Monday, September 29, 2014



American Admiralty Books Safety & Privacy Policies    
 Presidential proclamation recently expanded the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Monument  by six times its original size. The total area of the resulting reserve is roughly 390,000 square nautical miles or 490,000 square statute miles, now closed to mineral exploration or development, and commercial fishing. The reserve is now the largest protected natural area on land or sea on the planet. The Reserve is located in the south-central Pacific and is roughly bounded by U.S. held Wake, Johnson, Baker, Howland, Kingman, Jarvis and Palmyra Islands. 

Grey Reef Sharks (PD) 

 Susan White The Marine Monuments First Superintendent (PD)

 The Obama administration identified expanding the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument as an area of particular interest for protection. Recent oceanographic studies  have shown that large marine protected areas can help rebuild biodiversity, support fish populations, and improve overall marine ecosystem resilience. 
The expanded Reserve will include over 130 newly protected sea mounts, which are submerged islands of 
biodiversity. The expansion is expected to better protect the delicate habitat, and its inhabitants  including marine mammals,  manta rays , sea turtles, and coral. The Monument is also a rest stop and roosting grounds to many species of  of seabirds.

Image NOAA (PD): The original circular boundaries around the islands of the National Monument. To envision the marine reserve enclose all of the islands and their original sea boundaries in something of a square. The very tight restrictions on surface navigation or visiting the actual islands that applied as a national monument remain in effect. A fishing and mineral industry prohibition now exists in the additional warer areas enclosed in the square. The creation of a marine reserve did not abolish the national monument.

  We have found little to agree with this administration on in the maritime, and wider sectors but we do appreciate this move towards protection of the Ocean. However we foresee some rough sledding ahead in terms of China. This is a very large and very open area of the Pacific and the administration has used widely scattered Islands as boundaries for what amounts to an unprecedented expansion of exclusive economic zone type authority. China uses a similar theory to claim almost the entirety of the South and East China Seas as territorial waters. The big difference between the two regions is this. THE U.S. ESTABLISHED RESTRICTED ZONE DOES NOT IMPINGE ON ANY ONE ELSE'S EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE  (EEZ) OR TERRITORIAL SEAS, IT IS SIMPLY OPEN OCEAN BETWEEN ISLANDS. EQUALLY IMPORTANT, THE U.S. DOES NOT CLAIM SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE  AREA OR ATTEMPT TO RESTRICT INTERNATIONAL SURFACE NAVIGATION OR OVERFLIGHT RIGHTS. The U.S. does have clear title to the corner stone islands. This application of the EEZ type provisions in the International Convention on the Law of The Sea is novel and arguable. China will exploit it and the defense of the U.S. action will be complex enough for the general public to have a very difficult time understanding it. Aggravating the U.S. defense is the fact that the United States has yet to sign aboard the Convention. 

 On the other hand China has signed the convention but absolutely ignores its provisions when they prove inconvenient. If anyone hauls the U.S. into an international tribunal over the restrictions in the area it will probably be China and / or some proxies. Since the United States is not restricting surface, or over flight rights of other nations few have any real economic interest in this big empty area of the Pacific. China however has a vested political interest in making the United States look hypocritical in opposing their naked land grab of their neighbors sovereign territory. The arguments will be all about a concept that we call "graduated sovereignty".  While not called by exactly that name in the treaty language,"graduated sovereignty"  is a fundamental concept around which the current international law of the sea is based.  It is the compromise that civilized states are reaching to maintain freedom of the seas in terms of navigation, while providing security of the seas and the oceanic commons and resources. It is a very complex issue, one that we cover in detail in our free on line Book AMERICAN ADMIRALTY BUREAU'S GUIDE TO THE ENDURING PRINCIPLES OF MARITIME INTERNATIONAL LAW which may be read in our AUTHORITATIVE LITERATURE SECTION. Precisely because it is complex expect the Chinese to take full advantage of including propaganda opportunities for the Chinese home audience. No doubt they will protest loudly and parade a naval flotilla through the area with big time media coverage making careful note of the fact that the United states did not challenge the Chinese naval presence. This is a safe bet for them since we did not claim the authority to regulate surface traffic except to prohibit fishing and subseas mining so we certainly aren't going to challenge through traffic naval or commercial that doesn't imping eon the already proscribed national monument waters. So all total we give the establishment of the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Reserve an "A" for ocean conservation and environmental protection,  a "C+" for admiralty legal scholarship and legal defenseability,  a "B+" for probability of success as a conservation and protective measure, and a "D" for international, and particularly naval, diplomatic acumen. That's about how most things usually pan out, a mixed bag and only time will tell us about the unexpected consequences both positive and negative. 

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