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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Oceans and Polar Affairs

Date: 05/27/2009 Description: Ice Sheet © USG Photo

The Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs (OPA) is a part of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES). OPA is responsible for formulating and implementing U.S. policy on international issues concerning the oceans, the Arctic, and Antarctica.

OPA’s overarching goal is to promote the interests of the United States in oceans and polar affairs through:

  • Early accession to, and vigorous implementation of, the Law of the Sea Convention, the comprehensive framework governing uses of the ocean;
  • Negotiation of bilateral and multilateral ocean and polar agreements;
  • Active leadership in international fora dealing with ocean and polar issues; and
  • Close coordination with other Federal agencies and interested stakeholders.

Our specific objectives and priorities are to:

  • Secure the Senate’s advice and consent to U.S. accession to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, and preserve the balance of interests reflected in its provisions.
  • Coordinate the international aspects of U.S. policy on Law of the Sea issues such as freedom of navigation, maritime claims and boundaries, protection of the marine environment, and extension of the U.S. continental shelf.
  • Protect the marine environment from pollution and other anthropogenic threats, through the International Maritime Organization, Regional Seas Programmes, oil spill response, control of invasive species, and other means.
  • Conserve marine biodiversity, including whales and other cetaceans, polar bears, sea birds, and coral reefs.
  • Improve maritime security, to protect the United States from terrorism and other criminal threats, and to protect freedom of navigation and maritime commerce.
  • Promote peace and security, good governance, and environmental protection in Antarctica, including by hosting the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and supporting the International Polar Year.
  • Address changing conditions in the Arctic through international engagement at the Arctic Council and other fora, including through support of the International Polar Year.
  • Promote marine scientific research with an efficient authorization process and through support of several international scientific organizations.
  • Establish the outer limits of the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf, through leadership of an interagency task force, to strengthen the nation’s security, promote economic prosperity, and enhance the stewardship of our natural resources.
  • Protect underwater cultural heritage, through participation in bilateral and multilateral international agreements, as well as through domestic policies.

Date: 05/27/2009 Description: Ice Sheet © USG Photo


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