U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/26/2004
David Benton, Benton and Associates, Juneau, Alaska
"United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea"

P.O. Box 20735Juneau, Alaska 99802
March 19, 2004

Senator Lisa Murkowski
United States Senate
Washington, DC.

Dear Senator Murkowski:

I am writing you today to urge support for ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Ratification is supported by the Bush Administration, as did the Clinton Administration before it. Recently, the Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved ratification as well. My experience with international fisheries and oceans governance has convinced me that it is in the best interests of the United States to become a party to UNCLOS as soon as possible.

For roughly 14 years I was the State of Alaska's chief negotiator and representative at numerous international negotiations and conferences having to do with oceans policy, governance, and fisheries. Among other duties I was a senior advisor to the U.S. Mission to the UN during negotiations leading up to the global ban on high seas driftnets. I was Alaska's lead negotiator for the U.S./Soviet and later U.S./Russian Intergovernmental Coordinative Committee on oceans and fisheries. I was the senior Alaska negotiator for the successful negotiations leading up to adoption of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Convention and the Central Bering Sea Pollock Convention to the U. S . Mission to the UN during negotiations leading up to the Convention of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and Straddling Stocks of Fish, a key component for implementation of UNCLOS fisheries regimes. I was also appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Canada Pacific Salmon Commission and worked hard to secure the 10-year agreement which ended the "salmon wars" between Canada and the United States.

I retired from my position with State government in 2000, and was appointed to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council where I served as Chair until I left the Council in 2003. During my tenure on the Council I continued to be active in international fishery affairs, and advised the Department of State on a number of international issues including the discussions with the Russian Federation regarding the maritime boundary between Alaska and Russia.

Throughout these various negotiations spanning almost 20 years it was apparent that the interests of the United States were best served under provisions of UNCLOS dealing with maritime delimitation, navigation and transit, defense issues, fisheries management, and enforcement, It was through the use of the terms and condition is of UNCLOS that we were able to secure many of the international agreements cited above, agreements which have protected Alaska's interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to our fishing industry and coastal communities. Ratification will only strengthen the ability of the United States, and Alaska, to defend these interests into the future.

One issue of particular concern, and a very compelling reason to become a Party to the convention, is the prospect of losing some off the important wins which have been made for navigation, the rights of free passage, and maritime delimitation. The UNCLOS comes open for amendment for the first time later this year. If the United States is not a party, then the United States can not participate in this process and we stand to lose important rights and freedoms for transit, for EEZ and continental shelf resources, and possibly boundary issues as well. The United States has several outstanding maritime boundary delimitations that have not been solved, including boundaries with Canada and Russia that are of the greatest importance to Alaska. For these reasons alone, I would ask yo -a to strongly support ratification of the UNCLOS treaty.

Thank you for your kind attention to this issue. If I can be of any further service, or provide additional information, please feel. free to contact me.

David Benton