Significant Issues and Developments for 2019

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2018 2019    

 


2019


Arctic Council Launches Online Arctic Ship Traffic Database. On February 7, 2019, after two years of work, the Arctic Council's Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) launched a comprehensive Arctic shipping activity database.  Knowns as the Arctic Ship Traffic Data (ASTD) System, the online database is a significant milestone in PAME's work to improve knowledge of historical Arctic ship traffic activity and various factors that affect such activity, such as sea ice extent, meteorological and oceanographic conditions, and international regulations.  The database will allow authorized users to analyze vessel traffic patterns, fuel use, and air emissions, among other economic and environmental conditions.  The GC International Section lead the drafting and negotiation of the ASTD Cooperative Agreement as well as its implementation and operationalization.

Additional information

Last updated April 5, 2019


World Trade Organization Upholds NOAA’s Dolphin Safe Tuna Label Requirements.  In 2008, Mexico initiated World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute proceedings to challenge NOAA’s “dolphin safe” tuna label scheme as a violation of provisions of the WTO's General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.  In December 2017, a WTO compliance panel found that revisions to NOAA’s regulations brought the measure into compliance.  Mexico appealed.  On December 14, 2018, the WTO Appellate Body upheld the 2017 compliance panel report, finding in favor of the United States.  On January 11, 2019, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body adopted the 2018 WTO Appellate Body and 2017 WTO compliance panel report, bringing this decade-long dispute to a close. More information:

 Last updated March 11, 2019


2018


Article: The Case for Using the Law of Salvage to Preserve Underwater Cultural Heritage: The Integrated Marriage of the Law of Salvage and Historic Preservation by Ole Varmer & Caroline M. Blanco, Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 401-424 (July 2018).

In July 2018 the Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce published an article co-authored by GC International Section’s Ole Varmer that discusses how U.S. courts have been evolving to incorporate environmental and historic preservation law into their Admiralty court orders under the maritime law of salvage.  Under certain conditions, U.S. courts have been integrating the evolving public interest in preserving underwater cultural heritage (UCH) in situ for present and future generation into the public interest of recovery or salvage of all or portions of a historic shipwreck.  While in situ preservation is the preferred policy for preservation, international and U.S. historic preservation law set forth the factors and criteria for determining when it is in the public interest to recover, conserve and curate our UCH.  The public interest in salvage law for recent marine casualties is to return wrecked ships and their cargo to the stream of commerce, and is in direct conflict with laws preserving historic wrecks.  This article was one of a series related to presentations on admiralty and maritime law made during the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools in San Diego, California.

 Last updated September 27, 2018


Update of Digests of Statutes Authorizing NOAA’s International Activities (June 2018)
The International Section of the NOAA General Counsel’s Office has updated a number of its six digests of statutory provisions, executive directives and planning documents that authorize, facilitate and guide NOAA’s global mission: 

Most recently, in May and June 2018, updates were incorporated into three digests to, among other things, (a) underscore the importance of the National Undersea Research Program and the National Ocean Exploration Program; (b) describe arrangements by which NOAA may assist in assessment and management of environmental impacts to the Outer Continental Shelf that may occur in the course of oil, gas and other resource development; (c)  incorporate revisions to funding and discretionary authorities provided under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018; and (d)         highlight cooperation between Coast Guard and NOAA in procuring, maintaining and making available facilities and assistance in the preparation and dissemination of weather reports, forecasts and warnings that are essential to the safe and efficient conduct of domestic and international commerce.


The Arctic Council’s Shipping Best Practice Information Forum Launches Public Web Portal to Support Safe Arctic Navigation in implementing the IMO Polar Code (May 15, 2018)


The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum (“Forum”) established in 2017 by the Arctic Council launched a Web portal at its second annual meeting on May 14-15, 2018.  (Press Release.)  Designed to advance safe and environmentally sound navigation in the Arctic, the Web portal contains an extensive set of data links to help ship owners and operators effectively implement the International Maritime Organization’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (“Polar Code”).  The publicly available Web portal – www.ArcticShippingForum.is – tracks the structure of the Polar Code and provides access to authoritative information generated by a variety of bodies that is critical to ensuring Polar Code compliance.  Contributors include intergovernmental organizations like the World Meteorological Organization, the International Ice Charting Working Group, and the Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission as well as classification societies, the shipping industry, marine insurers, and non-governmental organizations.  The Web portal also has numerous links to information made available by Arctic State maritime, hydrographic, and weather agencies.   The Forum will regularly update and expand the portal as new information becomes available.  The GC International Section played a lead role in establishing the Forum and is deeply involved in its operationalization.

Additional Information


Governance “Tool Kit” for Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) (January, 2018)

In January 2018, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) accepted the “Ocean Governance Tool Kit” for Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) that was in large part developed by a NOAA cross-cutting team including the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the National Ocean Service (NOS) and the GC International Section. LMEs are large areas of the coastal waters (200,000 km2 or more) extending seaward to the break or slope of the continental shelf and generally involves a well-defined current system. The 66 LMEs are the most highly productive biologically diverse areas of the oceans. Taken together, LMEs provide direct services approaching US$3 trillion annually, with a non-market value estimated at $US22 trillion each year. 

 Last updated July 10, 2018


2017


UN General Assembly Greenlights Negotiations of High Seas Biodiversity Agreement (December 24, 2017)

On December 24, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution to convene an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.   Under the resolution, the IGC is to consider the July 2017 recommendations of a UN preparatory committee on this matter, and the negotiations are to address marine genetic resources and questions on the sharing of benefits; area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. The resolution calls for four rounds of negotiations from late 2018 to early 2020. 


Conclusion of United Nations Preparatory Committee to Develop Recommendations on Elements of an International Legally Binding Instrument on Marine Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (July 2017)

A United Nations Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) tasked with making substantive recommendations to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) met for its fourth and final two-week session in New York from July 10-21, 2017.  Established by UNGA Resolution 69/292, the PrepCom focused on five subjects: area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources; capacity building and the transfer of marine technology; and cross-cutting issues.  While the PrepCom did not reach consensus on the elements contained in its report, it did reach consensus on two recommendations to the UNGA: (1) that the UNGA consider the elements with a view to the development of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument; and (2) that the UNGA take a decision as soon as possible on the convening of an intergovernmental conference to consider the recommendations of the PrepCom on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument.

Additional information
:
Report of the Preparatory Committee established by UNGA Res. 69/292: Development of international legally binding instrument under LOSC on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction


Inaugural Meeting of the Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum (June 2017)

In February 2017 after more than a year of negotiations, the eight Arctic States working through the Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) approved the establishment of the Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum.  (The eight Arctic States are Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.)  The Forum held its inaugural meeting on June 5-6, 2017, at Lloyd’s Register Office in London.  (Press Release)

The Forum’s purpose it to help raise awareness of and promote the effective implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), a mandatory international framework which entered into force in January 2017 and that increases the safety of ship operations and mitigate the impact on the people and the vulnerable environment in Polar waters.

In addition to Arctic States, Permanent Participants and Observers, the Forum was attended by a wide spectrum of stakeholders with an interest in Arctic shipping.  Notably, industry has played a key role in shaping the Forum, with significant input from maritime organizations and insurers.

The Forum has established a web portal that is being populated with a wide range of high-quality information to support effective implementation of the Polar Code.


The Department of Commerce Appropriations Act, 2017 provides new authority to protect Titanic (May 2017)

On May 5, 2017, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 (Public Law 115-31) was signed into law.  Section 113 of the Act provides:  “For fiscal year 2017 and each fiscal year thereafter, no person shall conduct any research, exploration, salvage, or other activity that would physically alter or disturb the wreck or wreck site of the RMS Titanic unless authorized by the Secretary of Commerce per the provisions of the Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic. The Secretary of Commerce shall take appropriate actions to carry out this section consistent with the Agreement.”  Under Article 4 of the Agreement, each party is to take  “appropriate actions” to enforce measures taken pursuant to the Agreement against it nationals and vessels flying its flag and to prohibit activities in its territory including its maritime ports, territorial sea, and offshore terminals, that are inconsistent with the Agreement. 


Cooperation between France and U.S. NOAA on Maritime Heritage (January, 2017)

On January 18-19, 2017, representatives from France and the United States (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of State, Department of Interior) held a meeting in Mount Vernon, Virginia to explore projects of joint interest on science and maritime heritage in support of the management of marine protected areas (MPAs). After two days of fruitful discussion, the participants jointly developed several action items for cooperation on science and maritime heritage under the existing Science and Technology Agreement and Memorandums of Agreement on Marine Protected Areas. A Declaration of Intent [English] [French] on cooperation on maritime heritage was also signed recognizing past cooperation on protecting maritime heritage of mutual interest such as CSS Alabama, La Belle, Le Griffon, Bonhomme Richard and Titanic.

 Last updated February 16, 2018


2016


A Framework and Strategy for a Stronger Partnership Between NOAA and USAID in Addressing Ecological, Economic and Societal Challenges Facing the Global Community (May 2016)

On May 11, 2016, the NOAA Administrator and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes a framework for collaboration between the two agencies to build upon each agency’s strengths, experiences, and resources with a view toward supporting resilient ecosystems, stable communities and vibrant economies for the benefit of developing countries and to enhance the capabilities of those countries to manage their resources and secure their own future. The MOU, which was prepared with the assistance of GC International Section, creates an umbrella framework under which additional, topical or project-specific MOUs will be developed. Among other things, the MOU will provide a more effective and responsive connection between NOAA expertise, resources and skills on the one hand and USAID mission needs on the other. It will strengthen and enhance NOAA engagement in USAID-led and supported programs and initiatives. It will increase USAID awareness of relevant international climate services initiatives and effectively link to those initiatives; and it will explore and develop mechanisms for funding support and for funding transfer to manage and advance those efforts. The 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which was prepared by the U.S. Department of State, directs USAID to collaborate with other federal agencies, such as NOAA, to find innovative solutions to the most pressing economic and societal challenges facing the international community. In support of this initiative, a working group of NOAA and USAID representatives has begun meeting to develop a menu of services and needs and to identify “next steps” in this process.


