4 December 2008
General Assembly
GA/10793

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

62nd & 63rd Meetings (AM & PM)


LAW OF SEA CONVENTION, 26 YEARS LATER, STILL GENERATING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION


ON MARITIME ISSUES, GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEARS, TAKING UP ISSUES IN DAY-LONG DEBATE


Maritime Safety, Security Issues Inform Debate, As Recent Surge in Piracy,

Armed Robbery Prompts Calls to Build Capacity of Coastal States; Two Drafts Tabled


Twenty-six years since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea painstakingly reached a delicate balance among countries to strengthen maritime security and protect the planet’s oceans, it was still generating international cooperation on maritime issues, the General Assembly heard today during a day-long debate a wide range of related contemporary issues, from piracy to climate change.


The recent surge in piracy and armed robbery incidents, particularly off the coast of Somalia, sparked alarm among many delegates during today’s session, even as they cautioned that any measures to curtail such incidents should not contradict the Convention or trample on national sovereignty rights.


Indonesia’s delegate, for example, said the South-East Asian nation had joined Security Council efforts this year to address the piracy incidents off the Somali coast by adopting Council resolutions 1816, 1836 and 1846.  But he stressed that those texts tackled the scenario unfolding off the besieged coast, but did not affect the rights, obligations or responsibility of Member States under international law.  The Somali situation, he said, showed the urgent need to build the capacity of coastal States to combat piracy.


The representative of Tunisia urged Member States to maintain territorial integrity as they expanded their joint efforts to tackle the threat of piracy and armed robbery, which hindered the use of maritime routes for economic and social sustainability.  Kenya’s speaker said the issue of piracy, armed robbery and hijacking of ships off the coast of Somalia was a complex and sensitive one.  He reiterated his concern over that serious challenge, with which it was directly affected; it had begun prosecuting pirates.  He urged the international community to coordinate and reinvigorate its efforts to stem piracy, as called for in the draft omnibus resolution presently before the Assembly.


Singapore was very committed to protecting the freedom of navigation and safe passage of ships through those and similar waters, its representative said.  Towards that goal, Singapore was a contracting State in the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, which linked all members through an information-sharing centre in Singapore to data on piracy and armed robbery.  The Agreement had resulted in a decrease in piracy and armed robbery incidents in the Asian region.  Piracy was a complex and multifaceted problem and beyond the scope of any one country, and he welcomed the efforts of both the United Nations and International Maritime Organization.


That Agreement, suggested Japan’s speaker, should serve as a model for creating a new regional framework in areas of the Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.  To maintain the Agreement’s effectiveness, littoral States must join it.  As a major user of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore that depended on maritime transport for nearly all its energy imports, Japan welcomed the framework for cooperation between user and littoral States created at last year’s International Maritime Organization meeting on the Strait of Malacca.


Regarding the right of transit passage, he said he regretted that this year’s omnibus resolution did not contain a paragraph reaffirming that right through straits used for international navigation.   Japan was very concerned that some States bordering straits had adopted laws, such as compulsory pilotage, which restrained the right of transit of other States.


As some countries sought to delineate the outer limits of their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles, the crucial work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf also captured the delegates’ attention.  With the growing number of submissions to the Continental Shelf Commission, the speaker from the United Republic of Tanzania urged States parties to the Convention to continue address its workload issues.  Her country was preparing its submission on time.  However, developing countries’ ability to meet the 13 May 2009 timeline was still a major challenge, as many faced financial and technical difficulties.  They also faced other demands on their budgets, and she urged consideration of a general extension of the timeline.


China’s delegate said resolution 183, adopted by the Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, would help the Commission consider the submissions of various countries on the outer limits of their continental shelves in a serious, scientific and accurate manner.  China believed that it was right and timely to make public the summaries of the Commission’s decisions on various submissions.  While the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles was the right of coastal States under international law, it also involved the overall common interests in the international seabed areas.  The Commission’s results were very significant and deserved the attention of all countries and relevant international organizations.


As a region whose economic livelihood was linked to the surrounding seas, the representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Community supported efforts to counter the impact of climate change on marine, coastal, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems and their communities.  As in previous years, CARICOM urged States not to use the Caribbean Sea as a transit route for the shipment of nuclear materials.  The Community also remained concerned about the illicit maritime traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as the illicit movement of small arms and light weapons, which was increasingly threatening the region’s stability.


Introducing the 27-part draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, on which action was expected Friday, Brazil’s representative said the document’s length and density reflected the growing complexity and importance of issues that impacted the laws of the ocean and sea.  The text touched on issues from maritime security to protecting the freedom of navigation and combating pollution and physical degradation.  It also aimed to enhance scientific research to understand climate change’s impact on the marine environment and marine biodiversity.


The debate also zeroed in on the need to conserve and manage the planet’s fishery resources and other marine life, and to protect the planet’s vulnerable marine ecosystems and biodiversity.  The representative of the United States introduced the draft resolution on implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which, he said, tackled with such critical issues as the control of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, the reduction of fishing capacity and the adoption of conservation measures for certain fish stocks.


The Minister of State for External Affairs of India addressed the Assembly.


Also participating in today’s debate were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Palau (on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum), Viet Nam, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Monaco, Norway, Guatemala, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Iceland, Mexico, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Kuwait, Russian Federation, Maldives, Australia and South Africa.


The Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority also spoke.


The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 5 December, to take up the reports of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and to conclude its consideration of plenary-generated draft resolutions pertaining to oceans and the law of the sea, the culture of peace and cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.


Background


The General Assembly met today to take up questions concerning oceans and the law of the sea, and sustainable fisheries, and to consider related draft resolutions.  It was also set to consider several draft resolutions relating to the culture of peace, and cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations. 


For its consideration of the first item, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/63/63), which was prepared in compliance with resolution 62/215 submitted to States parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It will serve as a basis for discussion at the ninth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.   


The report provides an overview of the contribution of the bodies created by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and of other international organizations relevant to the process.  International cooperation is also very important for enhancing maritime security and safety, which will be of special interest to the ninth meeting of the Consultative Process.  Many of the threats to maritime security and safety do not recognize national boundaries and can only be addressed through the concerted efforts of all States.  It is also important that measures taken to meet such challenges are consistent with international law. 


The report concludes that sustainable use of marine resources, and the rational use of the oceans and seas, requires sustained international cooperation, including in the area of capacity building.  Priority attention must be given to the management of human activities that adversely impact marine ecosystems, including their cumulative effects.  Cooperation at the regional level is also essential to deal with global challenges to the marine environment. 


An addendum to the report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/63/63/Add.1) provides an overview of developments relating to the implementation of the Convention, and the work of the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other institutions in the field of ocean affairs and the law of the sea.  It should be read in conjunction with the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable fisheries (document A/63/128); the Joint Statement of the Co-Chairpersons of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group, to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction; the report of the eighteenth Meeting of States Parties to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; and the work of the Consultative Process at its ninth meeting. 


The Assembly also had before it a study prepared by the Secretariat, entitled Oceans and the law of the sea:  available assistance to and measures that may be taken by developing States, in particular the least developed States and small island developing States, as well as coastal African States, to realize the benefits of sustainable and effective development of marine resources and uses of the oceans within the limits of national jurisdiction (document A/63/342).  The study outlines assistance available to developing States.  It also details measures that may be taken by developing States in the areas of:  legal and policy framework; ecosystem and integrated approaches; sustainable fisheries; mineral resources; protection and preservation of the marine environment; biodiversity and marine genetic resources; research needs and marine scientific research; marine transport and navigation; information systems; and capacity-building.   


Also before the Assembly was a 15 May 2008 letter from the Co-Chairpersons of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction addressed to the President of the General Assembly (document A/63/79), which transmits the outcome of the Working Group’s meeting, held from 28 April to 2 May.  It provides a summary of key issues and proposals raised under various agenda items. 


In their concluding remarks, the Co-Chairpersons noted that the Assembly might consider referring the following issues to the Working Group:  more effective implementation of existing instruments relating to the conservation of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction; strengthening cooperation across all sectors; development of effective environmental impact assessments; use of area-based management tools; practical measures to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction; and continuing marine scientific research in relation to marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. 


Also before the Assembly was the Report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at its ninth meeting (document A/63/174 and Corr.1).  The report contains the work of the Consultative Process at its ninth meeting, held at United Nations Headquarters from 23 to 27 June.  The ninth meeting agreed, by consensus, to a number of elements relating to maritime security and safety, which were suggested for the Assembly’s consideration.  Those issues, outlined in part A of the report, include topics such as the critical role that the human element plays in promoting maritime safety and security; maritime security and international law; piracy and armed robbery against ships; transnational organized crime; and maritime safety. 


A summary of the discussions held during the ninth meeting was presented in part B of the report, while part C contains information on additional issues that could benefit from the Assembly’s upcoming work on oceans and the law of the sea in 2009.  This would include oceans and sustainable development, the contribution of oceans to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and cooperation and coordination among flag, coastal and port States. 


