The United Nations estimates that fishing is central to the livelihood and food security of more than 200 million people, especially in the developing world. The rapid growth in demand for fish and fish products is leading to fish prices increasing faster than prices of meat making fisheries investments more attractive to both entrepreneurs and governments, to the detriment of small-scale fishing and fishing communities all over the world. In trying to address a variety of issues involving international maritime conventions the UN developed the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On the 13th of March 2012, the United Nations legal chief reminded members of the importance of the global treaty governing the use of oceans and urged UN members who have not ratified it to do so this year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. This convention governs all aspects of ocean space, including delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues.
The Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force on November 16, 1994 when Guyana became the 60th State to ratify it. One of the salient features of the Convention is the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that recognizes the right of coastal States to have jurisdiction and the right to exploit, develop, manage and conserve all resources in the waters, on the ocean floor and in the subsoil of an area extending 200 miles from shore. Under the Convention, all States have the right to navigation, over-flight, scientific research and fishing on the high seas, but they are obliged to cooperate with other States in adopting measures to manage living resources. This cooperation does not always actually occur.
|Somali pirates prepare a skiff. Photograph: Mohamed Dahir/AFP/Getty Images|
As was reported in the early 1990’s in Somalia and is now being reported in Senegal, illegal foreign fishing fleets still encroach within the 12-mile inshore limits and poach fish from the local communities. This negatively impacts the nations’ economy and the lives of local fisherman and their families who depend on these fish. The intruding boats have also been reported to destroy the property and tools of the local fishermen, hurting their ability to continue with their livelihood. The lack of ability to enforce the Conventions on the Law of the Sea and the lack of universal agreement on these conventions is harming those who least can afford the loss of their fishing.
The United States, although strongly influencing the development of these conventions, is not a signatory State. Members of Congress view signing these conventions as impinging upon our sovereignty within our coastal waters. Should the US become a signatory on the Convention on the Laws of the Sea, we will be better able to regulate our own companies’ involvement in issues that lead to overfishing and poaching, as well as show our support of other countries in their struggles against those who violate this treaty every day.