|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
58th & 59th Meetings (AM & PM)
General Assembly Concludes Annual Debate on Law of the Sea Adopting Two Texts
Bolstering United Nations Regime Governing Ocean Space, Its Resources, Uses
Speakers in Day-Long Discussion Lament Plastic-Choked Seas and Shorelines,
Fear ‘Backsliding’ on Recent Commitments on Curbing Bottom Trawling, Shark Finning
Reiterating its deep concern at the serious adverse impacts on the marine environment and biodiversity, and highlighting the links between the health of the world’s oceans and sustainable human development, the General Assembly today adopted two resolutions calling on all States to bolster their support for the United Nations framework established by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
By a vote of 123 in favour to 1 against (Turkey) with 2 abstentions (Colombia and Venezuela), the Assembly adopted its 38-page omnibus resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, reiterating, among other things, the essential need for cooperation, including through capacity-building and transfer of marine technology, to ensure that all States, especially developing countries, small islands and coastal African States, were able to implement the Convention and to benefit from the sustainable development of the oceans and seas, as well as to participate fully in all forums and processes dealing with related legal issues. (See Annex)
Noting with concern the continuing problem of transnational organized crime committed at sea, as well as threats to maritime safety and security, including piracy, the Assembly urged States to ensure the full implementation of resolution A.1026(26) of the International Maritime Organization (2009) on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia. It further called on States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing related United Nations conventions, and to take appropriate measures to ensure their effective implementation.
By its wide-ranging text on sustainable fisheries, the Assembly called upon all States that had not done so to apply widely, in accordance with international law, the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stock. It called upon States to commit to urgently reducing the capacity of the world’s fishing fleets to levels commensurate with the sustainability of fish stocks, through the establishment of target levels and plans or other appropriate mechanisms for ongoing capacity assessment.
While the Assembly deplored the fact that fish stocks in many parts of the world were overfished or being seriously affected by the impact of climate change, it also expressed particular concern that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing constituted a serious threat to fish stocks and marine habitats, to the detriment of sustainable fisheries, as well as food security and the economies of many States, particularly in developing countries. It urged States “to exercise effective controls over their nationals […] in order to deter and prevent them form engaging in” illegal fishing activities.
The Assembly also expressed deep concern over the impact of recognizing the economic and cultural importance of sharks in many countries, the biological importance of sharks in the marine ecosystem as key ocean predators, the fact that some are threatened with extinction, and the need for measures to promote the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of shark populations and fisheries. The resolution reiterates the Assembly’s request to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to prepare a report containing a comprehensive analysis of the implementation of the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
During the Assembly’s annual joint debate on oceans and the law of the sea, delegates addressed a wide array of issues and stressed their strong and unifying interest in the world’s oceans and their resources. Among the topics central to the debate were the protection of the world’s deep waters, their biological diversity and fishing stocks, as well as international capacity-building in marine science and ocean affairs.
Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, Palau’s delegate noted that past consensuses reached by international conferences and instruments had been concrete steps forward and “proof that the United Nations can be trusted to protect our oceans”. Nonetheless, much work remained on many issues related to oceans and the law of the sea. For example, he said, the stewardship of small island developing States on marine matters was often compromised by geographic isolation, small populations and lack of technical expertise. Pacific Island States were therefore pleased with the many references to capacity-building in this year’s discussion.
The representative of Jamaica, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), agreed, saying that as developing nations, the members of his delegation were at times unable to realize the full benefits of ocean resources. Strengthened capacity-building initiatives were necessary, he said, as was better coordination of activities to ensure the implementation of international rules for maritime safety and security.
The call for security in the world’s oceans and coasts echoed throughout the debate, which heard from more than 30 speakers, as many delegations expressed concern over continued acts of piracy and armed robbery, particularly in Somalia. Other issues voiced by delegates included threats posed by ocean acidification, the “dangerous twin of climate change”, calls for deeper scientific exploration on fish stocks, and the continued lack of international agreement on a proposed moratorium on shark finning.
Belgium’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that one of the most important world bodies with regard to oceans and the law of the sea was the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, whose aim was to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf. Like other delegations, however, he expressed concern at the heavy workload and slow pace of work of the Commission. He hoped for the establishment of “protected zones” — which would respect national boundaries — as soon as possible.