Regarding piracy and armed robbery, the report proposes that the Assembly emphasize the importance of prompt reporting of incidents to the proper authorities, and called upon States to take appropriate steps under their national law to apprehend and prosecute those who allegedly committed acts of piracy.  The report expresses concern regarding the problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in particular off the coast of Somalia, and notes recent efforts to address the problem at the global and regional levels, including Security Council resolution 1816 (2008). 


By a draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/63/L.42), the Assembly would express its deep concern at the adverse economic and environmental impacts of the destruction of marine habitats that might result from land-based activities, and reiterate its serious concern at the adverse effects of climate change on the marine environment.  It would resolve to designate 8 June as World Oceans Day beginning in 2009.


The 27-part draft covers areas such as implementation of the Convention, and related agreements and instruments; capacity-building; and Meeting of States Parties, the latter of which would have the Assembly request the Secretary-General to convene the nineteenth Meeting in New York from 22 to 26 June 2009.  Other areas of focus include:  peaceful settlement of disputes; “The Area”; effective functioning of the Authority and the Tribunal; the continental shelf and the work of the Commission; maritime safety and security; and flag State implementation. 


Further by the draft, and in recognition of the contribution of the Consultative Process to facilitate the Assembly’s annual review of developments in ocean affairs, the Assembly would have the Secretary-General prepare a report for its consideration next year and have the section of the report related to the upcoming meeting of the Consultative Process be made available at least six weeks in advance. 


The Assembly also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (document A/63/128).  It provides information on international initiatives to improve the conservation and management of fishery resources and other marine living resources, with a view to achieving sustainable fisheries and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems and biodiversity.    


The report concludes that sustainable fisheries development remains a significant challenge for the international community.  Most of the world’s main capture fisheries have reached maximum potential.  Unsustainable fishing practices persist in most areas of the world, and vulnerable marine ecosystems are being adversely impacted by non-selective fishing gear and techniques.  Demand for fish products is expected to increase, and more efforts are needed if commitments set out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation are to be met by 2015.  As such, it is imperative to address unsustainable fishing practices and promote universal participation in international instruments that provide for the long-term conservation of fishery resources. 


Also before the Assembly was a 13-part draft resolution on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (document A/63/L.43), which, among other things, calls attention to the circumstances affecting fisheries in many developing States, particularly in Africa, and recognizes the urgent need for capacity-building, including the transfer of marine technology. 


The draft calls for action in the areas of achieving sustainable fisheries, and implementing the 1995 Agreement and related fisheries instruments.  It further outlines actions vis-à-vis illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement; fishing overcapacity; large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing; fisheries by-catch and discards; subregional and regional cooperation; responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystem; capacity-building; cooperation within the United Nations system; and the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.


For its consideration of the culture of peace, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, 2001-2010 (document A/63/L.23), by which it would invite States to expand their activities to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, particularly during the Decade, and encourage the Peacebuilding Commission to promote such a culture for children in its work.   


Also by the text, the Assembly would encourage authorities to provide education in children’s schools that includes lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active citizenship and human rights, and encourage civil society to adopt a programme of activities to complement States initiatives. 


Further by the draft, the Assembly would encourage the media’s involvement in education for a culture of peace, and welcome the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s efforts to continue its networking arrangements established during the International Year.  It would invite States to observe 21 September as the International Day of Peace.  Finally by the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to submit, at its sixty-fourth session, a report on the implementation of the present resolution. 


The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on the Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations:  cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (document A/63/L.46), whereby it would welcome the successful conclusion of the second session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, held at The Hague from 7 to 18 April 2008.  It also would decide to include in its sixty-fifth session a sub-item entitled “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons”. 


By a draft resolution on the Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (document A/63/L.44), the Assembly would welcome the multifaceted cooperation between the United Nations’ specialized institutions and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).   


Also by that text, the Assembly would request the United Nations and the OIC to cooperate in their common search for solutions to global problems, particularly questions relating to international peace and security, disarmament, self-determination and terrorism, among others, and request the secretariats of the two organizations to enhance cooperation to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  The Assembly would also welcome continuing cooperation in the fields of peacemaking and preventive diplomacy, and note the close cooperation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sierra Leone. 


Further, the Assembly would welcome periodic high-level meetings between the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the OIC, and encourage United Nations specialized agencies to expand cooperation with the OIC, notably in the area of science and technology.  It would urge the United Nations to provide increased technical and other assistance to the OIC and its subsidiary organs.  Finally, the Assembly would decide to include in its sixty-fifth session a sub-item on “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference”.  


Introduction of Draft Resolutions 


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) thanked the “intense and constructive efforts of many delegates” who had participated in drafting the resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/63/L.42), and noted that its length and density reflected the growing complexity and importance of issues of the laws of the ocean and sea.  In facing those new challenges, however, she stressed that efforts should be made to ensure preservation of the rule of international law.   


She said that incorporated into this year’s draft resolutions were the recommendations of the Informal Consultative Process on capacity-building, an essential component needed to address the protection of the marine State.  Towards that goal, additional funding was required, including for technology transfer.  International cooperation was also critical in combating the threats to maritime security, among them, piracy, armed robbery at sea and terrorist acts against shipping.  Furthermore, the protection of freedom of navigation was also crucial to economic, national and international security.  The resolution called upon all States, specifically those bordering straits used for international navigation, in accordance to international law, to guarantee the freedom of navigation and the right of passage, among other things.    


Combating pollution and physical degradation was also addressed in the draft resolution, she noted.  Enhanced scientific research and work was necessary to further understand the effects of climate change on the marine environment and marine biodiversity.  At this juncture, guidance was needed on how to follow up on the conclusions of the work of the group of experts of the “Assessment of Assessments” of the marine environment.  With the establishment of an ad hoc working group, a course of action would be developed and then recommended to the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session.  She also called for the continuation of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea for the next two years.  She recalled the Convention’s preamble, which stated that the attainment of a legal order for the seas and oceans facilitated international communication, and promoted the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans.  That contributed to a peaceful, just and equitable international economic order, regardless of whether a State was coastal or landlocked. 


ANTHONY H. GIOIA (United States), noting the success of the 2008 Informal Consultative Process on maritime safety and security, introduced the draft resolution Implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea (document A/63/L.43).  He said that this year’s resolution tackled critical issues, among them the control of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, reduction of fishing capacity, and, what he deemed among the most notable provisions, the urgent adoption of effective conservation and management measures for certain fish stocks, and the study of possible connections between international organized crime and illegal fishing in certain parts of the world.    


He said that, although a consensus had not been reached with regard to the rights and responsibilities of States bordering straits used for international navigation, he applauded the “strenuous efforts” made towards that goal and expressed hope that, in the future, a balance of interests be reached.  The resolution also established a resumption of informal consultations of the States Parties to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 2009 and the Review Conference in 2010.  He viewed that, as well as the five recent accessions to the Agreement in 2008, as positive signs towards achieving sustainable fisheries.  He urged all States not yet party to the Agreement to consider doing so, as he believed the Agreement would remain a foundation of negotiations to establish new regional agreements, including for the management of discrete high seas stocks.    


Reducing the excessive fishing fleets around the world was a high priority for the United States, and he said he was pleased that the resolution included a call to all States to reduce their own capacities “commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks”.  He also called for States to take stronger measures to “prevent the landing and transhipment, in their ports, of fish caught in contravention of existing regulatory regimes”.  Much work remained, and he urged all regional fisheries management organizations to take concrete actions to ensure effective conservation and management of target stocks, and to challenge the adverse impact of over-fishing on the world’s marine environment.  Implementing the guidance in the resolution would allow the international community to effectively address today’s challenging and important global issues. 


Statements 


HUBERT RENIÉ ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union as party to the Law of the Sea Convention, said the Convention was a factor for stability, peace and progress, and held special importance in a difficult international context.  The treaty was a legal framework for maritime activities, and its integrity must not be altered.  The Union called on all States to accede to the Convention and to the Agreement on the Implementation of its Part XI. 


He said that the Union was deeply concerned about piracy, which was detrimental to the safety of persons and property, whether vessels attacked and sometimes hijacked, or held prisoners, for ransom.  The international community was determined to combat that scourge through the competence of United Nations bodies and welcomed the General Assembly resolution.  The Union had repeatedly expressed its concerns over the loss of marine biodiversity and supported the Assembly’s initiative to create an ad hoc open-ended informal working group on the topic.  The international community, seized with law of the sea issues, needed to take an active role in that preventive movement for the environment. 


The Union also expressed its satisfaction with the principle of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process, created to prepare its debates on oceans and the law of the sea, and viewed its manner of implementation in a largely positive light.  It also welcomed the two-year extension of the mandate of the Process. 


Also welcome had been resolution on sustainable fisheries, adopted this year, which showed considerable improvements.  The combat against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was one of the Union’s priorities.  He reminded port States of their responsibility in combating illegal fishing.  The responsibility of flag States also deserved strong emphasis, especially in accordance with regulated deep-sea fishing. 


