Remarks at a UN General Assembly Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention

Mark Simonoff
Legal Advisor
New York, New York
April 29, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. I am very pleased to be here today, on behalf of the Host Country, to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of the opening for signature of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. The Law of the Sea Convention sets forth the comprehensive framework governing uses of the ocean. The world has benefitted greatly from the adoption and entry into force of this Convention and the United States continues to support the balance of interests reflected in this remarkable agreement.

It is worth recalling a time before the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, when there were some fundamental questions about States’ rights and obligations with respect to the ocean. The 1982 Convention resolved those questions. For example, it established for the first time a maximum breadth of the territorial sea. In addition, it provided for jurisdiction of coastal States over an exclusive economic zone out to 200 nautical miles from shore. And, for the first time, the Convention set forth detailed rules for determining the outer limits of the continental shelf.

The Law of the Sea Convention, together with the 1994 Agreement relating to deep seabed mining and the 1995 Agreement relating to fish stocks, provides public order in the world’s ocean. It codifies critical freedom of navigation provisions, including those related to transit and innocent passage, which enable vessels to transit the entire maritime domain, thus ensuring the mobility on which our international trade and global economy depend. It is the foundation on which rules for sustainable international fisheries are based, and it provides the legal framework for exploring and exploiting mineral resources on and beneath the seabed beyond areas of national jurisdiction. And we look forward to a new agreement under the Convention that will underpin our collective efforts to sustainably manage biodiversity on the high seas.

The Convention’s institutions are functioning as envisaged. The International Seabed Authority has developed regulations on deep seabed mineral exploration, has issued contracts for such exploration, and is developing regulations for deep seabed mineral exploitation. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has a considerable workload, having received submissions from dozens of coastal States and having issued more than 30 recommendations. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea serves as an important forum for the peaceful resolution of disputes and has ruled on cases of consequence for international peace and security.

Of course, we continue to face many challenges in and on the ocean, including those related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, pollution, climate change, conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, and maritime security. But we are confident that these challenges can and will be addressed on the basis of the Convention’s framework.

Let me end by reiterating U.S. support for the Law of the Sea Convention and our continued regard for much of the Convention as reflective of customary international law. Mr. President, in closing, it gives us great pleasure to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Law of the Sea Convention – an historic event in the international law of the sea.

Thank you.