Enhancing sustainability and maintaining the oceans’ limited resources was another common theme in the debate. Noting that globalization had “shrunk the world, including its oceans”, the representative of Singapore said that it was vital for the international community to work together to manage ocean resources. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overcapacity were a serious challenge to the sustainable use of living marine resources, said numerous delegates. Addressing those problems on a global scale, including through the implementation of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, was critical.
In other business, Assembly President Joseph Deiss informed Members that consideration of the agenda item on protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development, and the item on the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, which had been scheduled for Monday, 13 December 2010, had been postponed to a later date to be announced.
Also speaking today were Fiji, Ukraine, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Cuba, Honduras, Philippines, Norway, Costa Rica, Monaco, Canada, Argentina, Malta, Tunisia, China, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Iceland, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, South Africa, Venezuela, and Libya.
Speaking as observers were the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Secretary-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority.
The representative of Brazil introduced the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, and the representative of the United States introduced the draft text on sustainable fisheries.
Speaking before the action on the omnibus text on oceans and law of the sea was the representative of Venezuela. Speaking after the vote were the representatives of Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile and Ecuador.
The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow at 3 p.m. to take up the reports of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
The General Assembly met today for its joint debate on oceans and the law of the sea. It was also expected to take up a draft resolution on the issue.
For its discussion, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/65/69), the first part of a comprehensive survey on the same topic, which focuses on capacity-building in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science, which was the topic for eleventh meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.
The report examines the relevance and scope of capacity-building, presents an overview of the capacity-building needs of States in marine science and other areas of ocean affairs and the law of the sea and reviews current capacity-building activities and initiatives in those areas.
In its conclusions, the report addresses challenges in implementing capacity-building activities and identifies ways to move forward. It finds that limitations on existing capacity and challenges in the delivery of effective capacity-building might constrain States – in particular developing countries and small island developing States – from benefiting from the oceans and seas and their resources. There was an urgent need to develop and strengthen the capacities of those countries.
Noting that increasing the marine science capacity of States, particularly in developing countries, could enhance scientific understanding of the oceans as a whole and support sustainable development and management of marine resources on a global level, the report also stresses that capacity-building among developing States would benefit the international community as a whole. A comprehensive assessment of the existing capacities and needs of States in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science, and of possible ways to enhance those capacities, would be an essential starting point for the development of sustained capacity-building programmes and activities, it says.
The comprehensive report should be read in conjunction with an addendum (document A/64/69/Add.1), which provides submissions received from nine States, as well as the European Union and its member States, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 64/71, in which the Assembly invited States to submit their views to the Secretary-General on the fundamental building blocks of the on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects.
The full comprehensive report is contained in another addendum (document A/65/69/Add.2), and is intended to assist the General Assembly in its annual review and evaluation of the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other developments related to ocean affairs and the law of the sea. The report provides an overview of the challenges still faced by the international community in sustainable development of the oceans and their resources as human activities are taking a toll on the world’s oceans and seas. In particular, vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries, were being threatened by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, marine pollution and other actions.
Introduction of Drafts
Introducing a draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/65/L.20), REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said the text reflected the important contribution of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to peace and justice for all peoples. Thanking delegates for the “spirit of cooperation” in crafting the text, she said that same spirit should be seen in meeting the challenges for creating an equitable global economic order.
Among the text’s noteworthy aspects was its focus on capacity-building and a process for global reporting on the state of the marine environment, including socioeconomic aspects, she continued. Indeed, capacity-building cut across most areas covered by the Convention and was of utmost importance for developing countries. No comprehensive assessment had been carried out globally of capacity-building needs in relation to ocean affairs. Capacity-building had taken on more significance in view of the increasing challenges to undertaking sustainable development. She looked forward to filling gaps in major United Nations conferences in the context of the Twelfth Informal Consultative Process in 2011.
Welcoming the establishment of global reporting and assessment of the marine environment, she said the text gave full effect to the recommendation contained in the Johannesburg Plan of Action on sustainable development. The text also requested the Group of Experts to develop options for achieving the 2014 deadline, suggesting a course of action to be followed by the Assembly. The Group should present those options in 2011.