The regional fisheries organizations played a vital role in ensuring sustainable fishery management, and the resolution adopted underlined the need to improve the efficiency of the tuna regional fisheries organizations and the value of publishing performance reviews.  The Union hoped the resolution would inspire new initiatives, and it sought maximum cooperation on a global scale. 


ANGELLA BROWN (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the economic livelihood of CARICOM States was linked to the surrounding seas, and the Community welcomed the wide-ranging elements of the Secretary-General’s report.  CARICOM supported the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  The Trust Fund created by Assembly resolution 55/7 remained a critical source of funding to help developing-country members of the Commission participate in its sessions. 


She said maritime trade should be conducted in an atmosphere of safety, in order to sustain present levels and to grow.  She welcomed recent developments to improve regulations governing the safety of navigation, survivability of vessels and standards in the maritime industry.  CARICOM remained deeply concerned by the transport of radioactive materials through the Caribbean Sea and urged States concerned not to use the Caribbean Sea as a transit route for the shipment of nuclear materials.  The Community supported efforts to develop an effective framework for greater coordination in tackling the impact of climate change on marine, coastal, estuarine, and freshwater ecosystems and communities. 


Turning to drugs, she said the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by sea was a matter of serious concern to the region.  International cooperation in drug interdiction in the Caribbean seas should be extended to illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, which was increasingly threatening the region’s stability.   


She meanwhile applauded the invaluable work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with Governments throughout the region to promote a comprehensive institutional framework for cooperation on issues relating to coasts, oceans and seas.  CARICOM welcomed the entry into force, on 21 November, of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage 2001.  It was already an important instrument to protect the fragile marine ecosystem from ships’ pollution, particularly damage caused by bunker oil spills.   


CARICOM underscored its unwavering commitment to the International Seabed Authority, which was headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica and entrusted with the mandate to administer, organize and control activities in the area on behalf of States, she said.  The steady increase in States, now 156, that had become parties to the landmark Convention since its adoption and entry into force, was encouraging, and she strongly urged all States to ratify it. 


STUART BECK (Palau), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, reminded the Assembly that the Forum members had long recognized the increasing threats to the health of the oceans, as their region held a high concentration of vulnerable marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, deep water corals, hydrothermal vents and underwater seamounts.  The Forum was therefore very pleased that its concerns about deepwater fishing were appropriately included in this year’s resolution, and that the resolution also noted the progress of various regional management organizations and arrangements and the interim measures taken to establish a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization. 


Because members of the Forum felt the serious effects of climate change on the oceans in an immediate fashion, he urged Member States to consider more closely the impact of climate change, and to increase international discussion of those effects on fisheries and coastal areas.  “Compounding the traditional fisheries management challenges, climate impacts in marine and coastal areas threaten the economic future, traditional culture and food security of many [Pacific Island Forum] members,” he stated.  Because of this, Forum members had completed or were developing important coastal conservations strategies, including for coral protection.  However, without an effective international approach, the Pacific island regions would lose an essential economic pillar.    


He noted that global fisheries had been running at a loss of $50 billion per year, principally of depleted fish stocks from massive fleet overcapacity and excessive fishing efforts, and that the small island developing States realized less than 5 per cent of an estimated $3 billion annual fishery.  Furthermore, some fish species, a component to the region’s diet, were being caught and discarded as unsuitable for commercial mass consumption, thus impacting food security.  He welcomed the resolution’s “resolve to minimize” that situation, and noted the progress made on the submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, as well as the changes of the rules of the United Nations Trust Fund.  In order for Forum members, particularly the small island developing States, to address those challenges, capacity-building initiatives were crucial towards furthering the goals of the Law of the Sea Convention and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.   


HOANG CHI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said the Convention was an outstanding achievement in international codification, and it should be fully implemented with due respect for the delicate balance between rights and obligations of States.  He commended the institutions set up by the Convention -– the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf -– and said his Government had supported and contributed to their work.  Last June, States parties had made decisions on the workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, on the ability of developing States to fulfil certain requirements to the Convention, and on the allocation of seats on the Commission and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.  He called on all States parties to adhere strictly to those decisions and to ensure their timely realization. 


He said his Government supported efforts to continue the Consultative Process, while stressing the need to improve its efficiency and give particular attention to the requirements of sustainable development.  In that context, he lent support to the topic being introduced by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China for the upcoming session.  Viet Nam found it essential to work with others to reach mutual understanding on cooperative projects, such as in the development and implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries and China.  Viet Nam was also one of 14 States parties to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, the first regional Government-to-Government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery in Asia.  Activities of cooperation required by the agreement were now operational and making positive contributions to the region’s maritime safety.  Hopefully, the resolution on oceans and the law of the sea would be adopted without a vote this year. 


AMOS WAKO (Kenya) said that, like many other coastal States, Kenya was making efforts to delineate its outer continental shelf in accordance with the Convention, and was committed to meeting its treaty obligations by making a submission on the outer limits of its continental shelf on or before May 2009.  But Kenya was facing a dilemma regarding the proper interpretation and application of some aspects of the Convention, particularly regarding the application of formulae contained therein. 


He said his country believed that the only basis of establishing the outer limits of a continental shelf was proof, beyond scientific doubt, that there was a natural prolongation of a continental shelf beyond the legal limit of 200 nautical miles.  The scientific criteria were well stipulated in the Convention’s Statement of Understanding.   Kenya recognized the delicate balance achieved during the negotiations of the Convention, and recognized that the treaty contributed to strengthening peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations.  For that reason, Kenya wanted to have that matter deliberated during the next meeting of States parties, in order to chart a way forward. 


Kenya upheld the Mare Liberum doctrine, as elaborated by Hugo Grotius, and to realize that function of the seas, the international community should ensure the free movement of ships, goods and services, in order to enhance maritime trade and commerce.  The issue of piracy, armed robbery and hijacking of ships off the coast of Somalia was a complex and sensitive one.   Kenya reiterated its concern over that serious challenge, with which it was directly affected; it had begun prosecuting pirates.  It was absolutely necessary for the international community to coordinate and reinvigorate its efforts to stem piracy, as called for in the draft omnibus resolution presently before the Assembly. 


SHIN BOONAM ( Republic of Korea) said a coherent, integrated and balanced approach to the sustainable management and conservation of the oceans and their resources, in accordance with the Convention, was of great importance, especially given the centrality of that instrument for the governance of oceans and seas.  The Convention’s implementation mechanisms -- such as the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf –- had all been crucial to its success.  The Republic of Korea would continue to contribute to the work of those organs, as part of its diligent efforts to realize the ideals of the Convention.  The oceans and seas were invaluable to the welfare of humanity.  Yet, the world continued to be plagued by piracy and the degradation of marine resources, and maritime safety and security was now a serious concern for many seafaring States.    


He said his country, as one of the leading maritime countries, believed that the right of passage should be upheld by State practices.  He reaffirmed the rights and responsibilities of States that bordered straits used for international navigation and, in addition, the rights and responsibilities of “user” States.  Future discussions on the conservation and sustainability of marine biodiversity –- an issue of great importance -- should take place within the framework of the Conventions on the Law of the Sea and on Biological Diversity, to help balance the protection of marine ecosystems with the sustainable use of marine biodiversity.  As a responsible fishing State, his country remained seriously concerned by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which was one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems.  The Republic of Korea would continue to work with other States parties to prevent such fishing activities, and would continue to work towards ensuring sound governance of the oceans and seas. 


ILEANA B. NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) emphasized the need to strengthen international cooperation among all actors involved in the management of the seas and oceans.  Despite Cuba’s economic hardships, it had made huge efforts to implement national strategies for protecting the marine environment.  The Convention on the Law of the Sea established the suitable -– and universally accepted -- legal framework within which all activities on oceans and seas should be carried out.   


Given that, she drew attention to policies that undermined the Convention’s regime, such as the current management of new sustainable uses of the oceans, including the preservation of biological biodiversity in seabeds beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  In that respect, she urged States to abide by the Convention’s principles that stated that marine scientific research in the Area should be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes.  She further emphasized the importance of preserving the Convention’s integrity and implementation of its provisions as a whole, including respect for the right of passage. 


On the 1995 Agreement, she said that, although Cuba was not a party to it, it willingly complied with its major provisions on conservation and management.  What prevented her country from becoming party to the Agreement was its concern at the mechanism of visits and inspection on board fishing vessels, established under articles 21 and 22.  In closing, she appreciated the work by coordinators of the two draft resolutions to be adopted today, and stressed that the informal meetings on those texts be provided with full conference and translation services, which would contribute to the quality of negotiations. 


HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) noted, with great interest, that the two resolutions dealt with important, if not crucial, issues for future generations to come.  The discussions at this year’s informal Consultative Process had not been easy.  The issues of climate change, and maritime security and safety were some of the main areas of divergence.  Because what was at stake was a planetary issue, greater effort was needed to set aside national interests, establish consensus, and preserve the oceans and seas.  The concept of common heritage -- a concept enshrined in the United Nations Charter -- needed to be respected.    


