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Congre &conaI fRes
hnfarming Ih leg ilive deba

3rch  Service
since 1914


January 29, 2024

Implementing Agreements Under the United Nations

Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

For over 40 years, Congress has deliberated, to varying
degrees, the potential pros and cons of the 1982 United
Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS)   as it pertains to U.S. ocean policy and interests.
UNCLOS   established a comprehensive international legal
framework to govern activities related to the global ocean
and often is referred to as the constitution of the oceans.
The United States is not a party to UNCLOS, but related
U.S. law largely comports with its provisions. In addition,
the United States has historically considered portions of
UNCLOS   to reflect customary international law binding
the conduct of states even in the absence of a treaty.

UNCLOS   divides the ocean into maritime zones and
describes the basic rights and obligations of states therein.
During the negotiation of UNCLOS, some states objected
to some of these rights, in particular the treatment of seabed
minerals in areas beyond national jurisdiction. After the
adoption of UNCLOS,  some stakeholders worked to
modernize, elaborate, and operationalize the conservation
and management  of certain marine resources (e.g., highly
migratory fish stocks). In response to objections or calls to
build on the legal framework, the U.N. General Assembly
(UNGA)  adopted three implementing agreements under the
UNCLOS   rubric. This In Focus provides context for these
implementation agreements and their relationship to
UNCLOS.   In addition, the In Focus describes which of
these agreements the United States has ratified or has the
option to ratify in the absence of U.S. accession to
UNCLOS.   The three implementing agreements are as

*  Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of
   the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
   (commonly  known as the 1994 Agreement)

*  Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of
   the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of
   10 December  1982 Relating to the Conservation and
   Management  of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly
   Migratory Fish Stocks (commonly known as the 1995
   U.N. Fish Stocks Agreement [UNFSA])

*  Agreement Under the United Nations Convention on the
   Law  of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use
   of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond
   National Jurisdiction (commonly known as the
   Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction [BBNJ]
   Agreement or the High Seas Treaty)

US.   Objections to UNCLOS
In 1982, UNGA  adopted UNCLOS   (Table 1). At that time,
the United States and some other industrialized nations did

not sign UNCLOS  or announced they could not ratify it
without changes to Part XI of UNCLOS, which deals with
deep-seabed resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
In addition to objections over the treatment of deep-seabed
resources (i.e., minerals), the United States also objected to
UNCLOS   provisions on technology transfers and
compulsory dispute resolution.

1 994  Agreement
In 1994, UNGA  adopted the 1994 Agreement, which
amended  UNCLOS   Part XI by removing many of the
provisions objectionable to certain industrialized nations. In
addition, the 1994 Agreement provided that the 1994
Agreement and UNCLOS   shall be interpreted and applied
together as a single document. After the adoption of the
1994 Agreement, UNCLOS   received the necessary number
of signatories to enter into force (Table 1).

UNCLOS   established the International Seabed Authority
(ISA), which regulates all seabed mineral-related activities
in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The ISA came into
existence with the adoption of the 1994 Agreement, which
made changes to the deep-seabed mining regime under
UNCLOS.   The ISA became fully operational as an
autonomous international organization in 1996. The United
States participates as an observer state in the ISA but has no
vote in the ISA Assembly or Council and cannot apply for
or obtain a contract or license for seabed mining activities.
For the United States to participate as a member of the ISA,
it would have to become party to UNCLOS and the 1994
Agreement, requiring Senate advice and consent. For more
information about seabed mining and the ISA, see CRS
Report R47324, Seabed Mining in Areas Beyond National
Jurisdiction: Issues for Congress.

For the United States, UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement
are to be considered as a package. On July 29, 1994, the
United States signed the 1994 Agreement (Table 1). In
October 1994, President Clinton submitted UNCLOS and
the 1994 Agreement as a package to the Senate for advice
and consent to accession (Treaty Doc. 103-39). The Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on
UNCLOS   and the 1994 Agreement in the 108th (2003),
110th (2007), and 112th (2012) Congresses.

In the 108th Congress, the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations favorably reported and recommended that the
Senate give its advice and consent to UNCLOS and the
1994 Agreement. However, the Senate did not consider
UNCLOS   on the floor.

In the 110th Congress, the Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations held two hearings on UNCLOS. The committee

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