Cooperation on Underwater Cultural Heritage between Spain and U.S. NOAA (March 2016)

NOAA’s National Ocean Service and Spain’s Ministry of Culture signed a Memorandum of Understanding [English] [Spanish] renewing the agreed upon framework to jointly identify, protect, manage and preserve underwater cultural resources of mutual interest within their respective areas of responsibility. The arrangement calls for the exchange of information on actual or potential identification and location of underwater cultural resources, research and archeological examination of the resources, provision of information concerning potential or actual unauthorized disturbances of underwater cultural resources, cooperation with nongovernmental organizations engaged in historical or archeological programs compatible with the objectives of the arrangement, and preparation and dissemination of educational and outreach materials.


Interagency Task Force on Submarine Cable Protection and Authorization (March 2016)

In a proposed rule issued last year (80 FR 67689, Nov. 3, 2015), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) noted that there was a significant need for better coordination among federal agencies in their various involvements with and support for submarine cables. Toward that end, FCC proposed the formation of an interagency task force to develop and improve interagency coordination processes and best practices vis-à-vis submarine cable deployment activities and related permits and authorizations and to increase transparency and information sharing among the government agencies, cable licensees, and other stakeholders.  That interagency group was formed in March 2016 and had its first meeting on April 14 to provide an introductory discussion of their regulatory programs and initiatives.  This is being followed by the development and transmission of written information and recommendations for cooperative action and for public outreach through agency websites.  NOAA is represented on the group by the GC International Section together with representatives from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Ocean Service.  The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration is also represented on the Task Force.


Agreement Between the United Kingdom and NOAA Regarding the Protection of HMT BEDFORDSHIRE (Historic WWII Wreck Off North Carolina) (January, 2016).

On January 7, 2016, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the United Kingdom for the research, management and in situ preservation of HMT Bedfordshire.  NOAA General Counsel provided extensive support in the preparation and negotiation of this MOA.  The Bedfordshire was one of Her Majesty’s Trawlers (HMTs) that protected the flow of Allied supplies between the United Kingdom and the USA during World War II.  It was sunk with all hands lost in May 1942 by a torpedo fired from a German U-Boat.  The wreck site off the coast of North Carolina is a war grave and represents a critical connection between Allied forces.  The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the efforts of NOAA.  This listing is a threshold consideration for its protection under the National Historic Preservation Act and for its possible protection under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.  On January 8, NOAA publicly released its proposal for a boundary expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary that would include the site of the HMT Bedfordshire.


GC International Has Prepared a Digest of Statutes Which Authorize NOAA’s Capacity Building Activities

The term “Capacity Building” can encompass a wide variety of specific activities which are focused on rendering constructive and enduring aid to other nations. In general, a society’s “capacity” refers to its ability to solve its own problems or to achieve its own objectives. Capacity Building has traditionally been associated with knowledge transfer and training of individuals, with information, education, technical assistance, and policy advice to enable other nations to better manage their resources and to respond effectively to any contingency or change. But it can also involve organizational development, the refinement of management structures, and the development of institutional and legal frameworks, making possible legal and regulatory changes which enhance the capacities of organizations, institutions and agencies. NOAA, both on its own and in cooperation with other U.S. agencies, plays a key role in the United States efforts to build capacity in developing nations and globally – particularly in areas of science, research, climate, information sharing, and fisheries enforcement.


2015


Navy Regulations implementing the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004 and NOAA-Navy Agreement (August, 2015).

After years of extensive coordination and collaboration among federal agency partners as well as public comments the Department of the Navy published regulations implementing the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA) on August 31, 2015.  Clearance of the regulations by NOAA and the Department of Commerce was preceded by the signing of a NOAA-Navy Agreement.  The Agreement documents how the SMCA regulations do not change the long-standing policy and practice of NOAA-Navy cooperation on sunken military craft located in national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.  The Agreement also provides that the SMCA regulations do not apply to NOAA activities outside those marine protected areas.


Article: The Public Importance of World War I Shipwrecks: Why a State Should Care and the Challenges of Protection Published by UNESCO (July, 2015).

On July 9, 2015 the United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published its Proceedings of the Scientific Conference on the Occasion of the Centenary of the First World War and its Underwater Cultural Heritage.  The articles featured in this publication are based on presentations and the results of the UNESCO Scientific Conference held in Bruges on the 26th and 27th of June 2014.  The articles highlight the extent and importance of WWI underwater cultural heritage, new information resulting from recent research, and ongoing projects aimed at protecting, preserving and researching WWI underwater cultural heritage.  The article on the Public Importance of World War I Shipwrecks: Why a State Should Care and the Challenges of Protection was jointly written by the NOAA Director of Maritime Heritage, Dr. James P. Delgado and NOAA attorney, Ole Varmer.   The article is based on presentations they made on why a State or the public should care about UCH and the legal and policy challenges in protecting UCH under international and United States law. 


Entry Into Force of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean

On July 19, 2015, the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean entered into force.  The Convention establishes the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC), a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) with international responsibility for the conservation and management of living marine resources in the high seas of the north Pacific Ocean that are not covered by another RFMO.  The Convention and its entry into force help to further NOAA's mission to effectively conserve and manage marine ecosystems and resources by filling the gaps in international management of north Pacific high seas fisheries and establishing a framework for protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems on biodiverse seamounts from impacts of bottom fishing.  The establishment of this RFMO responds to calls for action by the international community (e.g., UN General Assembly Resolutions) for States to take actions to address the impacts of fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems on the high seas, including through the establishment of new RFMOs.  The first meeting of the NPFC as a Commission will take place in Tokyo on September 4, 2015.  

Additional Reference Information:

Treaty Doc. 113-2 - Treaty Transmittal Package for the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean
North Pacific Fisheries Commission Secretariat Website
United Nations General Assembly 2006 Sustainable Fisheries Resolution


GC International Section Has Prepared a Digest of Statutes Which Authorize NOAA Research Efforts (June 2015)

The Office of the General Counsel’s International Section had completed work on a Digest of statutory provisions which authorize NOAA to undertake and maintain ongoing research activities in connection with both its overall mission and any of its authorized programs. These include all activities within the broad categories of both oceanic and atmospheric endeavor.   In the strictest sense, “research” involves performance of a methodical and systematic study for the purpose of proving a hypothesis or answering a specific question.  It calls for some type of interpretation or opinion from the researcher or research team.  Thus, provisions which merely authorize a survey, or a data gathering exercise, or a literature review are not included.  In many instances, moreover, federal statutes direct NOAA to perform an investigation of a specific topic or phenomenon, with a time limit for completing the study and/or reporting to Congress or to other agencies.  If such a study is still currently under way, it will be included in the Digest.  If it has been complete and reported, it will not be included, unless part of the congressional charge was to design or create a permanent study capability or program office which is still functioning.   As with other statutory digests that have been posted on the International Section’s website, the Digest of Statutes Which Authorize NOAA Research Efforts will always be a work in progress, subject to additions and modifications, as warranted.


Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Adopts U.S. Proposals to Strengthen IUU Vessel Listing Procedures and Require Marking of Fish Aggregating Devices.

Annual meetings of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) were held from June 24-July 3 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  The IATTC is a treaty-based regional fishery management organization (RFMO) that meets yearly to adopt legally binding conservation measures for tuna and associated species in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.  The IATTC adopted a U.S. proposal to comprehensively amend and strengthen the IATTC’s measure for listing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  IATTC members are required to prohibit vessels listed as IUU from landing and transshipping and to restrict trade in the vessels’ fisheries products.  The amendments strengthen the measure by expanding the list of activities presumed to be IUU and establishing clearer rules for adding and removing vessels from the IUU list.  The amendments also harmonize the IUU measure with IUU measures of other tuna RFMOs, which was called for in 2011 recommendations of the 3rd Joint Meeting of the Tuna RFMOs (“Kobe process”).  The IATTC also adopted a U.S. proposal to require that all fish aggregating devices (FADs) in IATTC fisheries are marked with a unique code in order to improve FAD fisheries management.  In other matters, the IATTC adopted a European Union proposal to establish special protections for mobulid rays.  The IATTC could not reach consensus on a number of other proposed measures, including proposals to rebuild Pacific bluefin tuna stocks, establish special protections for hammerhead and silky sharks, require that shark fins are naturally attached to the body through landing, strengthen the IATTC’s seabird bycatch mitigation requirements, and set minimum standards for the inspection of fishing vessels in port.

Additional Reference Information:

IATTC Website

Active IATTC Resolutions and Recommendations


International Maritime Organization Adopts Five Areas to Be Avoided in the Aleutian Islands

On June 15, 2015, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a U.S. proposal to establish five areas to be avoided (ATBAs) in the Aleutian Islands archipelago.  The ATBAs apply to vessels making transoceanic voyages through the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean Great Circle routes.  Totaling approximately 160,000 square miles, the ATBAs aim to reduce the risk of marine casualties and resulting pollution and protect the fragile and unique environment of the Aleutian Islands.  The ATBAs will encompass the entire length of the U.S. portion of the Aleutian Islands and extend 50 nautical miles from the shoreline of the islands.  The 50-nautical mile buffer allows time for repair or time to launch an emergency response effort to a foundering vessel before it runs aground and damages sensitive resources.  By increasing the distance from shore, the buffer will also reduce the possibility of ships groundings due to negligent navigation.  The ATBAs will enter into effect in January 2016.

Additional Reference Information:

Report of the Maritime Safety Committee on its Ninety-Fifth Session
U.S. Submission to IMO, NCSR 2/3/5
Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment PSSA/Routing Measure Working Group


UN Ad Hoc Working Group Meeting on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

On January 20-23, 2015, the ninth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction met at the UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting was attended by some 200 representatives of States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Led by the State Department, the U.S. Delegation included four representatives from the Department of Commerce. After four days of negotiations, delegates reached consensus on recommendations for a decision to be taken at the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly later this year that include establishing a preparatory meeting in 2017 to make recommendations to the UN General Assembly at its seventy-second session on the elements of a draft text of a legally binding instrument under the Law of the Sea Convention and whether to convene an intergovernmental conference to elaborate on the text of an international agreement under the Convention. At the meeting, the U.S. modified its longstanding opposition to the negotiation of a new legally binding agreement and joined the consensus for consideration of a new agreement.


2014


U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA Sign Memorandum of Agreement to Preserve Historic WWI Shipwreck of the Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71 (September 2014).