Elsewhere, she said the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf continued to face a heavy workload and the text requested the Working Group established by the meeting of States Parties to address the possibility of creating a full-time Commission. Cooperation was called for to address that critical impediment. The International Seabed Authority had estimated that commercial production of resources from the Continental Shelf could occur by 2015.
Moreover, the text emphasized the need to address the root causes of piracy in Somalia and to help regional States build capacity in that context. The Assembly’s central role was duly underscored in the resolution, which also noted work done by Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. In closing, she drew attention to the high level of expertise of all delegations which enabled today’s outcome and expressed hope the text would be adopted by consensus.
Next, GREGORY NICKELS (United States) introduced a 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 (document A/65/L.21). Reviewing related national and regional measures undertaken by the United States, he then said that the text contained important provisions to address critical issues such as illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing through strengthened control by States operating open registries over all fishing vessels flying their flag; and reducing global fishing capacity for tunas.
Continuing, he said the resolution contained other provisions on addressing the impacts of climate change on the sustainability of fish stocks; strengthening conservation and management of sharks and the collection of data on species caught as “bycatch”; and implementation of the recommendations from the Resumed Review Conference for the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, among other important matters. The United States was pleased that the resolution also contained a renewed emphasis on implementing and enforcing the moratorium on large-scale high-seas drift nets and the critical need for science-based conservation and management measures.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said States in his region looked to the Convention for guidance on matters related to the exploration and exploitation of living and non-living resources in their maritime zones. But they also recognized that, as developing nations, they were unable at times to realize the full benefits from those resources, due to limited scientific or technological capacity, and they welcomed the emphasis on the issue of capacity-building and technology transfer in the Secretary-General’s report.
Supporting the need for strengthened capacity-building initiatives, he also underscored the need for more coordination of such activities to ensure implementation of international rules for maritime safety and security. He remained concerned with the projected workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and supported the Informal Working Group’s efforts to devise solutions. He expected work to progress on finalizing draft regulations on prospecting and exploration for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the international seabed Area in 2011. Dispute resolution related to the interpretation and application of the Convention was indispensable for peace and as such, he welcomed the recent referral by States of disputes to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
In other areas, he welcomed the recent adoption of a resolution on sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations, saying also that promotion of maritime commerce must include improved regulations governing the safety of navigations, structure of vessels and other shipping standards. He expressed continued concern at the dangers posed by transport of radioactive wastes through the Caribbean Sea and welcomed efforts to improve training standards for seafarers. For its part, the United Nations must redouble efforts to counter maritime safety threats at national, regional and international levels, including piracy and armed robbery at sea. He supported United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) programmes for increased cooperation on such issues.
Finally, he supported the establishment of the Regular Process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment and endorsed recommendations of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole at its 2009 meeting to develop a strategy and timetable for producing an integrated assessment of the world’s oceans and seas. He supported the relevance of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) marine and coastal strategy, launched last year, to promote marine conservation, and sustainable use of marine resources through regional partnerships. On climate change, a priority, he expressed concern about its impacts on corals and other marine organisms, encouraging more activities at all levels to mitigate its impacts.
STUART BECK ( Palau), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that the members of his delegation shared a strong and unifying interest in the oceans and their resources. Noting that one of the key issues for this year’s consultations on the sustainable fisheries resolution was to record the progress made at the resumed United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement Review Conference in May 2010, he recalled that the Pacific Island nations were intimately involved in the negotiations leading to the adoption of the Fish Stocks Agreement. He welcomed the recent ratification of the Agreement by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and encouraged others to become parties to that Agreement.
He was also pleased to participate in the 2006 Review Conference and the 2010 resumed Review Conference. The Pacific Island Forum welcomed the successful adoption by consensus of the outcome of that conference, which was a fair compromise and one which the United Nations could be proud of. The consensus was a “concrete step forward and proof that the United Nations can be trusted to protect our oceans”, added the representative. Nonetheless, the Forum was disappointed that, in a number of areas, it was not possible to carry the strong language agreed by consensus at the Resumed Review Conference into the sustainable fisheries resolution.