Specifically, maritime safety and security had prompted a lengthy discussion on seafarers, he said.  During a time when many people were risking their lives by clandestinely migrating by sea, the duty to assist people in distress at sea was a fundamental obligation under international law, regardless of nationality, status or circumstances.  Furthermore, the difficulty of disembarking at the nearest port after being rescued challenged fulfilment of that obligation.  Tunisia honoured that responsibility, however, and he urged international and regional cooperation in enhancing search and rescue off developing coastal States. 


He also observed that piracy and armed robbery at sea were threats that hindered the use of maritime passages for economic, social, environment and development sustainability.  While respecting national rights and territorial integrity, it was necessary to have more international cooperation.  Of particular concern were manmade climate changes, and he called for urgent steps to minimize its effects on the oceans’ activities, as well as continued scientific research to explore and understand that serious issue.  In that regard, he reiterated the General Assembly’s call on Member States to reduce greenhouse gases.   


He also recalled the Declaration adopted at the International Conference in 2007 in Tunisia on International Solidarity for the Protection of Africa and the Mediterranean Region from Climate Change, which called for developed countries to establish new mechanisms to protect the environment, and to prepare strategies to help developing countries adapt to and address climate change.  Marine environment was essential to life on earth, and human activities placed pressures on the oceans and led to “alarming pollution”.  Although some progress has been made globally to offset that, more efforts beyond national jurisdiction were needed to preserve biodiversity and reach the goals of the 2005 World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Sustainable development was a world challenge.  Many fisheries had reached maximum capacity, yet demands continued to increase.  If the goals of the Johannesburg Summit, to reach sustainable fisheries by 2015, were to be met, the international community needed to challenge destructive fishing practices.  That went hand-in-hand with supporting developing States’ capacity-building and technical assistance towards maintaining sustainable fishing resources. 


The Law of the Sea Convention had led to great hopes that law and order on the oceans and seas would prevail, he said, adding, however, that “results have not lived up to hopes”.  The problems persisted; among them, non-viable fishing practices and ineffective State control over ships.  In addition, developing countries, under their new regimes, were not benefiting from maritime resources.  However, the Convention, despite its limitations, should remain the legal framework for effective progress so that a sustainable maritime environment and international ocean navigation could continue to develop.    


E. AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said any change that altered the state of oceans could have immense socioeconomic consequences, and there was an urgent need to address both the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  Threats to biodiversity -- such as bottom trawling, ship pollution, and those derived from bioprospecting and geo-engineering activities -– required various measures, including monitoring and scientific investigation, to reduce their impacts.  Information on the governance aspects, costs and benefits that concern marine protected areas beyond national jurisdiction was “very sparse”, and he urged that more information be made available. 


It was essential to develop other tools for conserving vulnerable marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, he said, calling the time-bound measures proposed in resolution 61/105 (2006) an “important first step” to addressing bottom fishing practices.  On over-fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he urged giving priority to enforcement initiatives, such as effective port State measures and listing of vessels.  He emphasized the importance of the principle of freedom of navigation. 


On maritime navigation, he said piracy and armed robbery attacks, notably off the coast of Somalia, threatened maritime security, and India fully supported recent efforts to address that problem.  Law enforcement against armed robbers was in the domain of coastal States concerned, and thus, enhancing their capacity to combat such crimes was important.  Developing States required assistance and resources to participate in maritime security arrangements.  The number of attacks in Asia had dropped, in part, through increased national action.  India had launched a regional maritime security initiative -– the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium -– that aimed to sustain a regionally relevant consultative forum.  Deep seabed research was still in the domain of select developed countries, and he urged an increased flow of scientific data and knowledge-transfer to developing countries.   


NAMIRA NABIL NEGM ( Egypt) underscored the importance of striking a balance between the need to protect the marine environment and the rights provided to States under the Law of the Sea Convention, as well as the right of innocent passage in international straits.    


In that regard, she said her country welcomed the agreement of States to incorporate, in the current draft of the annual resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, the topic “the review of the work of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea”, to be studied during its next session, in order to enable the optimal use of the Organization’s resources.  That would also ensure the effectiveness of the Consultative Process and its non-diversion from the original goal related to achieving sustainable development of the seas and oceans. 


It was from that perspective that Egypt attached great importance to the resumption of the Review Conference of the 1995 Fisheries Agreement, due to take place in 2010, she said.  To that end, she reiterated the importance of seriously addressing the issues of concern of the States non-parties to the Agreement, as long as the aspired aim of the Conference was to promote wider participation in that Agreement, in order to achieve its goals of conservation of fish stocks and  enhanced international cooperation in that regard. 


She repeated Egypt’s position that it was the obligation of States to tighten control over illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices, as well as environmentally destructive fishing practices, particularly in the deep seas.  With such regulation, the international community would be better able to confront the problems of protecting the marine environment and saving the fish stocks, thereby contributing to alleviating the global food crisis. 


ISABELLE F. PICCO ( Monaco) said the global food crisis had broadened the scope of today’s discussion, while climate change had enhanced biodiversity loss.  Indeed, protecting ecosystems was now a question of equity and morality, and she urged banning access to ports for ships involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  She welcomed decisions taken by the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. 


Determining criteria for eliminating fishery by-catch and discards was necessary, she said.  In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the Prince Albert II Foundation had agreed to protect blue fin tuna.  Last September’s tracking campaign aimed to understand the tuna’s migration patterns.  That project would continue for three years.  Further, the Monaco Sustainable Development Association had called on restaurants to stop offering blue fin tuna on their menus. 


Continuing, she said Monaco was interested in protecting polar areas, and she highlighted various initiatives, including a meeting hosted by Monaco last November on sustainable development of the Arctic.  In 2009, Monaco would organize an international expert meeting for the Arctic.  Monaco had joined the Antarctic Treaty, and Prince Albert II would visit the Arctic’s 26 observation stations next year.  Also, the Mediterranean was suffering from climate change, she said, and its biodiversity was at risk.  It was imperative to save it. 


She took note of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) consideration of small vessels, and attached importance to marine protected areas.  An international group of experts on marine mammals and protected areas was organizing a first conference next year in Hawaii.  This year’s resolution on maritime safety had been prefaced by fruitful discussion at a time when new sea routes were opening in fragile ecosystems.  She reiterated support for the Consultative Process.  Next year, World Oceans Day would be commemorated, on 8 June.  Since 2003, the World Ocean Network had worked to increase awareness of oceans. 


MORTEN WETLAND (Norway) remarked on the various ways that climate change was having an impact on the marine environment, including by melting polar ice caps, which potentially caused fish stocks to migrate or even endangered entire species.  Striking a balance between protection of more accessible, until now, pristine regions, and managing resources in an orderly manner was now the main challenge for the Arctic region.  The five Arctic coastal States -– Canada, Denmark, Russia, United States and Norway –- had met in Greenland in May and pointed out that the law of the sea provided a good foundation for responsible management of the Arctic Ocean.  Applicable rules regulated the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf; the protection of the marine environment, including ice-covered areas; freedom of navigation and marine scientific research.  There needed to be satisfactory implementation and compliance with existing legal instruments, rather than new ones.  To achieve that, there must be deeper, broader and more effective international cooperation and coordination. 


On setting the outer limits of the continental shelves, he urged States to comply with the May 2009 deadline, and recalled that States parties to the Convention had decided to accept preliminary information and an intended date for full submission by some developing countries that faced challenges in meeting that deadline.  The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was currently funding the UNEP Shelf Programme to make relevant data available to States.  Financial assistance could also be provided through the United Nations Trust Fund, to which Norway had made substantial contributions.    


Norway also strongly advocated further discussions on the link between illegal fishing and international organized crime, because it was irresponsible not to intensify the fight against that activity, he said.  Moreover, discarded fish was being thrown overboard in large amounts, which distorted reports of total catch and undermined the process of determining “allowable catch”.  In Norway’s view, it was time to develop an international plan of action to reduce or eliminate discards, and his Government would take the initiative to develop the plan within the framework of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  Finally, concerned by piracy, Norway had co-sponsored Security Council resolutions on the issue, and welcomed efforts by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, and individual States like France, to address that crime. 


GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said that, as a co-sponsor of the omnibus resolution, Guatemala acknowledged contributions of the Consultative Process, which would help the Assembly examine events related to maritime protection.  In the last Decade, that Process had fulfilled its mandate, first by allowing an integrated approach to the economic, political and other aspects of ocean affairs.  It also allowed for identifying areas that required joint action.  However, States should not become complacent.  The Process had revealed numerous defects, and there was room for improvement, in both its form and substance.  He supported the decision for the Process to undergo a detailed review of its functioning.   


Regarding this year’s Process, he agreed that there was no universally adopted definition of “maritime protection and vigilance”.  That would change, depending on States’ perspectives and which of their interests they perceived were under threat.  The Convention had established that oceans and the Area be used for peaceful means, and it provided the legal framework under which all activities on seas and oceans should take place.   