On September 18, 2014, representatives of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) formalizing their joint commitment to preserve and protect the historic Diamond Shoal Lightship No. 71. During WWI, the lightship was sunk while anchored off Cape Hatteras, North Caroline by a German U-Boat.   The wreck now lies on the seabed not far from NOAA's Monitor National Marine SanctuaryNOAA Press Release (Oct. 7, 2014).  Built in 1897, the lightship served as a floating lighthouse, sound signal station and navigational beacon for 21 years until it was sunk on August 6, 1918. NOAA has surveyed and documented a number of historically significant shipwrecks located off North Carolina's coast as part of the NOAA Battle of the Atlantic project.  ONMS will take the lead on survey work focused on the lightship such as photo and video documentation and archaeological site plans of the wreck site. The resulting material will be used to list the shipwreck on the National Register of Historic Places and for other initiatives to protect and manage it under applicable laws such as the National Historic Preservation Act. 


GC International Section Has Prepared a Digest of Statutes Which Impose Mandates on NOAA With Respect to International Activities (June 2014).

NOAA was created in 1970 by a reorganization plan under which President Nixon transferred functions belonging to various agencies into a new NOAA that was established as a bureau within the Department of Commerce.  Although that reorganization plan did not provide an overall mission for the agency, and although Congress has not since enacted a comprehensive statute defining the mission and specific functions of the agency, NOAA has evolved over time into the central civilian agency for oceans and atmospheric issues - responsibilities which, of necessity, call for cooperation and interaction with the international community.  This has been accomplished through the enactment of some 200 statutes which address specific sectors and specific needs.  Some of these statutes give discretion to NOAA, either directly or through the Secretary of Commerce.  Others mandate action or involvement by the agency.  NOAA GC International Section has created a digest of statues in the latter category -statutes which mandate NOAA's international engagement.  For example, in connection with the congressional goal of implementing the U.N. moratorium on the use of large-scale driftnets, the Secretary of Commerce is directed by statute to seek to secure international agreements on the subject and to include specific types of provisions in those agreements.  This digest is intended to be a living document, subject to revision and supplementation as needed.


GC International Section Has Prepared a Digest of Statutes That Authorize a Transfer of Funds to Support International Engagements (June 2014).

NOAA GC International Section has created a digest of existing statutory provisions that authorize the transfer of funds or other types of support either into or out of NOAA and that contemplate as at least one reason for such a transfer the advancement of NOAA's international engagements and commitments.  The provisions described in this compendium focus on NOAA or Department of Commerce authorities and may either involve transfers of money or of in-kind assistance.  The compendium focuses only on authorities that may be of assistance to NOAA in meeting its international obligations and commitments or that may provide support to other entities, whether domestic or international, in participating in the accomplishment of those international commitments.  They do not include:

This digest is intended to be a living document, subject to revision and supplementation as need.


The wrecksite of NOAA's 19th Century U.S. Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker listed on National Register of Historic Places (April 4, 2014)

The wreck of the steamship Robert J. Walker, that served in the U.S. Coast Survey, a predecessor agency of NOAA, has been listed as a historic resource on the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act. News Release.   Built in 1847, the Walker was one of the U.S. government's first iron-hulled steamers and was used by the U.S. Coast Survey, established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, to survey the coast and produce the nation's nautical charts.  Twenty-one men died when Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, 10 miles off Absecon Inlet on the New Jersey coast. The crew had finished its latest surveys in the Gulf of Mexico and was sailing to New York when the Walker was hit by a commercial schooner.   The side-wheel steamer, carrying 66 crewmembers, sank within 30 minutes. The sinking was the largest single loss of life in the history of NOAA or its predecessor agencies.  Last year, NOAA and its partners confirmed the Walker's location and identity as part of a private-public collaboration that included research provided by New Jersey wreck divers and government and university maritime archaeologists. NOAA does not plan to make the wreck a sanctuary or limit diving, but instead will work with New Jersey's wreck diving community to better understand the wreck and the stories it can tell.  The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of cultural places considered worth preserving.  Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.  Properties listed in the National Register can qualify for federal grants for historic preservation.


Senate Agrees to U.S. Ratification of Four International Fisheries Agreements (April 3, 2014).

On April 3, 2014, the U.S. Senate agreed to resolutions of advice and consent to U.S. ratification of four international fisheries agreements, which brings the United States one significant step closer to becoming a party to these agreements.  These agreements help to further NOAA's mission to effectively conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, and U.S. ratification will further enable the United States to advance these objectives internationally.   The agreements are: the Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the first binding global instrument specifically designed to combat such fishing; amendments to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, which brings the Convention in line with modern international fisheries governance and will help to improve the way fisheries in this region are managed; and agreements establishing the North Pacific Fisheries Commission and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, which fill gaps in international management over a broad range of species on the high seas in the Pacific and provide a framework for providing critical protections for vulnerable marine ecosystems on biodiverse seamounts.

Additional Reference Information: Some of these links are to external sites.

Treaty Doc. 112-4 - Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

Treaty Doc. 113-1 - Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean

Treaty Doc. 113-2 - Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean

Treaty Doc. 113-3 - Amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries


United States and Four Other Governments Sign Hamilton Declaration to Cooperate in the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea (March 2014).

On March 11, 2014, the United States and four other governments (United Kingdom Monaco, Azores and Bermuda) signed theHamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea in Hamilton, Bermuda.  The Hamilton Declaration is the result of a two-year negotiation among interested governments that are either located in the broader Sargasso Sea area or have an interest in conservation of biodiversity in the high seas.  The Signatories endorsed the establishment of a Sargasso Sea Commission to encourage and facilitate voluntary collaboration toward the conservation of a unique ecosystem in the Atlantic that has been called “the golden rainforest of the ocean.” Characterized by a type of floating seaweed, the Sargasso Sea is a breeding, nursing, or foraging ground for several endangered species (e.g., European eels and Loggerhead turtles).  The Sargasso Sea Commission will exercise a stewardship role for the Sargasso Sea and keep its health, productivity and resilience under continual review.  NOAA has a long-standing interest in the Sargasso Sea, including a Fishery Management Plan for Pelagic Sargassum Habitat of the South Atlantic Region and rules to limit its harvest and protect it as essential fish habitat.  The International Section contributed to the drafting of the Hamilton Declaration and provided legal support to NOAA and the State Department during the negotiation process. 


Unique Vessel Identifiers for Fishing Vessels (January 2014).

In 2013, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and four regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) took a number of actions to enable and encourage fishing vessels to be assigned permanent unique vessel identifiers (UVIs) in the form of IMO numbers.  UVIs facilitate the timely and accurate identification of vessels and the verification of vessel activity over time, irrespective of changes of vessel name, ownership, or flag, making it more difficult for vessels to evade domestic and international monitoring and control measures.  Governments, including the United States, international organizations, industry, and environment stakeholders, have identified advancing the use of UVIs through actions of the IMO and RFMOs as a high priority in the fight against illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, as evidenced in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/71, recommendations of the 2011 Kobe Joint Tuna RFMO summit, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation Resolution 10-01, and NOAA's Leveling the Playing Field: NOAA's Priorities to Combat IUU Fishing in 2013.

Prior to 2013, vessels solely engaged in fishing were outside the scope of the IMO's ship identification numbering scheme.  In December 2013, the IMO Assembly adopted Resolution A.1078(28), which amended the IMO ship identification numbering scheme by removing the exception for fishing vessels and thereby providing for the voluntary application of the scheme to fishing vessels 100 gross tons and above.  Efforts to expand the IMO scheme helped pave the way for RFMOs to adopt measures to require fishing vessels to obtain an IMO number.  In late 2013, four RFMOs adopted or expanded requirements that certain vessels have an IMO number: the Commission for the Conservation of Arctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO), and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).  These actions by the IMO and RFMOs represent significant movement forward in the development of new tools to combat IUU fishing.

Update: In July 2014, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopted a requirement that certain fishing vessels authorized to fish for IATTC species have an IMO number.

Additional Reference Information: Some of these links are to external sites.

IMO Resolution A.1078(28)

IMO Meeting Summary of 28th IMO Assembly

FAO Press Release: The preconditions of using the IMO Number as the UVI for vessels have been met

Licensing and inspection obligations of Contracting Parties with regard to their flag vessels operating in the Convention Area [CCAMLR Conservation Measure 10-02]

Recommendation by ICCAT Concerning the Establishment of an ICCAT Record of Vessels 20 Meters in Length Overall or Greater Authorized to Operate in the Convention Area [Rec. 13-13]

Establishment of the Commission record of Vessels authorised to fish in the Convention Area [SPRFMO CMM 2.05]

Conservation and Management Measure for WCPFC Implementation of a Unique Vessel Identifier (UVI) [CMM 2013-04]

Resolution (Amended) On a Regional Vessel Register [IATTC Res. C-14-01]


Groundbreaking Study on Underwater Cultural Heritage Law Published (January 2014).

The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) Law Study prepared by the International Section of NOAA's Office of General Counsel. This study provides an analysis of existing laws protecting UCH on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), identifies gaps in protection, and provides three recommendations on how to address those gaps, including proposals to amend the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The Study also provides a link to the NOAA Coastal Services Center Ocean Law Search database and website that contains a copy of the final study, summaries of the statutes and key cases related to UCH Law Study, as well as links to the various bills, reports, and other documents describing the legislative histories of the more relevant statutes. The protection and management of UCH is a challenging topic that involves the interplay of United States statutes, maritime law, international law, and often-complex issues regarding what law applies when and against whom it may be enforced. At the same time, there is ongoing risk from activities that may directly or indirectly destroy UCH, such as unscientific salvage or looting, energy development, dredging, and bottom trawling. The UCH Law Study and corresponding website are tools for use by practitioner of law, history and archaeology as well as students and others interested in preserving our underwater cultural heritage for present and future generations.

 


2013


The Contracting Parties to the London Protocol Approve an Amendment to Regulate Ocean Fertilization and Other Marine Geo-Engineering Activities (October 18, 2013).

