Oceans and Polar Affairs

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

The Office of Ocean 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 ocean, the Arctic, and the Antarctic.

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

  • Accession to, and vigorous implementation of, the Law of the Sea Convention, the comprehensive framework governing uses of the ocean;
  • Address changing conditions in the Arctic through engagement in the Arctic Council, including through an ambitious agenda during U.S. Chairmanship of the Council (2015-17), and through other international fora.
  • Promotion of peace and security, good governance, and environmental protection in Antarctica.
  • Negotiation of bilateral and multilateral ocean and polar agreements;
  • Active leadership in international fora dealing with ocean and polar issues; and
  • Advancing international efforts, particularly through the Our Ocean Conferences, to conserve and protect the ocean, including through marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, reducing marine pollution, and addressing climate-related impacts on the ocean.
  • 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 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.

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