in the North Pacific.
The pollock biomass is currently
near all-time high levels, with a 2002 overfishing level of 3.54
million metric tons. As you know, Article 62 of the Convention
is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Act for authorizing the
allocation of any surplus to foreign States and provides terms
and conditions for any foreign fishing in the U.S. exclusive
Apparently, recent changes
or proposals to the Law of the Sea have not changed this.
We must be vigilant, if we
ratify this Convention, to assure that strong conservation measures
to protect species in U.S. waters do not lead to claims by foreign
fleets to gain access to our living marine resources.
It is my understanding that
the U.S. successfully negotiated favorable terms on the deep
seabed mining Agreement, which should guarantee the U.S. a seat
on the decision-making body of the International Seabed Authority
and eliminates mandatory transfer of technology provisions. Further
it scales back the administrative structure for the mining regime.
The Arctic continental shelf
extends beyond the U.S. 200-mile exclusive economic zone and
is of great interest to Alaska, two-thirds of the continental
shelf off the U.S. is off Alaska. Article 76 of the Convention
allows member States to lay claim to all bottom resources on
their continental shelves beyond 200-miles. It is my understanding
that Russia has recently proposed claims to large areas of the
Arctic shelf to the International Seabed Authority. Aggressive
claims such as these raise a question of whether the U.S. would
be better situated if it became a party to the Convention and
had a seat on the Authority that oversees these claims. In addition,
if we ratify the convention, pursuant to Article 76 the U.S.
could lay claim to an area of about 62,000 square kilometers
north and east of the Bering Strait. I recommend that this committee
closely review the Agreement on deep seabed mining.
I strongly recommend that this
committee work closely with the Commerce Committee on the various
issues I have raised today, as they are very much within that
Proponents of ratifying the
Law of the Sea argue that active U.S. participation in the Convention
and Agreements will guarantee the protections and restrictions
are applied in a fair and commensurate manner. I urge caution:
the Law of the Sea Convention and other related agreements must
not be open ended; provisions must be specific and precise to
prevent future misinterpretation. If those determinations are
not clear, later interpretations will seriously erode U.S. policy.
The U.S. Commission on Ocean
Policy is expected to release its report on Ocean Policy next
month. Their report, I'm told, will include a recommendation
for the U.S. to become a party to the Convention. The Senate
should consider seriously their recommendation. The Law of the
Sea Convention has benefitted from the laws that originated in
the U.S. This Convention now embodies the 200-mile exclusive
economic zone, provisions to prevent destructive fishing practices,
and conservation and management of shared living resources. But
Congress needs assurance that the Law of the Sea will not undermine
future conservation and management initiatives or security measures.
In this and future centuries,
demands on the world's oceans will only increase. And, if properly
managed oceans will become an even more important and bountiful
source of food as well as a place of commerce, communication
and resource development. The Law of the Sea can provide us with
the comprehensive legal framework we need to maximize our use
of the oceans' resources, while ensuring their healthiness and
productivity for generations to come.