On October 18, 2013, those Contracting Parties to the London Protocol (LP) present at the weeklong annual meeting of the Parties unanimously approved an amendment to regulate ocean fertilization as well as other marine geo-engineering activities.  Resolution LP.4(8).  The LP Parties were motivated, at least in part, by an ocean fertilization incident that occurred in July 2012 when a Canadian-flagged vessel dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate and 20 tons of iron oxide into the northern Pacific Ocean just beyond the Canadian EEZ, apparently to stimulate fish stocks and potentially to sequester carbon.  The U.S. position on the amendment was that it should not be adopted because the definition of marine geo-engineering it contained was overly broad and encompassing. The U.S. was of the view that the amendment should be limited to ocean fertilization and should not contemplate other, yet-to-be-identified forms of marine geo-engineering.  Although LP parties Japan and Germany and LP non-parties Russia and Argentina also sought to restrict the scope of the definition of marine geo-engineering, all LP Parties present at the annual meeting ultimately supported the amendment.  The EU countries, in particular, led the advocacy for the amendment, and China also voiced strong support.  The amendment provides for regulation of new forms of marine geo-engineering by means of the listing of assessed techniques in a new LP annex, which can be revised much more rapidly than the LP itself.  The annex is included with the amendment.  Ocean fertilization is currently the only marine geo-engineering activity listed in this new LP annex.  The amendment will enter into force 60 days after two thirds of the LP Parties have deposited an instrument of acceptance of the amendment with International Maritime Organization.  (The London Protocol currently has 43 Parties.)

IMO Press Release (18 October 2013)


NOAA Confirms Wreck is 19th Century U.S. Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker (August 27, 2013)

More than 153 years after it was lost in a violent collision at sea, government and university maritime archaeologists have identified the wreck of the ship Robert J. Walker, a steamer that served in the U.S. Coast Survey, a predecessor agency of NOAA. NOAA Press Release. The U.S. Coast Survey is NOAA's oldest predecessor organization, established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807 to survey the coast and produce the nation's nautical charts. In 1860, as the Civil War approached, the Coast Survey redoubled efforts to produce surveys of harbors strategically important to the war effort along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Twenty of the sixty-six crew members died when the Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, ten miles off Absecon Inlet on the New Jersey coast. The sinking was the largest single loss of life in the history of the Coast Survey and its successor agency, NOAA. The Walker wreck site initially was discovered in the 1970s by a commercial fisherman. The wreck's identity has been a mystery despite being regularly explored by divers. Resting 85 feet underwater, the vessel's identity was confirmed in June as part of a private-public collaboration that included research provided by New Jersey wreck divers; Joyce Steinmetz, a maritime archaeology student at East Carolina University; and retired NOAA Corps Capt. Albert Theberge, chief of reference for the NOAA Central Library. Observations from NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program's diving team confirmed the identity of the Walker wreck. See MHP Webpage. NOAA was able to confirm the identity of the Walker using various criteria, including the ship's unique paddlewheel flanges. Since then, the International and Oceans and Coasts Sections of NOAA GC have assisted in identifying the laws and policies that apply to U.S. Government vessels and property, and are of the view that they apply to the Walker. Additional, as a sovereign immune vessel, the Walker it is immune from arrest under the maritime law of salvage. See FAQs.


Digest of Policy Drivers for NOAA’s International Engagement (August 1, 2013).

The International Section has prepared a digest of Digest of Policy Drivers. The directives and planning documents described in the digest offer a set of precise roadmaps pointing the way toward accomplishment of various aspects of NOAA’s mission and goals, particularly with reference to NOAA’s international engagements. The digest has three subdivisions. The first subdivision contains documents and planning tools issued by the President to give direction in the achievement of specific aspects of NOAA’s mission or to direct the Agency’s attention and resources toward achievement of specific administration policy or global commitments. They include Executive Orders, Presidential Decision and Review Directives, and focused Executive Office strategic planning tools. The second subdivision contains brief descriptions of Department- and NOAA-wide strategic planning documents. The final subdivision contains descriptions of NOAA line office strategic plans which translate legislative mandates and policy directives into a clear path forward to measurable success. These plans are continually subject to revision, making this digest likewise subject to periodic update.


The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Delivers its First Judgment in a Case Involving Underwater Cultural Heritage -- the M/V "Louisa" Case (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines v. Kingdom of Spain (May 28, 2013)

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in its first case concerning underwater cultural heritage (UCH) ruled in favor of Spain in its seizure of M/V "Louisa" (a vessel flagged by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) to enforce Spain's underwater cultural heritage law in the Port of Santa María, Spain. See Judgment and Press Release. ITLOS dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, disagreeing that the M/V Louisa, a vessel flying the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, was detained and arrested in a manner inconsistent with Law of the Sea Convention articles 73 (Enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal State); 87 (Freedom of the high seas); 226 (Investigation of foreign vessels); 227 (Non-discrimination with respect to foreign vessels); and 303 (Archaeological and historical objects found at sea). The Director of NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program, Dr. James Delgado, served as an expert witness on UCH in the case (pro bono and in his personal capacity), testifying to refute claims that the M/V Louisa was engaged in oil and gas exploration under a Marine Scientific Research permit. Dr. Delgado spoke to the importance of UCH, the damage to archaeological resources done by the M/V Louisa's crew, and the cultural and archaeological significance of UCH in the Bay of Cadiz.


NOAA report examines threat to marine environment from wrecks (May 20, 2013)

On May 20, 2013, NOAA presented the U.S. Coast Guard a report on potentially polluting wrecks scattered across the U.S. seafloor that pose a threat to the marine environment and the nation’s coastal and marine resources. The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. The report also provides a chapter on the framework of laws and issues that may apply to particular wrecks and activities directed at them. The International Section of NOAA General Counsel drafted this legal section in consultation with counsel from other agencies.


Comprehensive Digest of Statutory Authorities for NOAA’s International Activities and Engagements (April 24, 2013)

NOAA GC’s International Section has prepared and posted on its website a digest of federal statutes which contain an authorization or direction to the Secretary of Commerce or to the NOAA Administrator to undertake international activities or to engage with foreign governments on matters relating to NOAA’s mission. This digest identifies seventy-three (73) discrete statutes, each containing an international nexus, each in some way bringing NOAA into direct contact with the governments, the regulatory and enforcement agencies, and the legal and scientific experts of other nations for the purpose of conserving and managing the treasures of the natural and cultural environment. Most of the statutes (37) relate to the mission of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); eighteen relate to the National Ocean Service (NOS); eleven relate to the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NWS, NESDIS, and OAR) collectively; and there are seven statutes of a more general purpose, which authorize relevant outreach efforts by unspecified federal agencies. Each is described first in terms of its overall purpose and scope, and then in a series of subparagraphs which identify and discuss NOAA’s specific authority to engage in the international arena. In a number of instances, the digest includes references to Executive Orders and Presidential Decision Directives where the President has exercised discretion given him to delegate international functions and responsibilities to the Secretary of Commerce or directly to NOAA.

This digest will remain a work-in-progress as new laws are enacted and existing laws are amended.


Arctic Council Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Addresses Shipping and Other Environmental Governance Issues at its February 2013 Meeting. (February, 2013)

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) met in Finland 12-14 February 2013 for its last semi-annual meeting before the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting taking place in Kiruna, Sweden on May 15. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum established to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the eight Arctic States. PAME, one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment. At its meeting in February, PAME finalized its second progress report – covering the period 2011-2013 – on implementation of the 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) Report that provides a guide for action by the Arctic Council, Arctic states, and other stakeholders to improve the safety and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of Arctic shipping. PAME also provisionally finalized a draft of the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR) Report, which is the culmination of a four-year project to assess global and regional measures in place for the protection of the Arctic marine environment, identify gaps in and opportunities for strengthening those measures in light of evolving trends, and make recommendations to the Arctic States for addressing those gaps or weaknesses. The AOR Report and its recommendations will be taken up at the May Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.


New Regulations Adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to Improve Energy Efficiency of International Shipping and Reduce Pollution to the Marine Environment Enter into Force (January 1, 2013)

On January 1, 2013, amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) entered into effect. The IMO-adopted amendments seek to further reduce pollution in the marine environment and improve energy efficiency of international shipping. Amendments to MARPOL Annex IV, which regulates ship discharges of sewage, authorize the designation of "Special Areas" where more stringent discharge restrictions for passenger ships may be applied, and designate the Baltic Sea as the first Special Area established under the Annex. The revised MARPOL Annex V, which regulates garbage, establishes a more environmentally protective regime for the discharge of ship-generated garbage by instituting a "reverse list" approach whereby the disposal of such garbage into the sea is banned unless explicitly provided otherwise in the Annex. Exceptions to the general prohibition include food wastes and cargo residues, both of which must meet distance-from-land discharge limits. Unless determined to be harmful to the marine environment, cleaning agents and cargo residues may be discharged. Additional notable amendments to Annex V include discharge requirements for animal carcasses and a safety exception allowing the discharge of fishing gear to protect the marine environment or for the safety of the ship or crew. Finally, Annex V amendments update the regulations governing discharge of garbage in special areas. Amendments to Annex VI, which regulates ship emissions, include the first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector. The amendments require new ships to adopt the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for all ships. Amendments to Annex VI also designate particular Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as the U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area (ECA) to further control emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and particulate matter. The U.S. Caribbean Sea ECA does not take effect until January 1, 2014.

Additional Reference Information: Some of these links are to external sites.


2012


International Maritime Organization Adopts Amendments to Three U.S. Traffic Separation Schemes (November 2012)

The International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee, at its 91st session (26-30 November 2012), adopted amendments to three existing traffic separation schemes off the West Coast of the United States. The amendments to the Santa Barbara Channel and Los Angeles/Long Beach Traffic Separation Schemes are expected to reduce the likelihood of ship strikes with blue, fin and humpback whales, while maintaining and improving maritime safety. The amendments to the San Francisco Traffic Separation Scheme are expected to reduce the risk of marine casualties; reduce the likelihood of ship strikes with cetaceans; and avoid interaction between fishing and commercial vessels.