In that context, he said specific treaties must keep their own autonomy and mandates.  Such was the case in addressing transnational organized crime.  Rather than enter into never-ending debate on what constituted transnational threats, emphasis should be placed on global cooperation for maritime protection and vigilance.   Guatemala was in the process of ratifying the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, which would help to consolidate the international regime of maritime protection. 


On fish stocks, he said that most Latin American countries had determined that the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks had omitted fundamental precepts outlined in the Convention.  It also included obstacles, such as a lack of resources for its implementation.  Informal consultations of States parties to the Agreement would be a timely forum for promoting dialogue with States that were not party to the Agreement.    


Through the General Assembly, Guatemala sought an intergovernmental forum for the long-term conservation of marine species.  Illegal, destructive fishing required greater attention to guarantee focus on the ecosystem.  By 2050, fishing stocks would be exhausted.  Urgent measures were needed to offset such activities.   


The Convention was a legal regime flexible enough to guarantee its long-term application, he said.  It could be used to address new challenges, and he was happy to see progress by the Ad Hoc Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  


JOHN NCNEE ( Canada) said the keystone of high seas fisheries governance was the regional fisheries management organizations, which applied modern ocean management principles and the best scientific information to decision–making.  Tuna regional fisheries management organizations were at a crossroads as they struggled with applying the benefits of modern principles.  The Assembly’s call for improving management, directed at tuna organizations, had to be answered with additional progress in responsible and prudent resource management and decision-making.  The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement was at the heart of modern high seas governance, and Canada was pleased that additional States had become parties to it, bringing the total to 72.  The Agreement should be used as a basis for renewal and reform of the regional organizations and arrangements on a global basis. 


He said that responsible fishing implied that flag States controlled their vessels and that port States did not contribute to illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing by letting such catch enter their ports and reach the market.  Efforts to close the gaps on those two fronts were exemplified by the work to be conducted at the FAO, where flag States’ performance criteria would be studied and a binding instrument on port States was expected to be completed, in 2009.  Indeed, those efforts would lead to closing two huge gaps in fisheries governance. 


Canada had repeatedly stressed the importance of the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he said.  Its workload was intensifying, and it was, thus, crucial for it to have the necessary support to face that increasing burden.  Science remained an essential building block of oceans management, enhancing understanding of oceans and leading to development of a global mechanism for delivering science-based information to the public and helping decision makers. 


He said his country believed that integrated management was the touchstone for managing the multiple uses and threats to oceans, and was glad that the international Consultative Process had tackled very difficult issues in recent years.  The Process was a forum for integrated and coordinated discussion to advance collective thinking on ways to address issues of relevance to the global oceans agenda.   Canada looked forward to an open and frank discussion next year during the Process’ review, as it celebrated its tenth anniversary. 


While the oceans governance agenda was complex and multifaceted, Canada believed the Convention remained the legal framework under which all oceans activities were pursued, he said.  Effective implementation and enforcement of the existing instruments, including the treaty, were necessary to guide action and set priorities.  It was fitting that the Assembly was being asked through this year’s law of the sea resolution, to declare 8 June as World Oceans Day. 


NORIHIRO OKUDA ( Japan) said his country, an island nation, depended on maritime transport for nearly all imports of energy resources, including oil and minerals.  As such, he attached great importance, from an economic perspective, to marine living resources, and other natural resources in the continental shelves and on the deep seabed under its surrounding waters. 


On maritime safety and security, he said Japan was deeply concerned at the sharp rise in piracy and armed robbery attacks, notably off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, and welcomed Security Council resolutions 1816, 1838 and 1846, adopted by consensus this year.  In addition, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia should serve as a model for creating a new regional framework in areas of the Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.  To maintain that Agreement’s effectiveness, littoral States must join it.   Japan, a major user State of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, welcomed the framework for cooperation between user and littoral States established at the meeting of the IMO on the Strait of Malacca last year. 


Regarding the right of transit passage, he regretted that this year’s resolution did not contain a paragraph reaffirming that right through straits used for international navigation.   Japan was very concerned that some States bordering straits had adopted laws, such as compulsory pilotage, which restrained the right of transit of other States.   


He welcomed recommendations adopted by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf with regard to Australia and New Zealand, which had an important role in delimiting the continental shelves of coastal States.  Regarding Japan’s November submission, to the Commission, to establish outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, he noted the Commission had five submissions awaiting the establishment of subcommissions, including Japan’s.  To accelerate the Commission’s work, Japan had contributed an additional $41,000 to the voluntary Trust Fund.  He renewed Japan’s commitment to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, for which it provided 22 per cent of the budget. 


On marine biodiversity, he said the establishment of marine protected areas of the high seas should be considered carefully, and he noted that the FAO was studying the issue with specialized expertise.  The transport of radioactive materials was indispensable in the stable supply of energy for Japan.   Japan welcomed progress in dialogue between coastal and shipping States, and would work to achieve mutual understanding between them. 


On sustainable fisheries, he said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and over-capacity were serious problems for the sustainable use of living marine resources.  There was ongoing discussion at the FAO on the draft agreement on port State measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries, under which the scope of vessels included cargo and fuel-supply vessels.  He stressed that full consultation should be carried out between the IMO and FAO in introducing port measures.  Finally, he said Japan would continue to promote the conservation and management of tuna resources.   


GLENNA CABELLO DE DABOIN ( Venezuela) placed special importance on the resolutions because of Venezuela’s long coastline, managed by national law and guided by the criteria of maintaining, sustaining and conserving marine resources.  Venezuela had participated actively this year in the ad hoc working group on the preservation and sustainability of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. 


Responding to concerns regarding the summation of the co-chair, she said that the Law of the Sea Convention no longer covered all the issues on the international community’s present agenda.  Other international instruments also played key roles in addressing sustainability of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.  The Assembly should review the mandates and methodology of the consultations, so that they could be utilized in the manner for which they had been originally set up in 1999.  The Consultative Process should continue, as it was the only international forum to discuss the sustainable development of oceans and seas.  However, one trend in the consultations was concerning, namely the inclusion of issues that went beyond the forum’s mandate, among them, organized crime, narcotics trafficking and terrorism.  In doing so, the issues of sustainable marine life and the oceans and seas were being put aside. 


She said that sustainable fishing was a national priority in Venezuela and the Government was taking strong actions in that regard, including banning drift net fishing.  Furthermore, the law provided broad participation of the Venezuelan people to ensure that new methods were compatible with the national agenda.  The Socialist Institute of Fishing and Agriculture had to submit to the public any proposals of new methods ahead of going before the governmental body.  Venezuela had also taken many steps to work harmoniously with other countries in the region, especially in regard to migratory fish.  It also actively participated in international and regional conferences and adhered to the resulting outcomes.  Venezuela had also taken necessary steps regarding unreported, unregulated and illegal fishing, including in connection with boats flying the Venezuelan flag on the high seas.  It was now required by law that ships over 10 tons of gross tonnage needed to have satellite positioning. 


However, she said, Venezuela was not party to the Law of the Sea Convention.  The rules in those international instruments did not apply to Venezuela unless they were already explicitly recognized or if there were plans to recognize them in the future in its national legislation.  The reasons that prevented Venezuela from adopting those instruments still existed.  Also, Venezuela still had reservations about resolution “L.43”.  Nevertheless, Venezuela remained committed to cooperate fully with multilateral efforts to promote the sustainable development of seas and oceans, and called for an international legal framework that would cover all regional and global agreements on that issue. 


JORGE ARGÜELLO ( Argentina) reminded the Assembly that the question of biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction had become one of the new emerging issues of the law of the sea.  Even at the Ad Hoc Working Group established by resolution 59/24, there had been intense debate -- clearly not yet finished –- on the legal regime applicable under the Convention to theMinimize marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  Therefore, the question of the legal regime had to be dealt with in the context of the mandate of that working group. 


He, thus, called on Member States to duly take into account that one of the objectives of the Convention was to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970, in which the General Assembly declared that the area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, were the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which should be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole. 


With respect to the establishment of marine protection areas, he said it should be taken into account that, beyond the powers of the International Seabed Authority regarding the area in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, it had not yet been determined which would be the entity able to establish marine protection areas beyond national jurisdiction.  That question was fundamental, and the answer would not likely be found in the regional fisheries management organizations, as those did not represent the interests of mankind as a whole. 


Turning to the topic of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he said the ninth meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process had compared that practice to threats to security navigation, and Argentina had objected to that.  He reiterated his country’s objection.  Although the seriousness of such fishing practices could not be ignored, it could not be assimilated to the serious illicit acts that gave rise to the surveillance of the seas –- maritime security -- such as piracy or the trafficking of persons.  Fortunately, that concern was shared by several delegations, and the pertinent paragraph of the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries clearly distinguished the international legal regime applicable to illegal fishing from the one applicable to illicit acts constituting international organized crime.  The same distinction was made regarding the remedies provided by international law for each situation, which were essentially different and could not be assimilated.   


