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In this paper, we propose a distributed, scalable, energy-efficient media access control (MAC) protocol that works despite long, unknown propagation delays of the underwater acoustic medium. This protocol can be used for delay-tolerant applications such as underwater ecological sensor networks between energy-limited nodes. Our protocol differs significantly from ALOHA, multiple access with collision avoidance (MACA), and the media access protocol for wireless LANs (MACAW) in that energy is the main performance metric in our case rather than bandwidth utilization. We show that under a realistic underwater sensor network scenario, our MAC protocol wastes only 4% of the transmit energy and only 1.5% of the receive energy due to collisions, when the average number of neighbors is four, and the duty cycle is 0.004. This distributed, scalable MAC protocol has the potential to serve as a primer for the development of energy-efficient MAC protocols for future underwater sensor networks.