Additional Reference Information:


U.S. ratifies International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (August 21, 2012)

On August 21, 2012, the United States ratified the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention). The AFS Convention was adopted at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on October 5, 2001, and entered into force September 17, 2008. The United States signed the Convention on December 12, 2002, and the President transmitted it to the Senate for advice and consent on January 23, 2008. The Convention aims to control the adverse effects of anti-fouling systems that impact the marine environment. To mitigate these effects, the Convention bans the application or use of tributyltin (an anti-fouling agent used on the hulls of ships to prevent the growth of marine organisms), calls for its removal from existing anti-fouling systems by January 1, 2008, and establishes a detailed and science-based mechanism to consider future restrictions of harmful substances in anti-fouling systems. NOAA's Office of General Counsel, International Section, played a leadership role in the negotiation and development of the AFS Convention. As of June, 30, 2013, 65 countries representing 82.25 percent of the world's merchant shipping tonnage have ratified the Convention.

Additional Reference Information: Some of these links are to external sites.


United States Signs Pacific Cetaceans Memorandum of Understanding

On September 27, 2012, the United States became the 15th signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (Pacific Cetaceans MOU). The Pacific Cetaceans MOU was negotiated under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), in collaboration with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The MOU serves as a framework for regional cooperation and its implementation is facilitated by the Whale and Dolphin Action Plan, adopted by signatories to the MOU.


Australia and the United States Collaboration to Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the World War II (WWII) Naval Battle of the Coral Sea (May 7, 2012)

On May 7, 2012, Australia’s Heritage Minister, Tony Burke, declared three U.S. warships that sunk during the WWII Battle of the Coral Sea — the USS Lexington, the USS Sims, and the USS Neosho — as protected under the historic preservation law of Australia. The Australian declaration recognizes that these shipwrecks are a tangible link to one of the most dramatic events in Australian and U.S. military history and to one of the most defining moments of WWII. The declaration was made possible in part through collaboration between Australia and the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program. This collaboration was accomplished pursuant to and consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding between the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program and the Heritage Section of Australia’s Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts as well as the United States-Australia Science and Technology Agreement. See also Friends across the Pacific: Shared WWII maritime heritage of Australia and the United States.


United States Signs Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the Pacific Ocean (May 2, 2012)

On May 2, 2012 the United States signed the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the Pacific Ocean. Upon entry into force, the Convention will establish a new regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) for high seas areas of the north Pacific covering fisheries not otherwise covered by existing RFMOs. It complements the new south Pacific RFMO convention to which the United States became a signatory in 2011. Both conventions further U.S. conservation objectives, including protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems from bottom fishing.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Legislation in the 112th Congress to protect the R.M.S. Titanic

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service are working with Congress to protect R.M.S. Titanic from looting and unscientific salvage and to ensure adherence to the scientific rules for research, recovery or salvage that will help preserve R.M.S. Titanic for present and future generations.

April 15, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic on its maiden voyage. Shortly after the Titanic was discovered in 1985, Congress enacted the R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Act of 1986. The 1986 Act called on the Secretary of State to negotiate an international agreement to designate the Titanic as an international maritime memorial to those who lost their lives when she sank in 1912 and to encourage in those negotiations the development of guidelines for conducting research, exploration, and salvage of the Titanic. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Canada negotiated the "Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic," ratified by the U.K. in 2003 and signed by the U.S. in 2004 subject to the enactment of implementing legislation. Legislation providing the Executive branch authority to carry out the obligations of the Agreement is necessary for the U.S. to ratify it. The International Agreement will take effect after at least two countries ratify it.

On March 29, 2012, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) that would amend the 1986 Act to protect the Titanic and its wreck site and ensure planning and conduct of activities directed at the wreck are consistent with applicable law. According to Sen. Kerry, the R.M.S. Titanic Maritime Memorial Preservation Act of 2012 (S. 2279) would: (1) amend the 1986 Act by providing the Department of Commerce with the authority to protect the Titanic wreck site from salvage and intrusive research; (2) provide authority to monitor and enforce specific scientific rules to protect the public’s interest in the wreck site and collection; and (3) propose the establishment of a Titanic Advisory Council, modeled on advisory councils previously established under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.

Representatives from NOAA, the Department of State, and the U.S. Coast Guard have met with staff from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to provide answers to questions and technical drafting assistance on a draft bill to implement the International Agreement.

For further information on NOAA’s role regarding the protection of the Titanic as a maritime memorial, please contact Ole Varmer by email or phone: (202) 482-1402.


Eleventh Circuit held that wreck of 18th century Spanish warship Mercedes and its cargo are immune from arrest under the law of salvage and finds (February 24, 2012).

On February 24, 2012, pursuant to court orders of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Spain took possession of 17 tons of coins estimated to be worth approximately $500 million that had been salvaged from the wrecksite of the 18th century Spanish warship Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes located off of Portugal’s continental shelf. In court, the salvors, a U.S. company named Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME), had claimed rights and ownership under the law of salvage and finds arguing that there was no evidence of a ship and that the salvaged coins were of unknown origin (and thus called their recovery efforts the "Black Swan project"). They also argued in the alternative that even if the recovered coins were from the the shipwreck of the Mercedes, most were privately owned and not entitled to the sovereign immunity enjoyed by the vessel as a government warship. The courts disagreed. In adecision on September 21, 2011, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision of December 22, 2009 that dismissed the in rem admiralty jurisdiction case of OME against the Mercedes. The Eleventh Circuit also upheld the lower court’s order that the OME return all property recovered from the Mercedes to Spain, including coins that may have been privately owned. The court held that the property from the Spanish warship was immune from arrest under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) (28 U.S.C. 1609), that the cargo and property on board the Mercedes were to be treated as part of the vessel, and that comity principles and the need to protect Spain’s sovereign interests favored returning the salvaged property to Spain.


Letter to the IMO Asking for Voluntary Measures to Preserve the R.M.S. Titanic Wreck Site (January, 2012)

The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 2012, is expected to bring an unprecedented amount of commercial shipping traffic to the wreck site. In addition to the numerous cruise ships scheduled to visit the area, several submersible expeditions have been announced that will dive to the wreck site. These activities, along with others that may disturb the wreck site, highlight the need for action to protect the site’s archeological integrity and ensure that it is treated as a maritime memorial to the 1,500 people who perished when the Titanic sank. NOAA, the National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard prepared a letter that U.S. Coast Guard Vice Admiral Brian Salerno sent to to the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on January 25, 2012, requesting the issuance of a non-binding circular advising vessels to refrain from discharging any garbage, waste or effluent in a 10 square mile zone above the wreck. The letter also requests submersibles to avoid landing on the Titanic’s deck, to concentrate any dropweights on ascent in specific areas away from hull portions, and to refrain from placing plaques or other permanent memorials on the wreck (however well-intentioned). On January 31, 2012, the IMO issued a circular alerting member governments of the U.S. request and asking them to take action as appropriate in response (MEPC.1/Circ.779). NOAA in consultation and cooperation with its Federal agency partners will continue to work to protect and preserve the Titanic wrecksite as a maritime memorial. For further information please contact Ole Varmer of the NOAA General Council Office’s International Section by email or phone: (202) 482-1402.


2011


U.S. Priorities for Fishermen, Science, and Stewardship Achieved at 2011 Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

The annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took place in Istanbul, Turkey from November 9-19, 2011. ICCAT is the regional fisheries management organization responsible for international management of Atlantic tuna and tuna-like species. Significant progress was made at the meeting on key U.S. priorities to improve science, management of fish stocks and their ecosystems, monitoring of fishing activities, and compliance with ICCAT requirements. Progress in a number of these areas was achieved through the adoption of U.S.-initiated proposals, including several measures to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, a measure to strengthen the link between scientific advice and management, a measure addressing bycatch reporting requirements, and a measure for the conservation of silky sharks. The U.S. delegation was also able to preserve the current U.S. quota for North Atlantic swordfish, and ICCAT agreed to improved management measures for West African fisheries of bigeye and yellowfin tuna, which travel across the Atlantic Ocean and are important to U.S. recreational and commercial fishers. Two subsidiary bodies of the Commission, both chaired by U.S. delegates, conducted in-depth reviews of member and non-member compliance and identified 11 countries for non-compliance with ICCAT rules. ICCAT also agreed on a process to advance consideration of amending the ICCAT Convention to bring its provisions more closely in line with modern international fisheries management principles.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Implementing the Agreement to Protect RMS Titanic Wreck Site (August, 2011)

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and other interested agencies are working with Congress to protect R.M.S. Titanic from looting and unwanted salvage and to ensure adherence to the scientific rules for research, recovery or salvage that will help preserve R.M.S. Titanic for present and future generations. In particular, we are working with Congress to: 1) implement the International Agreement including the recognition of the wreck as a maritime memorial and provide the authority to ensure that it continues to be respected as the resting place of those who lost their lives in its sinking; 2) prohibit potentially harmful activities directed at R.M.S. Titanic; 3) establish a permitting system to manage the research, exploration, recovery and salvage of R.M.S. Titanic; 4) require the application of current professional standards of scientific and archaeological resource management to ensure thatR.M.S. Titanic is properly preserved and conserved for future generations; and 5) create an Advisory Council to make recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce regarding the protection and long-term management of the wreck-site as well as the conservation and curation of any artifacts recovered.

For further information please contact Ole Varmer by email or phone: (202) 482-1402.


Court awards Titanic collection to RMS Titanic Inc. subject to covenants and conditions of conservation and curation consistent with preservation standards (August 15, 2011).

On August 15, 2011, the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, signed an Order granting R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. ("RMST") title to the artifacts recovered in the 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2004 salvage expeditions subject to certain specified covenants and conditions. The covenants and conditions were initially proposed by RMST, negotiated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of State through the Department of Justice (DOJ), and then finalized by the court. The covenants and conditions ensure that the collection of artifacts recovered from Titanic will be conserved and curated consistent with current international and U.S. historic preservation standards. Under the covenants and conditions, NOAA represents the public interest in Titanic and has authority to enforce their terms in court proceedings.


Ban on Use or Carriage of Heavy Grade Oils on Ships in the Antarctic (August 1, 2011)

On August 1, 2011, an amendment to Annex I (see pp. 1-2 of Annex 10; Excerpt) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to ban the use or carriage of heavy grade oils (HGOs) by vessels in Antarctic waters (south of 60 deg. south latitude) entered into force. The amendment was adopted on March 26, 2010 at the 60th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and with its entry into force, the ban will increase protection of the ocean and marine environment in the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean from potential oil spills or releases that could devastate the ecologically pristine and vulnerable environment. In recent years there has been a marked increase of shipping traffic in the region, primarily by larger vessels such as cruise ships and fishing vessels that use HGOs. A spill of HGOs in the fragile, remote, and harsh climate of the Antarctic could be environmentally devastating as well as extremely difficult and costly to remediate. In 2005, the Antarctic Treaty Parties requested that the IMO take steps to restrict the use of HGOs in Antarctic waters because of the high risk of fuel release in the Antarctic Treaty Area due to conditions such as icebergs, sea and ice, uncharted waters and potentially disastrous environmental impacts.