One such issue was the conservation and management of sharks, on which some countries had advocated for a complete moratorium on shark finning while others had demonstrated reluctance. He said Pacific Islands Forum members were disappointed that the language adopted at the resumed Review Conference on that matter was not included in the sustainable fisheries resolution. They were pleased, however, that the fisheries resolution welcomed the recent signatures and ratification of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean, and encouraged further signatures and ratifications with a view to its early entry into force.
That Convention, which established a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO), built upon the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and completed the international framework for managing the high seas fishery resources of the South Pacific. The Forum members also welcomed the inclusion of several new paragraphs on large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, to improve the implementation of the 1991 global moratorium on the use of drift nets in the high seas, for which the Forum members had helped to pave the way.
He expressed concern at the implications Continental Shelf Commission’s very considerable workload, and in that regard supported the continuing efforts of the informal working group on that issue. Noting that the stewardship of small island developing States on marine matters was often compromised by geographic isolation, small populations and lack of technical expertise, the Forum felt that the various references to capacity-building within the resolutions before the Assembly were appropriate. Improving inter-agency coordination on key issues of interest to SIDS could help increase access to information and resources, added the representative.
He said the Forum welcomed the recognition in the oceans resolution of the Pacific Oceanscape Framework, endorsed by Forum leaders in Vanuatu in August 2010, as an initiative to enhance cooperation between coastal States in the Pacific island region to foster marine conservation and sustainable development. Adequately resourcing the monitoring and assessment of coastal waters and exclusive economic zones remained a challenge for many small islands, he continued. The Forum hoped that that the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of Marine Environment would assist in the matter, by developing the first integrated assessment of the world’s oceans by 2014.
PETER THOMSON (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said the oceans were subject to overfishing, illegal and unregulated fishing, bottom trawling and shark finning. Choking shores was a “great and growing gyre” of indestructible plastic trash, while coral reefs were under growing pressure from climate change. Pacific coral reefs supported great bounties of fish and marine life, and he was glad to see the Assembly’s increased recognition of the links between healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable development.
Encouraged by the promise of ensuring long-term conservation of fishery resources and their associated marine ecosystems by a new RFMO for the South Pacific Ocean, he also supported the call in the sustainable fisheries resolution for countries to fully implement the interim measures for the pelagic and bottom fisheries to be covered by the management organization. Though encouraged by many aspects of today’s resolutions, he was disappointed to see “backsliding” from important recent commitments made on shark finning and bottom fishing.
Parties to the Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as non-Parties, had adopted the outcome document of the resumed Review Conference in May, agreeing that conservation and management of sharks should be enhanced. But the current fisheries resolution “inexplicably” did not reflect the agreed language, and he called on nations to respect the agreement reached in May. He was also alarmed that resolutions on bottom fisheries were not being fully implemented, as studies had confirmed that bottom trawling had a more negative impact on the seafloor than all other major human activities combined.
Impact assessments, agreed in 2006, must be carried out before any bottom fishing could take place, he said, an approach consistent with the precautionary approach and the best available science. Reports of fisheries management organizations and States disregarding advice of deep sea scientists continued and the 2011 review of the implementation of bottom fisheries resolutions would offer an opportunity to expect accountability.
HERMAN PORTOCARERO (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that the annual resolution on oceans and the law of the sea covered one of the most complex issues addressed by the Assembly. The European Union welcomed that the current text on reflected various current and emerging issues. It was on those matters that discussion in the Assembly was most lively. Nonetheless, the integrity of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea must be respected by all. The European Union asked those who had not ratified the Convention to do so, and additionally to respect part 11. Further, while his delegation fully supported regional cooperation among coastal States, it noted that such cooperation must be undertaken with full respect for UNCLOS.
Piracy, particularly on the coast of Somalia, remained a concern for the international community, he said, and while the number of incidents was declining, there were still many. In that regard, the European Union supported initiatives designed to strengthen the arrest and bring pirates to justice under national jurisdiction while aligned with the rules of the Convention, said the delegate. One of the most important bodies relevant to the issue was the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he continued. However, the slow pace of the Commission’s important work was a concern. The European Union strongly encouraged coastal States to set the limits of their continental shelves as soon as possible, and further hoped for the establishment of protected zones while respecting national boundaries as soon as possible.