With regard to the sedentary resources of the continental shelf, Argentina believed it unnecessary to remind Member States that they were subjected to the sovereignty rights of the coastal States over the whole extension of such maritime area.  Therefore, conservation and management of those resources was under the exclusive powers of coastal States, which had the responsibility of adopting the necessary measures regarding such resources and their associated ecosystems that could be affected by destructive fishing practices, including the use of bottom trawling in the high seas.  For that reason, Argentina was taking the necessary steps to adopt measures for the conservation of the sedentary resources of the whole extension of its continental shelf, and it called on other coastal States to do the same. 


LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the twenty-first century had been called the “century of oceans and seas”.  Since “common development” was a major theme for the international community, it should work to turn oceans and seas into a driving force for the common development of mankind.  China advocated a harmonious order for oceans, based on science and the rule of law, which harmonized the relations between man and the ocean, balanced their use with conservation, integrated open access with regulation and management, and ensured the fair treatment of first comers and late comers. 


He said China attached great importance to the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and welcomed resolution 183, adopted by the eighteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention.  The resolution’s arrangements were aligned with the spirit of the Convention and accommodated the concerns of developing countries.  It would help the Commission to consider the submissions of various countries on the outer limits of their continental shelves in a serious, scientific and accurate manner.  China had been researching the delineation of the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.  It believed that it was right and timely to make public the summaries of the Commission’s decisions on various submissions.  While the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles was the right of coastal States under international law, it also involved the overall common interests in the international seabed areas.  The Commission’s results were very significant and deserved the attention of all countries and relevant international organizations. 


Congratulating the International Seabed Authority on its accomplishments over the past year, he noted the Authority’s progress in drafting regulations on the prospecting and exploration for two new resources, cobalt-rich nodules and polymetallic sulphides.  In order to ensure rational exploration and exploitation of the resources, while fully protecting the marine environment, the shaping of regulations on new resources should be based on sound scientific justification and broad reconciliation of various interests.  It was inappropriate to preset a deadline, and China wanted to participate in the drafting work on those regulations at the Authority’s next session. 


China valued the role played by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in peacefully settling disputes relating to oceans and the maintenance of international order, he continued.  The Chinese delegation also welcomed the progress made at the second Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group, held in April, to study issues related to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  The issues discussed by the working group had broad implications and were highly technical, and, thus, more time was needed to continue the in-depth study. 


Turning to maritime security and safety, he noted that that had been the theme of the Informal Consultative Process this year.  The symptoms and root causes of the problems should be addressed as the rule of law was strengthened.  He noted that various types of transnational crimes at sea had their strict legal definitions and were governed by different legal frameworks.  The relevant laws should be strictly adhered to while combating various criminal acts.  The oversimplification of categories was not appropriate.  He reiterated that the regime contained in the Convention on transit passage through straits used for international navigation should be uniformly adhered to and jointly safeguarded by all States. 


HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) welcomed recent ratifications of the Convention by Congo and Liberia, which brought the total number of States parties to 157.  Indeed, by ratifying the Convention, the global community sustained a number of its most cherished goals.  Every effort must be made to use existing instruments to the fullest before other options, and possible new implementation agreements under the Convention should be considered.  Iceland, a coastal State, was preparing its submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf regarding the establishment of outer limits beyond 200 nautical miles.   


In that context, he emphasized ensuring that the Commission perform its functions efficiently.  He further encouraged States to make additional contributions to two voluntary trust funds:  one for facilitating the preparation of developing States’ submissions to the Commission, and another for defraying the costs of their participation in the Commission’s meetings.  The decision of the eighteenth Meeting of States Parties stated that the time period for making submissions could be satisfied by submitting, to the Secretary-General, preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the shelf, and a description of the status of preparation and intended date of submission.  As such, the time limit for making submissions was now governed by article 4 of annex II to the Convention. 


The Fish Stocks Agreement was of “paramount” importance, he said, welcoming recent ratifications by the Republic of Korea, Palau, Oman, Hungary and Slovakia.  Iceland looked forward to the eighth round of informal consultations of States parties in March, which would consider promoting wider participation in the Agreement.  Further, his country would encourage States and regional fisheries management organizations to implement the International Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas, adopted last August.   


On other matters, he welcomed the Intergovernmental Technical Consultation to develop a legally-binding instrument on minimum standards for port State measures.  He also encouraged the FAO to convene an expert consultation next year to develop criteria for assessing the performance of flag States and examine possible actions against vessels flying the flags of States not meeting such criteria.  Finally, he voiced concern that informal consultations on the two resolutions this year had not been held in the same spirit of cooperation characterized by past work.  He regretted that certain States had been unwilling to renew the mandate of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea for another three years. 


R.M. MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said that the law of the sea had gone through a substantial evolution during the 20 years of difficult and complex negotiations that had ended with the Convention in 1982.  The Convention was the most comprehensive and detailed treaty ever produced, and delicately balanced the rights of coastal States and user States and their respective responsibilities.  It also took into account the interests of landlocked States that had no access to oceans.  The Convention was the primary instrument governing the conduct of States in using oceans and set out the rights and obligations of States and other international actors in different maritime areas and in relation to various aspects of the uses of oceans. 


When addressing maritime security, Indonesia urged a comprehensive approach that took into consideration the existing framework of cooperation at the regional and global levels.  Any measures should not contradict the letter and spirit of the Convention or create new norms that were contradictory, he said.  The increased acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off Somalia’s coast showed the urgent need to build the capacity of coastal States to combat piracy.  In response, Indonesia joined Security Council efforts to address such problems by adopting Council resolutions 1816, 1836 and 1846 this year.  Those texts addressed the specific situation of piracy and armed robbery off Somalia’s coast, yet did not affect the rights, obligations or responsibility of Member States under international law. 


In order to suppress acts of piracy on the high seas adjacent to waters within its national jurisdiction, Indonesia had expanded its cooperation at the bilateral level, with the littoral States through a trilateral forum, as well as with other countries in the region, inter alia, through best practices, coordinated patrol and information sharing.  That approach was consistent with the Convention’s provision pertaining to suppressing piracy and had helped decrease the incidents against ships in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. 


Turning to the issue of fisheries, he said the international community should not lose sight of exploring innovative ways to combat illegal fishing.  As globalization and the “virtual” border of oceans gave perpetrators of illegal fishing opportunities to commit crimes across borders, new measures were needed.  Indonesia was pleased that the resolution, about to be adopted today, acknowledged the urgency of addressing the impact on oceans of global climate change.  It also welcomed the Indonesian Government’s initiative to convene the World Ocean Conference in Manado, North Sulawesi Province, in May 2009. 


VANU GOPALA MENON ( Singapore) noted that Singapore relied on the Convention as the principal framework to ensure freedom of navigation in major international waterways and promote conservation and optimum utilization of the living resources of the sea.  “The Straits of Malacca can be aptly described as Singapore’s economic lifeline,” he said, noting that a third of the world’s oil supplies and half of the global trade passed through those Straits.  Thus, Singapore was very committed to protecting the freedom of navigation and safe passage of ships through those and similar waters.  Towards that goal, Singapore was a contracting State in the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery, which linked all members through an information sharing centre in Singapore to exchange information on piracy and armed robbery.  The Agreement had resulted in a decrease in piracy and armed robbery incidents in the Asian regions.  Although the Gulf of Aden remained of concern, piracy in that area being a complex and multi-faceted problem, it was beyond the scope of any one country, and he welcomed the efforts of both the United Nations and International Maritime Organization to continue to address that ongoing situation. 


He remained concerned at trends that might impact the integrity of the Convention, including those that would encroach on established international law and the Convention, specifically on the regime of transit passage and the delicate balance between the rights and obligations of a State bordering straits used for international navigation and the freedom of transit-critical global trade.  The critical provision addressing that, found in the treaty’s article 42, ensured the continued use of the oceans to facilitate global trade, 90 per cent of which was seaborne.  For three years, his delegation had tried to introduce an operative paragraph in the resolution to reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of States bordering straits.  Singapore, along with other States, took issue with the mandatory pilotage scheme in the Torres Strait.  That precedent could be replicated anywhere, thus making the issue a global one.  He called on the international community to ensure that compulsory pilotage in straits used for international navigation be corrected.  That would preserve both the regime of transit passage and the navigational rights enshrined in the Convention.    


ALEJANDRO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ ( Mexico) said that while the Secretary-General’s reports identified progress in protecting the marine environment, there were also signs of its deterioration.  He called on States to fulfil their obligations under the Convention.  Turning first to resolution A/63/L.42, he reiterated Mexico’s commitment to enhancing the Commission’s capacity so that it could carry out its work.  He acknowledged that climate change was affecting most activities, and it was fundamental to include paragraphs related to scientific activities to better understand its impact on marine biodiversity. 