Secretary Locke certifies that Iceland's whaling undermines the International Whaling Commission (July 19, 2011)

On July 19, 2011, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified to President Obama, pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the U.S. Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, that Iceland’s commercial whaling and international trade in fin whale products is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and urged the Government of Iceland to cease permitting commercial whaling. Iceland killed 273 endangered fin whales in 2009 and 2010. Iceland has not harvested any fin whales so far in 2011, but the government continues to permit whaling and has issued a whale quota for the 2011 season. Iceland has continued to harvest minke whales in 2011. The IWC has in place a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Under the Pelly Amendment, the Secretary of Commerce certifies to the President that "nationals of a foreign country . . . are conducting fishing operations in a manner or under circumstances which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program."

In his letter, Secretary Locke recommended that the President take a number of actions, including:

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


IMO Approves Treaty Amendments to Further Reduce Pollution to the Marine Environment (July 15, 2011)

On July 15, 2011, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the UN, adopted amendments to Annexes IV, V, and VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (otherwise known as MARPOL). Amendments to Annex IV (which regulates ship discharges of sewage) authorize the designation of "Special Areas" where more stringent discharge restrictions for passenger ships may be applied, and designate the Baltic Sea as the first Special Area established under Annex IV. The revised Annex V establishes a more environmentally protective regime for the discharge of ship-generated garbage by instituting a "reverse list" approach whereby the disposal of such garbage into the sea is banned unless otherwise explicitly allowed. Exceptions to the general prohibition include food wastes and cargo residues, both of which must meet distance-from-land discharge limits. Unless determined to the harmful to the marine environment, cleaning agents may be discharged. Additional notable amendments to Annex V include discharge requirements for animal carcasses and a safety exception allowing the discharge of fishing gear to protect the marine environment or for the safety of the ship or crew. Finally, Annex V amendments update the regulations governing discharge of garbage in special areas. MEPC adopted two significant amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (which regulates air pollution from ships). First, MEPC adopted the first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector. The amendment requires new ships to adopt the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for all ships. The second set of amendments designate particular Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as an emission control area. The treaty amendments are expected to enter into force in January 2013 and the emission control area is scheduled to take effect 12 months thereafter. Additionally, the MEPC agreed to designate the Strait of Bonifacio as the thirteenth marine area to be designated a particularly sensitive sea area (PSSA). This is the first PSSA designation since the IMO designated Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as a PSSA in 2008.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


U.S. joins more than 50 nations in adopting recommendations on measures to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (July 15, 2011)

Delegates from more than fifty nations representing members of all five tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) met in La Jolla, California from July 11-14. Among the recommendations adopted by the meeting were three intended to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, all of which reflect key U.S. priorities. The first recommendation calls on each of the five tuna RFMOs to move toward the adoption of measures to allow for the cross-listing of fishing vessels that have been included on the IUU vessel list of another tuna RFMO, taking into account a set of principles for cross-listing proposed by the United States. Cross-listing measures will make it more difficult for an IUU vessel previously listed by only one RFMO to avoid detection and enforcement actions by moving to another region. This outcome was a key goal for the NOAA-led U.S. delegation. Participants also adopted a recommendation that calls on the five tuna RFMOs to continue work on the development of a consolidated list of authorized fishing vessels, including through the development of unique vessel identifiers for such vessels. Finally, the meeting participants recommended continuing efforts to build the capacity of developing States to implement monitoring, control and surveillance measures, particularly in the area of port State measures and catch documentation schemes, both important tools in combating IUU fishing. Recommendations of the meeting will inform negotiations for legally binding measures within each of the five tuna RFMOs.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


U.S. Proposes Additional International Environmental Protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (March 11, 2011).

On March 11, 2011, the U.S. submitted to the International Maritime Organization a proposal to provide additional environmental protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal expands the protections within the Area to be Avoided (ATBA) off the coast of Washington State so that they apply to all vessels, other than fishing or research vessels, of 400 gross tons and above and all vessels required to prepare oil and hazardous substance discharge response plans under section 311(j) of the Clean Water Act. In effect, the proposal expands the vessel population to which the existing ATBA applies from vessels larger than 1600 gross tons to vessels larger than 400 gross tons and extends it to all vessels and barges that carry oil or hazardous materials in bulk as cargo or cargo residue. These vessels may carry substantial amounts of bunker fuel which, if spilled, could have a significant adverse impact on the sensitive ecological resources of the sanctuary. Application of the ATBA to this additional category of ships would move them farther offshore, thus increasing the time available to respond to an accident and minimizing any discharge’s impact on the Sanctuary. Roughly speaking, the ATBA comprises the marine area from the coastline of the Sanctuary seaward 25 nautical miles. A map depicting the ATBA is available for download.


Arctic Council Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Makes Progress at its February 2011 Meeting. (February, 2011)

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) met in Norway from 15-17 February 2011 for its last semi-annual meeting before the 2011 Arctic Council Ministerial meeting taking place in Nuuk, Greenland in May. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum established to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States. PAME, one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment. At its meetings in February, PAME finalized a progress report on implementation of the 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (ASMA) that provides a guide for action by the Arctic Council, Arctic states, and others to improve the safety and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of Arctic shipping. PAME also reviewed the first of two phases of a report on the environmental risks associated with the use and carriage of heavy fuel oils (HFO) by vessels in the Arctic and approved a project proposal to identify options that Arctic states might pursue for supplementing or strengthening international regulations that address such risks. Finally, PAME provisionally approved the first phase of the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR), a two-phased project that will review global and regional measures that are in place for the protection of the Arctic marine environment, identify any gaps or weaknesses in light of evolving trends, and make recommendations to the Arctic states for addressing those gaps or weaknesses. PAME’s next meeting will take place in September 2011.


NOAA Rule for the Identification and Certification of Nations whose Vessels are Engaged in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Bycatch of Protected Living Marine Resources (January 12, 2011)

On January 12, 2011, NOAA published a final rule to implement identification and certification provisions of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act (Moratorium Protection Act) to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and bycatch of protected living marine resources (PLMRs). In January 2011, NOAA also submitted a biennial report to Congress on the implementation of the Moratorium Protection Act. The Moratorium Protection Act requires the Secretary of Commerce to identify in a biennial report to Congress those foreign nations whose fishing vessels are engaged in IUU fishing or fishing activities or practices that result in bycatch of PLMRs. The Moratorium Protection Act also requires the establishment of procedures to certify whether appropriate corrective actions have been taken to address IUU fishing or bycatch of PLMRs by fishing vessels of those nations. Under the Moratorium Protection Act, identified nations that are not positively certified by the Secretary of Commerce could be subject to prohibitions on the importation of certain fisheries products into the United States and other measures, including limitations on port access under the High Seas Driftnet Fisheries Enforcement Act. In the January 2011 biennial report to Congress, NOAA identified six nations (Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela) whose fishing vessels engaged in IUU fishing in 2009 and/or 2010. In this report, NOAA also announced that the six nations identified for IUU fishing in NOAA’s 2009 biennial report to Congress (China, France, Italy, Libya, Panama, and Tunisia) have received a positive certification as a result of the actions they have taken to address the IUU fishing at issue, including penalties to the vessels in question or the adoption of laws to strengthen control of their fishing fleets.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


2010


Cooperation on Underwater Cultural Heritage between Spain and U.S. NOAA (December 1, 2010)

On December 1, 2010, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Spain’s Ministry of Culture signed a Memorandum of Understanding [English] [Spanish] outlining a framework to jointly identify, protect, manage and preserve underwater cultural resources of mutual interest within their respective areas of responsibility. The arrangement calls for the exchange of information on actual or potential identification and location of underwater cultural resources, research and archeological examination of the resources, provision of information concerning potential or actual unauthorized disturbances of underwater cultural resources, cooperation with nongovernmental organizations engaged in historical or archeological programs compatible with the objectives of the arrangement, and preparation and dissemination of educational and outreach materials. For more information see the press release.


Wider Caribbean LBA Protocol Enters Into Force (October 14, 2010)

On October 14, 2010, the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBA Protocol) to the Cartagena Convention entered into force with its ratification by the Bahamas. The LBA Protocol is a wider Caribbean regional framework agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Regional Seas Program of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Land-based sources of marine pollution are estimated to account for 70 to 90 percent of the pollution entering the marine environment. Among the most critical land-based sources of marine pollution in the Caribbean are domestic wastewater and agricultural non-point source runoff. Such pollution contributes to the degradation of coral reefs and commercial fisheries, negatively affects regional economies, and endangers public health, recreation, and tourism throughout the region. The Protocol and its Annexes list priority source categories, activities, and associated contaminants that affect the Wider Caribbean Region, and set forth factors that Parties will be required to apply in determining prevention, reduction, and control strategies to manage land-based sources of pollution. In particular, the Parties are required to ensure that domestic wastewater discharges meet specific effluent limitations, and to develop plans for the prevention and reduction of agricultural non-point source pollution. The Protocol is expected to raise standards for treating domestic wastewater throughout the region to levels close to those already in place in the United States. In addition to the United States, eight countries are parties to the LBA Protocol: Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Belize, Saint Lucia, France (due to its overseas Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe), Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, and the Bahamas.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


International Maritime Organization Approves Treaty Amendments to Further Reduce Vessel Discharges of Garbage into the Marine Environment (October 1, 2010).

