On March 10th, 1983, and after months of consideration of the implications of the adoption of the final act of the Law of the Sea Conference and the signature of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by 119 nations, President Ronald Reagan issued his statement of US Oceans Policy. After noting that the US would not join the 1982 Convention specifically because of its provisions related to the resources of the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction, he went on to say that the balance of the Convention was in the interest of the United States and would be observed by the US. He went on to declare the non-seabeds parts to be "fair and balanced results" and listed three specific areas for comment:
Today I am announcing three decisions to promote and protect the oceans interests of the United States in a manner consistent with those fair and balanced results in the Convention and international law.
First, the United States is prepared to accept and act in accordance with the balance of interests relating to traditional uses of the oceans -- such as navigation and overflight. In this respect, the United States will recognize the rights of other states in the waters off their coasts, as reflected in the Convention, so long as the rights and freedoms of the United States and others under international law are recognized by such coastal states.
Second, the United States will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the convention. The United States will not, however, acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflight and other related high seas uses.
Third, I am proclaiming today an Exclusive Economic Zone in which the United States will exercise sovereign rights in living and nonliving resources within 200 nautical miles of its coast. This will provide United States jurisdiction for mineral resources out to 200 nautical miles that are not on the continental shelf. Recently discovered deposits there could be an important future source of strategic minerals.
In the rest of the statement, President Reagan went on to address related matters, such as the right of coastal states to manage marine scientific research in their EEZs and on their Continental Shelves, while noting that the US would not implement such a regime in spite of its legal right to do so.
At a time when the sportfishing organizations have questioned whether the LOS Convention would affect their rights at sea, it is well to note that 26 years ago President Reagan accepted the fisheries provisions of the Convention and they have been observed in US law and regulation ever since.
(click 'President Reagan's 1983 Ocean Policy Proclamation' below for the full text of the 1983 Ocean Policy Proclamation)