Significant Issues and Developments for 2007


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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.