America and the Law of the Sea Treaty both stand to benefit from U.S. ratification. Canada needs to support the United States in ratifying the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). In this Canadian Sailings article K. Joseph Spears touches upon a number of those reasons. What is very clear is that Canada, as both an Ocean and Arctic nation, needs the United States, as the world’s major maritime nation, to come into the UNCLOS tent.  This is not the time – in an increasing unstable and multi-polar world – for the United States, our neighbour, best friend and ally, to be LOST at sea. Canada can provide ocean leadership and a solid example of the benefits of being part of UNCLOS. It is in the best long-term interests of both of our nations for America and the Law of the Sea Treaty to become an essential element of both foreign and environmental policy.


America and the Law of the Sea Treaty

The United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), or Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) as opponents in the United States call it, provides an overarching comprehensive ocean governance framework for the world’s oceans which cover 80 percent of the planet. At the time of its development and negotiation (1973-1982) in which Canada played a key leadership role, this was a groundbreaking agreement among nations. The final text of the 320-article convention with nine annexes was signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica on December 10, 1982, when 115 nations signed the instrument. The Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOSIII) was a groundbreaking rules-based international agreement that has provided a clear foundation for ocean activities for the past 30 years. It is partly a codification of then-existing customary international law and a new rules-based regime that is global in nature and application, that addresses a variety of ocean issues including maritime zones, freedom of navigation, fishing, environmental protection and hydrocarbon development. It is a complete international agreement on 24 elements of ocean matters and has been called “an overarching constitution of the seas”. A nation has to accept all of the terms of UNCLOS as a complete package. Countries cannot pick and choose what elements of UNCLOS they were prepared to accept.