The Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs (OPA) develops and coordinates foreign affairs aspects of U.S. oceans, Arctic, and Antarctic policy, including U.S participation in international ocean and polar agreements and conventions.  OPA conducts bilateral and multilateral negotiations involving the law of the sea, freedom of navigation and overflight, marine science, extended continental shelf, ​marine mammals, protection of the marine environment, and maritime claims and boundaries.  ​OPA also develops and coordinate​s U.S. policy affecting the Arctic and Antarctic regions, including by leading U.S. participation in the Arctic Council, the only intergovernmental forum dedicated solely to Arctic issues.

Our specific objectives and priorities are to:

  • 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 Programs, oil spill response, control of invasive species, and other means.
  • Conserve marine biodiversity, including whales and other cetaceans, polar bears, 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 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.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future