On October 1, 2010, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the UN, approved treaty amendments supported that will further limit the discharge of garbage into the sea from ships. The result will translate into greater environmental protection and the global reduction of marine debris while still allowing ships to operate in a safe and efficient manner. The amendments to Annex V of the International Convention of the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (known as MARPOL) were the culmination of a multi-year review, the first since Annex V entered into force in 1998. The key change is that the amendments institute a reverse-list approach whereby no discharges of any garbage are permitted unless otherwise explicitly allowed. Additionally, the amendments allow for the accidental loss of fishing gear and fishing gear that is intentionally discharged for the safety of the vessel, crew or the marine environment but require fishermen to keep records of such losses and to make a report when a loss has a significant impact on the marine environment. If adopted by the Marine Environmental Protection Committee at its next session in July 2011, the treaty amendments will likely enter into force in July 2012.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument Inscribed as World Heritage Site (July 30, 2010)

On July 30, 2010, at its annual meeting in Brazil, the World Heritage Committee added the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the prestigious United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. The remote chain of atolls and surrounding waters is the first U.S. site to be added to the World Heritage list in 15 years and is the nation’s first site designated for its outstanding value as both a natural and cultural heritage site. In June 2010, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the U.S. received evaluations from the UNESCO Advisory Bodies, recommending the Monument as a mixed cultural and natural heritage site for inscription on the World Heritage List. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) evaluationwas of the cultural heritage component of the Monument while the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) evaluation was of the natural heritage component. To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of ten selection criteria. The Advisory Bodies determined that the Monument satisfied two cultural heritage criteria (iii and vi) and three natural heritage criteria (viii, ix and x). In a press release, Dr. Lubchenco, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, recognized that "[a]s the nation’s first primarily marine World Heritage Site, Papahānaumokuākea helps forward global recognition of the critical heritage values of the sea and global understanding of the importance of protecting our oceans."


2009


U.S. Signs Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (November 22, 2009)

On November 22, 2009, the United States became a signatory to a new treaty to require stronger controls on vessels carrying fish into the world’s ports. The treaty, entitled the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, was negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It breaks new ground as the first global treaty focused specifically on addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. It is designed to combat fishing through, inter alia, establishing minimum standards for the conduct of fishing vessel inspections and inspector training by port States; requiring denial of port entry and/or access to port services to vessels that have been engaged in IUU fishing or fishing-related activities; and requiring Parties to the agreement to investigate and take appropriate enforcement action in response to IUU activity detected during an inspection. In an FAO press release, Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Fisheries Department, noted "This is the most significant international treaty dealing with fisheries since the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement." By recognizing the key role that port States play in the movement of IUU fish around the world, and the necessity for international cooperation and information sharing, this treaty represents a significant step forward in the global effort to combat IUU fishing.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


U.S. Accession to the Law of the Sea Convention (September 4, 2009)

The Obama Administration supports U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention. On September 4, 2009, in an article written for the Seattle Times, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, and Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen jointly stated that they strongly support ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention, citing the benefits of being able to better "address the changing realities of the global maritime environment" and to preserve "our ability to protect our domestic interests, including our extended continental shelf claims."

In a letter to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dated October 16, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered strong support for U.S. accession to the Convention, noting that as the country with the largest Exclusive Economic Zone, and one of the largest continental shelves, the United States stands more to gain from this treaty in terms of economic and resource rights than any other country. Secretary Clinton reiterated support for U.S. accession to the Convention on February 24, 2010, in testimony before the Committee, mentioning strong endorsement from the Department of Defense 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review for national security reasons, as well as economic and environmental benefits.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention on September 27 and October 4, 2007. On October 31, 2007, by a vote of 17-4, the Committee voted in support of U.S. accession. On December 19, 2007, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee submitted its report and the resolution for advice and consent to the full Senate. This resolution was not brought to a vote of the full Senate before the end of the 110th Congress. Thus, a new resolution will have to be favorably voted upon by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before the full Senate may take action.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Protocol of Amendments to the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) (May 19, 2009)

On May 19, 2009, President Obama ratified and confirmed the Protocol of Amendments to the Convention on the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). The President’s signature on the IHO Amendments will result in the implementation of a more flexible, efficient, and visible organization that will better serve important U.S. interests, including commercial shipping and scientific research. The IHO facilitates cooperation among nations in the development of international survey standards, and NOAA surveys are conducted consistent with international standards and practice. The survey and mapping of the seabed are essential to delineating the outer limits of that portion of the continental shelf that extends beyond the outer limit of the U.S. 200 nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) consistent with Article 76 of the LOSC. Accurate charts and maps of our offshore maritime zones are indispensable tools to assuring safe and navigation, exploring, developing, managing, and preserving our natural and cultural resources, establishing a baseline for understanding how climate change is affecting our world, and protecting the marine environment and our national security.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


2008


The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (September 17, 2008)

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships entered into force on September 17, 2008. Adopted under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization on October 5, 2001, the AFS Convention was signed by the United States on December 12, 2002, and President Bush transmitted it to the Senate for its advice and consent on January 23, 2008. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported a proposed resolution of ratification with two declarations on July 29, 2008, and the full Senate approved the proposed resolution of ratification on September 26, 2008. The Convention, which NOAA played an important role in negotiating and developing, bans the application or use of tributyltin (an anti-fouling agent used on the hulls of ships to prevent the growth of marine organisms), calls for its removal from existing anti-fouling systems by January 1, 2008, and establishes a detailed and science-based framework for considering future restrictions on antifouling systems. Anti-fouling systems are necessary to increase vessel fuel efficiency and minimize the transport of hull-borne species but such systems can also have an adverse impact on the marine environment. In the early days of shipping, ships’ hulls were coated with lime and later arsenic. These substances slowly leached out to kill marine organisms that had attached themselves to the hulls. However, they persisted in seawater damaging the marine environment. The Administration’s proposed implementing legislation, a revision and replacement of the Organotin Anti-Fouling Paint Control Act of 1988, was submitted to Congress by EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson on February 14, 2008. As of October 1, 2008, the Convention has been ratified by 34 countries, with a combined 52.81 percent of world merchant shipping tonnage.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 (July 21, 2008)

On July 21, 2008, President Bush signed into law H.R. 802, the "Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008." The President’s signature allows the U.S. to become a Party to Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Under MARPOL Annex VI, which addresses vessel air pollution, large diesel-powered, ocean-going vessels such as container ships, tankers, cruise ships and bulk carriers must limit their emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and use cleaner-burning fuels to reduce their sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. Annex VI Parties may also designate areas off their coasts -- called SO2 emission control areas or SECAS -- where more stringent fuel controls apply. GCIL played an important role in negotiating MARPOL Annex VI, which entered into force in May 2005.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


2007


Proposed Legislation to Implement Agreement to Protect RMS Titanic Wreck Site (July 24, 2007)

On July 24, 2007, the U.S. Department of State transmitted to Congress proposed legislation to implement an international agreement with the United Kingdom, Canada and France adopted to increase protection of the RMS Titanic and its wreck site. Concerted action by the four nations most closely associated with the RMS Titanic would effectively foreclose financing for, and the technical ability to conduct, unregulated salvage and other potentially harmful activities.

If enacted, the proposed legislation will implement the international agreement called for by Congress in the RMS Titanic Maritime Memorial Act of 1986 (Titanic Memorial Act). Consistent with the Titanic Memorial Act and with the Administration’s U.S. Ocean Action Plan (2004), the international agreement and the proposed legislation designates the RMS Titanic wreck site as an international maritime memorial to those who lost their lives in its tragic sinking and puts in place several other important measures to protect the scientific, cultural and historical significance of the wreck site.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument Designated "In Principle" as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area by the International Maritime Organization (July 13, 2007)

On July 13, 2007, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, an area that includes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, was designated "in principle" as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a Specialized Agency of the United Nations. The U.S. proposal for PSSA designation was submitted in April 2007 for consideration by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee at its July meeting. PSSA designation has been granted to only ten (10) marine areas globally, including the marine areas around the Florida Keys, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Galapagos. The proposed area of the PSSA is coterminous with the Marine National Monument which was established by President Bush in June 2006. It encompasses a 1,200-mile stretch of coral islands, seamounts, banks, and shoals; is home to more than 7,000 marine species; and contains 4,500 square miles of coral reefs.

Ship traffic has been identified as one of the primary anthropogenic threats to the vulnerable and valuable natural and cultural resources of the area. PSSA designation will augment domestic protective measures by alerting international mariners to exercise extreme caution when navigating through the area. Additionally, as part of the PSSA designation process, in July 2007 the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation approved U.S proposals for the associated protective measures (APMs) of: (1) the expansion and amendment of the six existing recommendatory Areas to be Avoided (ATBAs) in the area, which would enlarge the class of vessels to which they apply and augment the geographic scope of these areas as well as add new ATBAs around Kure and Midway atolls; and (2) the establishment of a ship reporting system for vessels transiting the Monument, which is mandatory for ships entering or departing a U.S. port or place and recommendatory for other ships. The APMs will be considered for final adoption by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee in October 2007 and may then be implemented as early as six months thereafter (April/May 2008). The PSSA will be considered for final designation by the MEPC in April 2008 and is effective immediately upon final designation.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


Dominican Republic and the United States Partner in Historic Conservation Effort to Protect Endangered Humpback Whales (April 2, 2007)

The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and NOAA have established the world’s first sister sanctuary linkage protecting an endangered migratory marine mammal species on both ends of its range. The Santuario de Mamíferos Marinos de la República Dominicana (SMMRD­Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic) and NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) off the coast of Massachusetts, two marine protected areas 3,000 miles apart, provide critical support for the same humpback whale population (of around 900 whales), which spend spring and summer in the rich feeding grounds of Stellwagen Bank before heading south to the warmer waters of the Dominican Republic in late fall to mate and give birth to their young. The sister sanctuary agreement was designed to enhance coordination in management efforts between the two sanctuaries and help improve humpback whale recovery in the North Atlantic.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


LBA Protocol Transmitted to Senate (February 20, 2007)

The Administration recently transmitted for U.S. Senate advice and consent the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBA Protocol) to the Cartagena Convention, which is a regional framework agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Regional Seas Program of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Land-based sources of marine pollution are estimated to account for 70 to 90 percent of the pollution entering the marine environment. Among the most critical land-based sources of marine pollution in the Caribbean are domestic wastewater and agricultural non-point source runoff. Such pollution contributes to the degradation of coral reefs and commercial fisheries, negatively affects regional economies, and endangers public health, recreation, and tourism throughout the region. The Protocol and its Annexes list priority source categories, activities, and associated contaminants that affect the Wider Caribbean Region, and set forth factors that Parties will be required to apply in determining prevention, reduction, and control strategies to manage land-based sources of pollution. In particular, the Parties are required to ensure that domestic wastewater discharges meet specific effluent limitations, and to develop plans for the prevention and reduction of agricultural non-point source pollution. The Protocol is expected to raise standards for treating domestic wastewater throughout the region to levels close to those already in place in the United States. GCIL was an active member of the U.S. delegation throughout the negotiation of this Protocol.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


2006


The Contracting Parties to the London Protocol Approve an Amendment to Regulate Ocean Fertilization and Other Marine Geo-Engineering Activities (October 18, 2013).

