Us On International Fishing Essay, Research Paper
US action on International Fishing Disputes
While the United Nations has passed several resolutions and treaties regarding fisheries, the United States has typically refused to ratify such measurers. UNCLOS III, the most comprehensive attempt at a unified body of maritime law, has yet to be given the consent of the Senate. The sticking provisions of this treaty primarily deal with provisions for deep-sea mineral rights. Many US companies have already begun exploration in deep-sea minerals and the UN convention calls for deep-sea minerals to be the common heritage of mankind . This, along with provisions for the required transfer of marine technology, have prompted Senator Helms (Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee) to oppose this treaty and effectively kill it.
While the US may reject certain provisions of UNCLOS III, they did rush to utilize the provisions of the 200 mile EEZ before the treaty was officially adopted. In 1976 Congress adopted a bill known as the Magnuson Act. This piece of legislation made full use of the concept of exclusive economic zones extending 200 miles to sea. The intent of the law was to bring fisheries within that area back into the exclusive domain of US fishermen. This piece of legislation has been the hinge-pin in most US fisheries regulations since 76 , and was most recently renewed in 1996.
Analysis of US Behavior
If the United States is often the driving force behind the proposal of many treaties such as UNCLOS III, why does the US fail to ratify them? In short, there is not a single area to lay blame. Procedural rules, American ideology, and the relatively increasing autonomy of US legislators all contribute to making passage of comprehensive treaties extremely difficult.
There is a significant procedural and political disconnect between the executive branch which negotiates treaties, and the Senate which ratifies them. The executive branch, here primarily the White House and State Department, have to consider a different group of concerns than the Senate.
Senators, come from regions that are much more ideologically divergent than the country as a whole. This leads to a problem, while the national media may not particularly care if 100 lobster fishermen in Maine are upset, local news outlets often do. In this sense, any treaty that has an adverse effect on a small group of citizens is magnified at the state level. A group of 100 voting constituents means a lot in State-wide senate races, where in the national ring their influence is often diluted among the other millions of people who will more than likely not share such a localized concern. In this atmosphere, Senators are much more likely to oppose a bill that has a negative effect on any of their constituents than the executive branch.
Interest groups an NGO s will play a role with Senators but it varies depending on what position the Senator holds and how heavy a presence the NGO or interest group holds in the Senator s home state. If the interest group has a significant constituency within the Senators home state then they will exert more influence over the decisions the Senator makes. However, large interest group or NGO influence can sometimes be negated or at least diminished depending on the Senators position. Most state electorates are very reluctant to toss out a Senator in charge of a major committee or leadership position regardless of what a national group like Green-peace or the National Fisheries Alliance say.
When considering the Senate, one must also consider the often strange and constantly evolving procedural rules. While a treaty is navigating through the dark channels of the various Senate committees and sub-committees, it may disappear and never be seen again. Senator Helms is particularly gifted at making treaties vanish while navigating the Foreign Relations Committee. Because of the rules and other issues of Senatorial courtesy; a treaty can, and often is, killed by a single member or small group in the Senate that would not be able to stop it in an open floor vote. These measures make obtaining the true consensus of the Senate an extremely difficult proposition. Although it should be noted, that many Senators whose seats are up for election in sensitive regions, often enjoy hiding behind the hard-liners in the two respective parties who kill treaties by procedural rules.
In the Senate there is one principal opponent of UNCLOS III and many other UN treaties for that matter. Senator, Jesse Helms has declared that so long as he is in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee UNCLOS III will not see the light of day. Now to fit in some of the pressures that Senator Helms may be feeling
The executive branch has a much different set of parameters to work in while drafting a treaty. First, since the majority of members in the executive branch serve at the Presidents pleasure, the Commander in Chief can effectively shape treaties to his liking. But the constituency of the President is significantly different from any one member of congress. As was mentioned earlier, even though the negatively effected parties may be in a Presidents constituency, their voice is much less threatening to re-election when it s muted by an additional 275 million. The national press will also typically be less concerned by the local interest stories that those effected constituents comprise.
There is another factor to be considered when dealing with the executive branch. The executive branch is often more vulnerable to political pressure from National interest groups and NGO s. When a President does not take into consideration the needs or desires of these groups he may have to contend with a full scale onslaught during the next election cycle. Even without the propoganda money controlled by these groups, many have constituencies or laborers in many states of the Union. If a group can exert sufficient influence in enough battleground states during the next election, the President may feel a need to bend to at least some of their demands.
Also, the members of the executive branch have to deal more directly with pressure from other global leaders. When other nations have a problem with US policy they do not approach the Senate first. In this regard the President is less insulated from the criticism of foreign officials, he is the figure head of the country and as such takes the first shots fired.