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Law of the Sea treaty: Ecuador signs on

Alaska Dispatch

Ecuador is the latest country to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty, making the U.S. the only coastal nation, and one of only 34 nations in the world, that has not ratified the treaty, according to a press release sent out Friday by the American Sovereignty Campaign.

The treaty, formally called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, sets rules for the ownership of oceans, including international waterways, access to sub-sea resources, and marine boundaries.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been attempting to round up GOP support for the treaty for years, but has seen push-back from Republican congressional leaders. The ratification was most recently blocked in July by a group of 34 senators.

“No international organization owns the seas," they wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "We are confident that our nation will continue to protect its navigational freedom, valid territorial claims and other maritime rights."

Proponents of the treaty believe that the U.S. will lose out on both environmental protections and potential resources if the treaty is not ratified. As nations clamor for the rights to untapped oil and natural gas beneath the ocean floor, the treaty will prove to be pivotal: The Law of the Sea can extend the rights of nations looking to claim sub-sea resources, as long as they can prove to the U.N. that the continental shelf -- the underwater portion of the continent -- extends to the desired area.

And the Arctic, with its large continental shelf, could be a huge win for whichever nation claims it owns the area. Russia has already mapped the ocean floor and submitted Arctic claims, and Canada is working on it. The U.S. will not be able to legally dispute their claims to ownership if it doesn’t ratify the treaty.

Learn more about the Law of the Sea, here.