24 May 2000

Press Release


First Meeting to consider fisheries and pollution issues

In an effort to facilitate the deliberations in the General Assembly on developments in ocean affairs, and to strengthen international coordination and cooperation, especially in the sustainable development of the oceans and seas and their resources, the United Nations will convene from 30 May to 2 June the first Meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Ocean Affairs (UNICPO).

To be held at Headquarters, the informal consultative process will focus this year primarily on two themes: responsible fisheries and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities; and the economic and social impacts of marine pollution and degradation, especially in coastal areas.

It is expected that the consultations will make specific recommendations to the General Assembly for its consideration in relation to its annual review of ocean affairs and the law of the sea. It is also anticipated that the consultations will become an ongoing exercise to assist the Assembly in its annual review of issues related to oceans.



The United Nations General Assembly has been undertaking an annual review of all important developments in oceans and the law of the sea, based on a comprehensive annual report prepared by the Secretary-General. It was felt recently that there was a need to broaden and deepen the debate in the Assembly and to further enhance coordination and cooperation in ocean affairs at the intergovernmental and inter- agency levels.

The UNICPO is intended to carry out three interrelated tasks: (a) to study developments in ocean affairs consistent with the legal framework provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the goals of chapter 17 of Agenda 21; (b) against the backdrop of overall developments of all relevant ocean issues, to identify particular issues to be considered by the General Assembly; and (c) while identifying such issues, to place emphasis on areas where coordination and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels should be enhanced.

Following the mandate provided in paragraph 7 of resolution 54/33, the Secretary-General, working in cooperation with the heads of relevant organizations of the United Nations, has prepared a report (A/555/61) to UNICPO to facilitate the discussion and to allow for initiatives that could be undertaken to improve coordination and cooperation and achieve better integration on ocean affairs.

It has been emphasized that actions need to take place primarily at the national level, where a multiplicity of agencies are responsible for ocean-related matters. Governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others need to work together to develop the required interlinkages.

The two co-chairpersons of UNICPO, Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade (Samoa) and Alan Simcock (United Kingdom), have drawn up a format for the meeting which, among others, provides the opportunity to receive inputs from major groups as identified in Agenda 21. They also presented an annotated agenda for this first meeting, which identified two areas of focus: Responsible fisheries and illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries: Moving from principles to implementation; and Economic and social impacts of marine pollution and degradation, especially in coastal areas: International aspects of combating them.

Responsible Fisheries

The UNICPO is expected to address how the current forms of consultation and cooperation, both between the relevant member organizations of the United Nations system and between the Organization and other international and regional organizations (particularly regional fisheries organizations), can be strengthened in order to better respond to the problem of illegal and unregulated fishing. The problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries has been highlighted by the Secretary- General in previous reports to the General Assembly as one issue that is believed to have an adverse impact on the sustainable development of developing coastal States.

At the international level, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working on an international plan of action to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries. The Commission on Sustainable Development has supported that work and said that it should include the issue of those States which do not fulfil their responsibilities, under international law, as flag States with respect to their fishing vessels.

Marine Pollution

The Global Environment Outlook 2000 (GEO 2000), the most authoritative assessment of global and regional environmental issues facing the international community, concluded that the coastal marine environment was clearly affected by the destruction of habitats, overfishing and pollution. GEO 2000 also concluded that the coastal area environment was being degraded by agricultural and urban development, industrial facilities, port and road construction, dredging and filling, tourism and aquaculture.

GEO 2000 emphasized that many countries depend on sources of income from activities that would be directly threatened by degradation of the marine environment. Tourism and fishing were obvious examples of such threatened activities.

In that respect, UNICPO will examine how States can best be helped to evaluate the economic and social impacts of marine pollution, and whether the protection of the marine environment has been sufficiently integrated into the general planning for sustainable development.

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Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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