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Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Oceans
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 - U.S. Antarctic Policy
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Oceans

The United States has important and diverse interests in the oceans. As the world's pre-eminent naval power, the United States has a national security interest in the ability to freely navigate and overfly the oceans as essential Sea Turtle swiming [AP Photo August 2004].preconditions for projecting military power. The end of the Cold War has, if anything, highlighted this need. Ensuring the free flow of commercial navigation is likewise a basic concern for the United States as a major trading power, whose economic growth and employment is inextricably linked with a robust and growing export sector.  By far, the bulk of international trade is transported by sea.

At the same time, the United States, with one of the longest coastlines of any nation in the world, has basic resource and environmental interests in the oceans. The seabed of the deep oceans offers the potential for economically and strategically important mineral resources. Inshore and coastal waters generate vital economic activities -- fisheries, offshore minerals development, ports and transportation facilities and, increasingly, recreation and tourism. The health and well-being of coastal populations -- the majority of Americans live in coastal areas -- are intimately linked to the quality of the coastal marine environment.

Understanding the oceans, including their role in global processes, is one of the frontiers of human scientific investigation, and the United States is a leader in the conduct of marine scientific research. Further, such research is essential for understanding and addressing problems associated with the use and protection of the marine environment, including marine pollution, conservation of fish and other marine living species, and forecasting of weather and climate variability.

Pursuit of these objectives, however, requires careful and often difficult balancing of interests. As a coastal nation, for example, we naturally tend to seek maximum control over the waters off our shores. Equally, as a major maritime power, we often view such efforts on the part of others as unwarranted limitations on legitimate rights of navigation.

Photo of fish in the oceanMoreover, traditional perceptions of the inexhaustibility of marine resources and of the capacity of the oceans to neutralize wastes have changed, as marine species have been progressively depleted by harvesting and their habitats damaged or threatened by pollution and a variety of human activities. Maintaining the health and productive capacity of the oceans while seeking to meet the economic aspirations of growing populations also requires difficult choices.

Striking the balances necessary to implement United States oceans policy must be viewed in the international context.  Living resources migrate. Likewise, marine ecosystems and ocean currents, which transport pollutants and otherwise affect environmental interests, extend across maritime boundaries and jurisdictional limits.  National security and commercial shipping interests are also international in scope. Achievement of oceans policy objectives thus requires international cooperation at the bilateral, regional, and global level. The alternative is increased competition, and conflict over control of the oceans and marine resources to the potential detriment of United States interests and the marine environment generally.

The U.S. Department of State provides support for U.S. interests in the following oceans-related areas:

Antarctica
Arctic
Aquaculture
Biodiversity
Coral Reefs
Deep Seabed Mining
Fisheries
Invasive Species, Aquatic
Law of the Sea
Mammals, Marine
Marine Science Research Authorizations
Maritime Boundaries and National Maritime Claims
Navigation/Transport
Pollution
Regional Seas Programme
Science, Marine
Seabirds
Sea Turtles
Small Island Developing States
Underwater Cultural Heritage
Whales

  
Highlights

yellow envelope Sign up for Climate, Environment, and Conservation email updates. 

The U.S. will host the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in Baltimore, Maryland, April 6-17, 2009. The ATCM is the major annual diplomatic event related to Antarctica, and will include the participation of nearly 400 diplomats, Antarctic program managers and logistics experts, and polar scientists from 47 countries, including 28 Consultative Parties. Visit ATCM2009.gov.

The United States and the Law of the Sea Convention
Remarks by John B. Bellinger, III, Legal Adviser (Nov. 3)

Protecting Our Oceans: Under President Bush, America's Oceans, Coasts, And Great Lakes Are Cleaner, Healthier, And More Productive (Sept. 26) Fact Sheet 

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