Immediate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty will enable the United States to enjoy benefits immediately off our shores and around the world. Click and drag to travel around the map and hover over the shaded area to learn more about the benefits of ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty now!
The Atlantic represents the second largest area of potential extended continental shelf for the United States, reaching up to 350 nautical miles from the U.S. shoreline in some places. Six data collection missions – gathering data to support U.S. claims – have mapped an area of seafloor equivalent to the size of the state of Colorado. America cannot secure its rightful claims of exclusive economic access to this bonanza unless the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Undersea Cables Connecting America to the World
America has 43 landing sites, eight of which are in Florida, for undersea cables. These submarine cables carry virtually all of America’s Internet and voice and data telecommunications traffic, as well as government and military communications, outside North America. Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would provide stronger protections against damage by other parties and guarantee unfettered ability to lay, maintain and repair undersea communications cables that keep America connected across the globe.
Gulf of Mexico
At 7,000 square kilometers, the Western Gap in the Gulf of Mexico probably represents the smallest extended continental shelf (ECS) area for the United States. Even so, it is larger than the state of Delaware, and it holds valuable oil and gas resources. Larger than the Western Gap, the Eastern Gap also holds promise for hydrocarbon supply, an important energy resource. The United States has finished collecting all of the necessary data to delineate an ECS for both the Western Gap and Eastern Gap and support its legitimate claims of exclusive economic access. America cannot secure its rightful claims unless the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The Mendocino Ridge is a unique feature off the coast of California that was once dry land. A mission aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ship, the Okeanos Explorer, mapped most of the top and sides of the ridge in 2009. It is possible that the United States may be able to claim exclusive economic access to a significant area of extended continental shelf in relation to the Mendocino Ridge, but it cannot do so unless the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Gulf of Alaska
The Gulf of Alaska is an area that still requires more data collection and analysis to determine whether the United States can claim extended continental shelf in this region. The United States has completed two seagoing missions to the region, and U.S. scientists are currently analyzing those data. Even when all the data is collected, America cannot secure its rightful claims unless and until the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
The Arctic Ocean represents the single largest area of extended continental shelf for the United States, stretching out to more than 600 nautical miles from the northern coast of Alaska and larger than the state of California. Until the Law of the Sea Treaty is ratified, the United States cannot file a claim for an internationally recognized extension and exclusive economic access to this vast domain. The United States has collected most of the necessary data to support America’s legitimate claims.
The Bering Sea Donut Hole covers an area more than 168,000 square kilometers, or roughly the size of the state of Wisconsin. Available data indicate that the entire area beyond 200 miles of U.S. coastal baselines up to the negotiated boundary line with Russia represents U.S. extended continental shelf. This area is likely rich in hydrocarbons, especially gas hydrates, an important energy resource. The United States has completed two missions to the region that managed to collect all of the necessary data to support its legitimate claim to exclusive economic access in this region. But America cannot secure its rightful claims unless and until the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
International Seabed Authority Exploration Zones
The International Seabed Authority has approved 11 contracts, which provide exclusive rights to explore the deep seabed for valuable metals and minerals. While Chinese, Russian, Indian, German and Japanese companies all have obtained exclusive mining contracts, no U.S. companies have received approval. They are ineligible because the United States has not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty and, therefore, cannot sponsor a mining operation.
Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll
The combined land area for Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll is small (less than 600 acres), but these features may hold promise for a large U.S. extended continental shelf (ECS). Delineating an ECS off these islands is important for protecting underwater habitat that holds vibrant and diverse flora and fauna, much of which is only found in this region. America cannot secure its rightful claims to this region unless and until the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Since 2006, the United States has mapped an area nearly the size of the state of Texas in this region. Given its location, it holds the most promise for mineral resources, such as manganese nodules, ferromanganese crusts and polymetallic sulfides, which are valuable for high-tech products, advanced manufacturing and advanced energy technologies. America cannot secure its rightful claims to these mineral resources unless and until the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty.
South China Sea
Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would help protect America against possible threats to commercial shipping and military transport through critical Pacific Ocean chokepoints.
Strait of Hormuz
Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty would help protect America against Iran’s threats to peaceful commercial shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.
In 2010, there were 172 attempted or committed acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of East Africa involving 629 crew taken hostage. The Law of the Sea Treaty makes piracy a universal crime and subjects pirates to arrest and prosecution by any nation. The United States’ failure to ratify the Treaty undermines America’s leadership role in promoting the rule of law on the high seas. Signing the treaty would allow the United States to better coordinate anti-piracy and anti-terrorism efforts alongside the international community.