Restoring America’s Oceans Leadership
The United States led the world in the negotiations leading to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under President Nixon a unique National Security Council office was created which coordinated eighteen federal agencies and a 100 member private sector advisory committee representing the full spectrum of affected American industry and oceans interests. Rarely has federal policy so fully represented all affected American interests or so fully utilized the extraordinary resources of the entire United States Government in an international negotiation.
The result was one of the most stunning successes in multilateral negotiations in American history. Crucial security issues such as submerged transit of straits for the nation’s SSBN submarines were fully achieved. Navigational freedom, so essential for trade and naval mobility, was maintained. The final Convention, as intended, has served as a bulwark against illegal coastal state claims which had seriously jeopardized American oceans interests. In these negotiations the United States also achieved the largest economic zone and continental shelf in the world. These areas extended national sovereign rights over resources into the oceans in an area larger than the continental United States and Alaska — an expansion far greater than the Louisiana Purchase and the acquisition of Alaska combined. Preliminary work in delimiting our extended continental shelf suggests that our shelf off Alaska will likely extend more than 500 nautical miles into the Arctic. The resulting expansion of United States fishery resources and access to promising deposits of oil and gas are of enormous importance economically.