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Bipartisan Resolution Urges Approval of Sea Treaty

July 31, 2018, 11:13 AM HST
* Updated July 31, 11:39 AM
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Sen. Hirono on the floor. File photo.

Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. Senate to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS, ratified by over 160 nations, sets out the rights and responsibilities of countries related to the world’s oceans including guidelines for businesses and the management of marine natural resources. Sunday, July 29, 2018, marked 24 years since the U.S. signed UNCLOS on July 29, 1994, but the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify the treaty.

“The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides an important legal framework that enshrines rights key to Hawai‘i’s maritime interests such as free passage through territorial seas and ensures our nation has a seat at the table on decisions impacting our island state and the ocean around us,” Sen. Hirono said. “I am proud to join Sen. Murkowski in calling for the long-overdue ratification of UNCLOS.”

“I’d like to thank Sen. Mazie Hirono for her leadership in introducing this important bipartisan resolution in support of U.S. ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty,” Ralph Cossa, Pacific Forum President Emeritus said. “With rising tensions in hotspots like the South China Sea, this treaty is critical to ensuring freedom of navigation, peacefully resolving disputes and upholding the international rules-based order that has contributed not only to our national security but to Hawai‘i’s security given our state’s reliance on open maritime commerce and ocean resources.”

“The Nature Conservancy supports Sen. Hirono and her call for the Senate to move quickly to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i Program Executive Director Ulalia Woodside said. “Ratification ensures that the United States may fully engage with other countries and international organizations on the many issues addressed by UNCLOS that are critical to U.S. interests, positions and expertise, including protecting the health and biodiversity of the world’s oceans.”

The House companion resolution, H.RES. 339, was introduced by Representatives Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) on May 18, 2017.

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Originally adopted in 1982, UNCLOS was further revised by a 1994 agreement to modify provisions related to seabed mining and has been in force ever since. The United States signed the 1994 agreement and subsequently transmitted to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in support of ratifying the agreement in 2004 and in 2007. However, a Senate floor vote has yet to take place.

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Click here to download the full resolution text. Support for UNCLOS ratification comes from a wide range of environmental, scientific, labor and industry organizations. A list of supporting organizations can be found here.

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