On October 18, 2013, those Contracting Parties to the London Protocol (LP) present at the weeklong annual meeting of the Parties unanimously approved an amendment to regulate ocean fertilization as well as other marine geo-engineering activities.  Resolution LP.4(8).  The LP Parties were motivated, at least in part, by an ocean fertilization incident that occurred in July 2012 when a Canadian-flagged vessel dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate and 20 tons of iron oxide into the northern Pacific Ocean just beyond the Canadian EEZ, apparently to stimulate fish stocks and potentially to sequester carbon.  The U.S. position on the amendment was that it should not be adopted because the definition of marine geo-engineering it contained was overly broad and encompassing. The U.S. was of the view that the amendment should be limited to ocean fertilization and should not contemplate other, yet-to-be-identified forms of marine geo-engineering.  Although LP parties Japan and Germany and LP non-parties Russia and Argentina also sought to restrict the scope of the definition of marine geo-engineering, all LP Parties present at the annual meeting ultimately supported the amendment.  The EU countries, in particular, led the advocacy for the amendment, and China also voiced strong support.  The amendment provides for regulation of new forms of marine geo-engineering by means of the listing of assessed techniques in a new LP annex, which can be revised much more rapidly than the LP itself.  The annex is included with the amendment.  Ocean fertilization is currently the only marine geo-engineering activity listed in this new LP annex.  The amendment will enter into force 60 days after two thirds of the LP Parties have deposited an instrument of acceptance of the amendment with International Maritime Organization.  (The London Protocol currently has 43 Parties.)

IMO Press Release (18 October 2013)


NOAA Confirms Wreck is 19th Century U.S. Coast Survey Steamer Robert J. Walker (August 27, 2013)

More than 153 years after it was lost in a violent collision at sea, government and university maritime archaeologists have identified the wreck of the ship Robert J. Walker, a steamer that served in the U.S. Coast Survey, a predecessor agency of NOAA. NOAA Press Release. The U.S. Coast Survey is NOAA's oldest predecessor organization, established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807 to survey the coast and produce the nation's nautical charts. In 1860, as the Civil War approached, the Coast Survey redoubled efforts to produce surveys of harbors strategically important to the war effort along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Twenty of the sixty-six crew members died when the Walker sank in rough seas in the early morning hours of June 21, 1860, ten miles off Absecon Inlet on the New Jersey coast. The sinking was the largest single loss of life in the history of the Coast Survey and its successor agency, NOAA. The Walker wreck site initially was discovered in the 1970s by a commercial fisherman. The wreck's identity has been a mystery despite being regularly explored by divers. Resting 85 feet underwater, the vessel's identity was confirmed in June as part of a private-public collaboration that included research provided by New Jersey wreck divers; Joyce Steinmetz, a maritime archaeology student at East Carolina University; and retired NOAA Corps Capt. Albert Theberge, chief of reference for the NOAA Central Library. Observations from NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program's diving team confirmed the identity of the Walker wreck. See MHP Webpage. NOAA was able to confirm the identity of the Walker using various criteria, including the ship's unique paddlewheel flanges. Since then, the International and Oceans and Coasts Sections of NOAA GC have assisted in identifying the laws and policies that apply to U.S. Government vessels and property, and are of the view that they apply to the Walker. Additional, as a sovereign immune vessel, the Walker it is immune from arrest under the maritime law of salvage. See FAQs.


Digest of Policy Drivers for NOAA’s International Engagement (August 1, 2013).

The International Section has prepared a digest of Digest of Policy Drivers. The directives and planning documents described in the digest offer a set of precise roadmaps pointing the way toward accomplishment of various aspects of NOAA’s mission and goals, particularly with reference to NOAA’s international engagements. The digest has three subdivisions. The first subdivision contains documents and planning tools issued by the President to give direction in the achievement of specific aspects of NOAA’s mission or to direct the Agency’s attention and resources toward achievement of specific administration policy or global commitments. They include Executive Orders, Presidential Decision and Review Directives, and focused Executive Office strategic planning tools. The second subdivision contains brief descriptions of Department- and NOAA-wide strategic planning documents. The final subdivision contains descriptions of NOAA line office strategic plans which translate legislative mandates and policy directives into a clear path forward to measurable success. These plans are continually subject to revision, making this digest likewise subject to periodic update.


The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Delivers its First Judgment in a Case Involving Underwater Cultural Heritage -- the M/V "Louisa" Case (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines v. Kingdom of Spain (May 28, 2013)

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in its first case concerning underwater cultural heritage (UCH) ruled in favor of Spain in its seizure of M/V "Louisa" (a vessel flagged by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) to enforce Spain's underwater cultural heritage law in the Port of Santa María, Spain. See Judgment and Press Release. ITLOS dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, disagreeing that the M/V Louisa, a vessel flying the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, was detained and arrested in a manner inconsistent with Law of the Sea Convention articles 73 (Enforcement of laws and regulations of the coastal State); 87 (Freedom of the high seas); 226 (Investigation of foreign vessels); 227 (Non-discrimination with respect to foreign vessels); and 303 (Archaeological and historical objects found at sea). The Director of NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program, Dr. James Delgado, served as an expert witness on UCH in the case (pro bono and in his personal capacity), testifying to refute claims that the M/V Louisa was engaged in oil and gas exploration under a Marine Scientific Research permit. Dr. Delgado spoke to the importance of UCH, the damage to archaeological resources done by the M/V Louisa's crew, and the cultural and archaeological significance of UCH in the Bay of Cadiz.


NOAA report examines threat to marine environment from wrecks (May 20, 2013)

On May 20, 2013, NOAA presented the U.S. Coast Guard a report on potentially polluting wrecks scattered across the U.S. seafloor that pose a threat to the marine environment and the nation’s coastal and marine resources. The report, part of NOAA’s Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, identifies the location and nature of potential sources of oil pollution from sunken vessels. The report also provides a chapter on the framework of laws and issues that may apply to particular wrecks and activities directed at them. The International Section of NOAA General Counsel drafted this legal section in consultation with counsel from other agencies.


Comprehensive Digest of Statutory Authorities for NOAA’s International Activities and Engagements (April 24, 2013)

NOAA GC’s International Section has prepared and posted on its website a digest of federal statutes which contain an authorization or direction to the Secretary of Commerce or to the NOAA Administrator to undertake international activities or to engage with foreign governments on matters relating to NOAA’s mission. This digest identifies seventy-three (73) discrete statutes, each containing an international nexus, each in some way bringing NOAA into direct contact with the governments, the regulatory and enforcement agencies, and the legal and scientific experts of other nations for the purpose of conserving and managing the treasures of the natural and cultural environment. Most of the statutes (37) relate to the mission of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); eighteen relate to the National Ocean Service (NOS); eleven relate to the National Weather Service, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NWS, NESDIS, and OAR) collectively; and there are seven statutes of a more general purpose, which authorize relevant outreach efforts by unspecified federal agencies. Each is described first in terms of its overall purpose and scope, and then in a series of subparagraphs which identify and discuss NOAA’s specific authority to engage in the international arena. In a number of instances, the digest includes references to Executive Orders and Presidential Decision Directives where the President has exercised discretion given him to delegate international functions and responsibilities to the Secretary of Commerce or directly to NOAA.

This digest will remain a work-in-progress as new laws are enacted and existing laws are amended.


Arctic Council Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Addresses Shipping and Other Environmental Governance Issues at its February 2013 Meeting. (February, 2013)

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) met in Finland 12-14 February 2013 for its last semi-annual meeting before the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting taking place in Kiruna, Sweden on May 15. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum established to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the eight Arctic States. PAME, one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment. At its meeting in February, PAME finalized its second progress report – covering the period 2011-2013 – on implementation of the 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) Report that provides a guide for action by the Arctic Council, Arctic states, and other stakeholders to improve the safety and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of Arctic shipping. PAME also provisionally finalized a draft of the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR) Report, which is the culmination of a four-year project to assess global and regional measures in place for the protection of the Arctic marine environment, identify gaps in and opportunities for strengthening those measures in light of evolving trends, and make recommendations to the Arctic States for addressing those gaps or weaknesses. The AOR Report and its recommendations will be taken up at the May Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.


New Regulations Adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to Improve Energy Efficiency of International Shipping and Reduce Pollution to the Marine Environment Enter into Force (January 1, 2013)

On January 1, 2013, amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) entered into effect. The IMO-adopted amendments seek to further reduce pollution in the marine environment and improve energy efficiency of international shipping. Amendments to MARPOL Annex IV, which regulates ship discharges of sewage, authorize the designation of "Special Areas" where more stringent discharge restrictions for passenger ships may be applied, and designate the Baltic Sea as the first Special Area established under the Annex. The revised MARPOL Annex V, which regulates garbage, establishes a more environmentally protective regime for the discharge of ship-generated garbage by instituting a "reverse list" approach whereby the disposal of such garbage into the sea is banned unless explicitly provided otherwise in the Annex. Exceptions to the general prohibition include food wastes and cargo residues, both of which must meet distance-from-land discharge limits. Unless determined to be harmful to the marine environment, cleaning agents and cargo residues may be discharged. Additional notable amendments to Annex V include discharge requirements for animal carcasses and a safety exception allowing the discharge of fishing gear to protect the marine environment or for the safety of the ship or crew. Finally, Annex V amendments update the regulations governing discharge of garbage in special areas. Amendments to Annex VI, which regulates ship emissions, include the first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector. The amendments require new ships to adopt the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for all ships. Amendments to Annex VI also designate particular Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as the U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area (ECA) to further control emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, and particulate matter. The U.S. Caribbean Sea ECA does not take effect until January 1, 2014.

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 Last updated June 9, 2018