On the sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, he said Mexico was satisfied by the latest meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group.  Going forward, it was important to consider the basis provided by the Convention for the use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.  The next meeting might provide specific recommendations to the Assembly, and thus consolidate its central role.  On the Consultative Process, he hoped the tenth meeting would allow an opportunity for a true review of its work, and he reminded delegates that the process should be used to promote the needs of all States.  Recent meetings had taught that dialogue was an “indispensable condition” for implementing any action to protect the world’s common heritage. 


Turning next to resolution A/63/L.43, he said Mexico was fully committed to sustainable fishing and had complied with all provisions of the 1995 Agreement.  Recalling the 2006 review conference, he urged true dialogue to consider the concerns of non-States parties.  He hoped that dialogue would be established.  Mexico would promote cooperation to allow for the implementation of measures to conserve straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.   


On related matters, he said international trade was essential to help guarantee that fishing contributed to sustainable development.  In that connection, certification and eco-labelling could help, as could non-discriminatory access to markets.  Regarding the impacts of fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems, he encouraged working with the measures agreed in the 2005 resolution regarding drift net fishing.  Moreover, the precautionary principle should be applied to drift net fishing.   


On the link between illegal fishing and organized crime, he stressed that such a link could only be established through in-depth dialogue among concerned States, using solid studies as a point of reference.  The diversity of legal regimes should also be considered.  In closing, he said the productivity of oceans depended on their sustainable use, and Mexico supported both the draft resolutions. 


BERENADO VUNIBOBO ( Fiji), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, thanked Member States, particularly Norway, which had contributed to the Trust Fund to assist developing countries like Fiji to prepare submissions to the Continental Shelf Commission.  He was pleased to report that Fiji’s request for funding assistance from the Trust Fund had just been approved.  Fiji had an extended continental shelf, and it would be submitting information to the Commission on that shortly.  He was concerned over the allocation of seats in both the Tribunal and the Commission.  If a vote was taken, it would be a bad omen for the work’s long-term stability, which had always been based on consensus.  Furthermore, for the Tribunal to continue its work in the peaceful settlement of disputes, the selection and election of judges needed to be protected from the “intrusion of consideration that are incompatible with its independence”.    


Continuing, he agreed that approaches to ocean management needed to, among other things, focus on managing human activities, restore ecosystem health to sustain living resources and the environment, benefit food security and, more importantly, sustain livelihood.  The need to strengthen international support to contribute to national capacities in marine science and sustainable management of the oceans and their resources was paramount.  As a small island developing State, Fiji did not have those resources, but fully understood that marine science could contribute to the alleviation of poverty and conservation, and that continued research could inform policy and decision makers of the best actions to take in order to promote sustainable development of the ocean and sea resources.    


On climate change, he emphasized the urgency of its impact in his region, including the severity of coral bleaching in the last two decades, which weakened reefs from withstanding ocean acidification, and created irreversible negative effects, which impacted the ability to withstand other pressures such as overfishing and pollution.  “Coral and reefs are the feeding grounds of the fishes and shellfishes which make up over 90 per cent of our diet.  We are not deep-sea fish connoisseurs…  Adverse effects of climate change threaten this secure way of life,” he said.  Calling on Member States to exercise greater vigilance and supervision in the way their fleets caught fish, he concluded with both thanks to the various organizations established under the Law of the Sea Convention, as well as his fellow countryman, Ambassador Satya Nandan, who was completing his long and distinguished association with the Law of the Sea institution. 


GRITAKUMAR E. CHITTY ( Sri Lanka) said the Convention was and should remain the overarching instrument that provided the legal framework for all maritime activity and for the regulation of the exploitation of all resources of the seas and oceans and their uses.  In that regard, all States had the responsibility to protect the Convention’s integrity against any action which was inconsistent with it.  The protection of its integrity, in turn, preserved the essential balances it achieved and underscored the need for international cooperation and a cooperative approach in its implementation.  The framework provided by the 1982 Convention for protection and preservation of the marine environment had been developed in many sectors.    


He pointed out that the Convention had achieved many “delicate” compromises, in particular with respect to the provision on laws and regulations of States bordering straits relating to transit passage and the rights and responsibilities of States bordering straits used for international navigation, as well as those of foreign ships transiting such straits, which had to be respected.  The regulation of the exploitation and the preservation of the living resources of the high seas or the areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction needed to be regulated of necessity, and was best executed through international, regional or subregional cooperation. 


The promotion of integrated management and sustainable development of the oceans and seas was the goal because sustainable development of those resources, if effectively implemented, would also contribute to the social and economic development of the world’s poorer nations and their progress in combating world hunger and poverty, he said.  Sri Lanka had a long history of environmental protection and a tradition of sustainable development.  It was in that context that his country sought to adhere to those principles even as it faced the daunting task of effectively developing the ocean sector.  For the developing world, the contemporary economic development issues were proving to be an ever more daunting challenge to meet in the ocean sector.    


He said that the initiative taken by Sri Lanka at the sixty-first General Assembly session to introduce into the main resolution the issue of assistance to States and measures that might be taken by States to identify their needs in attaining sustainable development of the marine resources and uses under their jurisdiction had been somewhat fruitful, but sustainable and effective development was still lagging in most parts of the developing world, particularly in the ocean sector.  The Secretary-General’s report could guide them through the task of converting sovereignty over the resources into their enjoyment.  Then, too, resource-rich developing countries needed to secure technical expertise and enter into joint development partnerships. 


YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine), who had also served as the President of the eighteenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, said the Convention was the basis for a comprehensive system of economic and political cooperation in marine-related matters.  The paramount importance of the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement should also not be overlooked, as that Agreement ensured the conservation and proper management of stocks based on the principle of responsible fishing on the high seas.  Ukraine was a party to that Agreement and encouraged other States to accede to the instrument.  Overexploitation of living marine resources through excess fishing capacities remained of grave concern to the international community.  As a country bordering a sea that was poor in living resources and suffering from the depletion of fish stocks, Ukraine placed a special emphasis on illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries.  States should apply effective measures for the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks, in order to protect and preserve the marine environment. 


He said that institutions established within the Convention’s framework were essential components in the global system for the rule of law of the oceans and the maintenance of peace and security.  The growing number of piracy and armed robbery incidents –- which negatively impacted the maritime transportation economy and constituted a real threat to the lives of crew members –- also remained a major concern.  All relevant parties needed to combat and prevent such illegal acts, bringing the perpetrators to justice.  States should also become parties to the relevant international instruments and should be encouraged to enact and enforce legislation for their effective implementation.  In addition, coastal States should consider preventive measures in ports and all States should provide precautionary advice to their ships sailing in waters affected by crimes at sea.  He welcomed recent Security Council resolutions on acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia and commended Government efforts to provide naval escorts for humanitarian vessels.  In conclusion, he referred to the unique ability of the General Assembly to review ocean-related matters in a holistic manner and underlined the importance of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process.    


JOYCE KAFANABO (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country, which was surrounded by water, placed strong emphasis on the development of good policies to support existing efforts by subregional and regional fisheries management organizations.  Her Government continued to make tremendous efforts in the implementation of national strategies for sustainable development and protection of the marine environment.   


Noting the progress achieved by the three institutions established under the Convention, she said the International Tribunal was important in setline disputes between States parties, while the International Seabed Authority was carrying out its functions.  With the growing number of submissions to the Continental Shelf Commission, she urged States parties to address its workload issues.  Her country was preparing its submission on time.  However, developing countries’ ability to meet the 13 May 2009 timeline was still a major challenge, as many faced financial and technical difficulties.  They also faced other demands on their budgets, and she urged States parties to consider a general extension of the timeline. 


Regarding changes in the marine environment, she drew attention to the need to build capacity, exchange marine scientific research and transfer technology.  She supported the Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea.  Tanzania was greatly concerned at the tense political situation in Somalia, which had paved the way for piracy along its coastline.  She condemned such acts that caused human suffering and threatened the security of neighbouring countries.  There was an urgent need for international efforts to help ensure the safety of shipping lanes off Somalia’s coastline, and she supported the Secretary-General’s further engagement in that issue.  She called on States parties to abide by the Convention and urged taking conservation measures to protect the marine environment. 


MOHAMMAD FAHD AL ZOBI ( Kuwait) emphasized the importance Kuwait placed on the subject of oceans and the law of the sea and welcomed the recent increase to a total of 156 States parties to the Convention.  However, he was concerned at the increase in piracy and armed robberies against ships, specifically the recent hijacking of the Saudi tanker off the coast of Somalia, and stated that such activity threatened trade and maritime navigation, and jeopardized the lives of the crews on board.  In that regard, he commended the Security Council for its adoption of resolution 1864 this month, which focused on strengthening global efforts to combat piracy off Somalia’s coast and expanding the mandate of State and regional organizations working with Somali officials towards that goal. 


He said that protecting the marine environment and its natural resources was also of utmost importance to his delegation, and he called for a more integrative approach to expanded research and measures aimed at preserving the biodiversity of oceans and seas from the impact of manmade and natural climate change.  He noted that Kuwait housed the headquarters of the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment.  He urged all Member States to cooperate towards the improvement of the lives of their people and “preserve marine resources and use them optimally… to guarantee the achievement of the desirable sustainable development”. 


