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Learn More About:  Urge the U.S. Senate to Ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty


coral reef

* The Issue and Latest Status

We need to generate letters and calls now to convince the U.S. Senate to endorse ratification of the international Law of the Sea Convention. The Convention is a dynamic, living constitution for the world’s oceans that fosters sustainable ocean use and freedom of navigation. It has been ratified by 152 nations, but not by the United States. 

WWF supporters helped push the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings on the convention and to approve it. Now approval is needed from the full Senate.

* What's at Stake

Oceans cover two-thirds of the world's surface, and actions taken in one part of the world can gravely affect habitat and species halfway around the globe. The combined stresses of overfishing, wildlife trade, pollution, and climate change have put the world’s oceans and the plant and animal species they sustain in peril. Recent statistics underscore the severity of these trends: Two-thirds of fish stocks that supply the global market have been overexploited or fished to maximum capacity; more than half of the world's coral reefs are threatened by human activity; and close to one-fifth of Southeast Asia's reefs have been damaged or destroyed by coral bleaching.

Full implementation of the Law of the Sea Treaty is desperately needed to ensure that the world's oceans are managed sustainably. One of the treaty’s basic obligations is for all states to protect and preserve the marine environment and to conserve marine living species. The treaty sets standards and calls for establishing global and regional rules to help govern the conservation, protection and management of marine species. 

The treaty is also important for security, to protect our U.S. naval activities throughout the world, and for sovereignty, in terms of declaring U.S. rights over the continental shelf and in the Exclusive Economic Zone (200 miles from the coast). By not being a party to the treaty, the United States risks losing its right to claim and manage large areas of the Arctic.  

The treaty was first put forward under President Reagan. At the time, the United States voiced concerns about a section of the treaty dealing with deep sea-bed mining. This section was renegotiated and President Clinton signed the new agreement in 1994. The Senate, however, has yet to give its approval (as required for all international treaties), making the United States one of the few countries not on board (Syria, Libya, Iran and North Korea are some of the few other countries that have not yet joined).

The convention enjoys broad, bipartisan support, including from President Bush, former Presidents Bush and Clinton, the U.S. Navy, marine industry groups and environmental organizations.

*  How You Can Help

- Send a letter urging your senators to support ratification of the treaty.  

- To have more impact, follow the instructions to add your own thoughts to your messages.

- To have even more influence, follow the instructions to print out your letters, add personal notes, and mail them to your senators.

- Call your senators to reinforce your message. 

- Send your friends one of our e-postcards and urge them to take this action.

*  Learn More

United Nations website about the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Read the letter signed by WWF Chairman Bruce Babbitt and CEO Carter Roberts, who joined with more than 100 representatives of industry, nongovernmental organizations, former government officials, and academics in a letter of support addressed to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

*  Thank You!

Your action will make a big difference for the world's imperiled marine resources.  Thank you.
William EichbaumSincerely,

Bill Eichbaum signature

William M. Eichbaum
Managing Director and Vice President
Marine Portfolio
World Wildlife Fund