Speaker Urges U.S. to Pass Law of the Sea Convention

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Oct. 25, 2007 (NEW YORK) – The U.S. should join other countries and sign the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), advises Joanna Mossop ̉02 L.L.M., a senior lecturer at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington School of Law who is an advocate for this important international law treaty.  
“Most countries including Canada are now parties to the [LOST] Convention,” she said in a Law School program on Oct. 23.  “Although the U.S. has declared that it observes the vast majority of LOST’s provisions, it should officially support the treaty.” The United Nations agreement went into effect in 1994, and more than 155 countries have already signed it.
Many environmental issues have surfaced in recent years, which is why countries should support LOST, she said. A recent expert participant in a World Conservation Union workshop, she advocates that all nations support LOST to protect the oceans from environmental harm. 
Although the Bush administration supports ratifying LOST, many conservatives oppose doing so. Currently, the issue is before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and could reach the Senate floor for ratification before year’s end.  Mossop said concern about fees developers would have to pay to mine the seabed has been a sticking point.
“It’s been difficult to distinguish between bio-prospecting and marine research,” Mossop added. “Implementing some protective mechanisms for marine ecosystems would be a good start.”
Moderator Jose E. Alvarez, Hamilton Fish Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, turned to Judge Helmut Tuerk, of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, who was in the audience, for his reaction.
“The U.S. should not be afraid of the [LOST-created] International Seabed Authority,” Tuerk said, “because the U.S. has a defacto veto over proposed regulations. The American delegation has been treated as if it belongs and nothing can happen without U.S. consent.”