ILYA I. ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) said the Convention’s integrity must be preserved.  States’ activities in the oceans should be carried on in full accordance with the Convention’s provisions, including those relating to the rights of transit, innocent passage, and fishing in the high seas.  He called on States that had not done so to become parties to the Convention.   


Regarding the establishment of regional fisheries management organizations, he said applying specific steps should be on the basis of scientific information on various fish stocks.  He called on States to cooperate in establishing regional fisheries management organizations, and noted current efforts under way to do so.  Drawing attention to the importance of the 1995 Agreement, he called for increasing the number of parties to it.  He also expected the eighth round of informal consultations of States parties to include a constructive dialogue with those States not yet party to the Agreement.   


The Consultative Process was a useful format for discussing problems related to the oceans, he continued.  He welcomed work done by bodies set up under the Convention:  the Tribunal; the Seabed Authority; and the Commission.  In connection with the Commission’s work, he stressed the importance of coastal States vis-à-vis article 76 of the Convention.  He also urged giving the Commission all the resources it needed.  The Russian Federation supported the two draft resolutions.  Many provisions had been the outcome of a hard-won compromise.  He was disturbed by the trend for drafts to become “unjustifiably long”, and suggested that agreement be reached by concentrating on the basic elements relating to oceans.  In closing, he thanked the coordinators of the consultations on the drafts. 


AHMED KHALEEL ( Maldives) said that, as an archipelagic State stretched over some 90,000 square kilometres, the Maldives viewed the ocean and sea as having extreme economic, social and geopolitical significance.  Its main economic revenues were derived from fishing and tourism industries, and the Government bore the primary burden in protecting the country’s marine resources.  His country had designated several marine protected areas and encouraged eco-sensitive fishing methods that further protected endangered species.  Such conservation was intimately linked to the welfare of Maldivians.  He could not overemphasize the importance of managing sustainable fisheries, given its primal role in ensuring food security for Maldivians. 


The challenges posed by the vast sea area were exacerbated by changes in the environment, he said, noting that climate change continued to worsen coastal erosion, coral bleaching and sea level rise.  Such adverse effects were of particular concern to small island developing States, such as his own, that were living through the dire effects of global recession and rising food and fuel prices.  Indeed, extensive development efforts achieved over the years were being consistently threatened by climate change, and the Maldives lacked resources to fully realize ongoing adaptation measures.   


Given its vast sea area, the Maldives was concerned by the growing use of the oceans and territorial waters of coastal States for illegal activities, such as piracy, illicit arms and drugs trafficking, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the latter of which, if left unchecked, could result in lost socio-economic development opportunities.  To advance science and technology for the sustainable management of the marine environment, the Maldives was working with regional partners to establish a tsunami early warning system.  In addition, contributions to the various trust funds under the Convention, notably those for assisting developing countries in capacity building, were vital for national human resource development.  In closing, he called for redoubling efforts to ensure the equitable sharing of marine sources while, at the same time, respecting the sovereign rights and territorial integrity of States. 


ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia), as a co-sponsor of both resolutions, noted that both raised issues of great importance to Australia, including sustained fish stocks, bottom fisheries, high seas governance and ocean fertilisation.  With regard to destructive fishing practices, Australia agreed to cooperate in applying precautionary approaches to fisheries and an ecosystem approach to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks.  It also agreed to set precautionary reference points to sustain fish stocks and to take action to stop destructive fishing practices.  A regional fisheries management organization in the South Pacific was being established and progress was being made in developing interim management measures.  He called on Member States to ratify the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, join each regional fisheries management organization or arrangement and to join in all efforts to implement the measures of those resolutions aimed at remedying the many problems they identified. 


He said that the international community was facing a myriad of challenges, from both existing and new activities on the high seas.  Adequate arrangement and governance structures needed to be put in place to ensure conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  Efforts should be accelerated to develop ways to meet the collective commitment made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to establish networks of marine protected areas by 2012.  The Consultative Process had demonstrated success as an informal process open to stakeholders and technical experts, as well as to Governments to address new and emerging oceans issues.    


Turning to the issue of transit passage, specifically in the Torres Strait, he noted that, in 2006, Australia had enacted measures to ensure safe navigation and to protect the marine environment of the Torres Strait, considered to be one of the most difficult straits to navigate because of its narrow, treacherous features, and frequent tropical storms and cyclones.  Approximately 3,000 vessels transited the Torres Strait each year, and in 2003, only 35 per cent carried a pilot.  The risk of a major grounding for unpiloted vessels was one in 10,000.  It was clear to Australia and Papua New Guinea that that situation was a major accident waiting to happen.  Furthermore, the Strait contained a unique marine ecosystem and provided a critical habitat for many vulnerable and endangered species.  The area was also home to several thousand culturally and linguistically unique people living in small coastal communities.  Groundings or collisions would take weeks of clean up, block continued traffic and impact commerce and the environment.  Protecting the Torres Strait would ensure the safety and protection of the region, commerce, the indigenous communities and the marine life.    


Since the programme’s implementation, the uptake rate of pilots had risen to 100 per cent, he noted.  Australia firmly believed in the need for its system of pilotage and of its consistency with international law, and reaffirmed the commitment to protect a fragile, natural environment and the people indigenous to that environment.   


SABELO SIVUYILE MAQUNGO ( South Africa) expressed deep concern over the unsustainable rate of exploitation of marine resources.  His country attached great importance to the conservation, management and sustainable use of marine resources, as a basis for sustainable development.  It was important to seek measures to prevent and control ocean pollution, in order to further protect and preserve the marine environment.  Pollution from land-based activities had contributed to the destruction of marine habitats, and more needed to be done to raise awareness of the effects of industrial discharge.  Climate change also posed a significant threat to marine resources and to the lives of the people who depended on the sea.  It increased the risk that coastal areas would be exposed to erosion, and it affected the distribution of marine life, among other things.  As such, it was imperative to mitigate the impact of climate change on the oceans and to assist developing States, particularly coastal and small island States, to adapt. 


On piracy, he said his delegation was shocked at the growing number of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.  The ocean highways played a vital role in the transport of commodities and in international commerce.  Preserving and enhancing maritime safety and security was of the utmost importance.  States must share the responsibility for addressing threats and challenges to maritime security, and the limited capacity of the Somali Government to maintain security and the absence of an effective peacekeeping force made that situation even more challenging.  He called on States that had not yet done so to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, with a view to creating a universal framework for cooperation among nations on all aspects relating to the oceans.  He also urged States to ratify the Convention on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fishstocks.  He expressed appreciation for the work of the outgoing Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority and affirmed his country’s support for his successor.  In closing, he called for greater use of the International Tribunal to resolve disputes.    


SATYA N. NANDAN, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, highlighted some of his organization’s most important developments, saying first that the Council of the Authority made progress in elaborating regulations for prospecting and exploration for polymetallic sulphides as soon as possible.   


He said that, earlier this year, the Authority received two new applications for licences to explore for polymetallic nodules in the international seabed area.  They were “highly significant” in that they covered areas for the prime nodule province in the Central Pacific Ocean reserved for the conduct of activities by the Authority or by developing States.  They were also the first to have been made by a private sector applicant sponsored by developing States:  the Governments of Nauru and Tonga.  That was in contrast to the situation regarding existing contractors with the Authority, all of which were Government-sponsored enterprises. 


“This is a very interesting development for the Authority and the international community as a whole”, he said, noting that private-sector involvement in developing marine mineral resources in the international seabed area might be a catalyst to other contractors, most of which had been content to carry out their activities at a “very slow” pace. 


Another major development had been a proposal to set aside certain areas of the Central Pacific Ocean for environmental protection and safeguarding biodiversity, he said.  The Legal and Technical Commission was considering that proposal, and he hoped it would be in a position to make a fully reasoned recommendation to the Council in 2009.  In other matters, he had recently attended a seminar in Brazil on the marine mineral resources of the South and Equatorial Atlantic Ocean.  On the issue of assessed contributions to the Authority, over the past 12 years, members had shown a “commendable readiness” to pay them.  Regarding the Authority’s endowment fund for promoting marine scientific research, administrative arrangements had been put in place for it to begin its operations.  Plans had been made to include the appointment of a panel of experts to advise the Secretary-General on applications for assistance from the Fund.


As this would be his last appearance before the Assembly, he recalled various milestones he had encountered in the 35 years he had been involved with the law of the sea issues, including the resolution, through the “1994 Agreement”, of outstanding issues with respect to Part XI of the Convention.  That work opened the door for universal participation in the Convention, which, in turn, led to the current involvement of 158 parties.  “What is most remarkable is that, at each stage, the Convention has been further strengthened,” he said, adding that it had been applied with a “remarkable degree” of uniformity not envisaged during the Third United Nations Conference.  Its internal flexibility allowed for further development of its major principles, which gave him confidence that, as new issues arose, they would be resolved without upsetting the balance that had led to its broad application in State practice.


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