In addition, he said the maintenance of marine biodiversity was of the highest importance, as was the work of related international bodies including the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea and the International Seabed Authority. The European Union continued to view the annual resolution on fisheries as extremely important. Noting the global importance of stocks of small pelagic fish, he said demand for those stocks was on the rise, in particular in developing countries. Such demand was affecting the long-term sustainability of reserves, which was of concern.
The European Union welcomed that this year’s resolution included a call for deeper scientific exploration for a better understanding the management of those stocks. Further, he said the European Union and its member States remained fully involved in the maintenance of vulnerable marine ecosystems and deepwater fish stocks. It therefore supported measures outlined in Assembly resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 and hoped that their implementation would be a priority in the coming year.
OLEKSIY SHAPOVAL (Ukraine) reaffirming his Government’s commitment to implementing UNCLOS, said piracy and armed robbery at sea had become high priority issues on the world maritime agenda. Compliance with International Maritime Organization guidance with the Best Management Practices was crucial for safeguarding international navigation. The primary responsibility for ensuring security of the international maritime trade lay with ship owners and flag States, which should increase cooperation when seafarers fell prey to pirates.
Welcoming ongoing talks on seafarers’ welfare, he agreed with the Secretary-General’s concerns on the situation of piracy of Somalia’s coast, saying Ukraine would help find solutions for seafarers who had fallen victim to piracy. The problem of impunity for pirates lay in the implementation and application of existing international legal regimes on combating piracy. International law outlined States were committed to cooperate in the repression of piracy, but there was a significant gap in bringing those involved to justice and he encouraged States to consider ways of ensuring the effective application and implementation of the international legal regime in that regard.
IBRAHIM SALEM (Egypt) observed that despite the Organization’s extensive efforts to address the state of oceans and seas, considerable challenges continued to threaten the sustainable development of the world’s waterways and their resources, as human activities were taking a toll the viability of vulnerable marine ecosystems and important fisheries were being threatened by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as destructive fishing practices. Furthermore, marine pollution remained as one of the major concerns and the accident involving the offshore BP drilling unit in the Gulf of Mexico last April had shown that the marine environment was highly vulnerable to pollution resulting from accidents linked to activities at sea.
In the same vein, he emphasized the need to further enhance the efforts and programmes to tackle the threats caused by increased sea temperatures, sea level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change. He also stressed the importance of the efforts exerted at the international level to strengthen and develop the field of marine scientific research, particularly in the context of the International Seabed Authority, and in the study of the effects of mining activities on the marine environment at sea bottom.
Turning to the safety and security of navigation, he said Egypt was concerned at the continuing adverse effects that incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coasts of Somalia posed to the lives of seafarers and the safety of international shipping, causing considerable economic disruptions through higher transportation costs, including insurance costs. In that regard, reaching a lasting comprehensive settlement of the situation in Somalia was closely tied to the spread of piracy in that region, and Egypt called for more attention by the international community to that issue. He added Egyptian concern over the “illegal and unjustified” attacks by Israel in international waters against the humanitarian flotilla carrying assistance to the Palestinian people in Gaza and condemned those acts which constituted a clear violation to the safety and security of navigation as laid out both in international law and international humanitarian law.
ANDREANO ERWIN ( Indonesia) stated that his country had always been of the view that long-term efforts through cooperative mechanism in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore remained one of the best practices and applicable mechanisms on combating piracy and armed robbery at sea. Regarding the continued prevalence of piracy off the coast of Somalia, it was widely understandable that certain resolutions applied only to the situation in Somalia. However, it was also important to underline that Member States should continue their support of the primary role of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in combating piracy and armed robbery against ships. The delegate commended the report of the Secretary-General on how to bring to justice those involved in acts of piracy.
Recalling that the eleventh session of Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea discussed the important issues of capacity-building, he said his Government supported the consideration of a proper multilateral mechanism to provide integrated data between donor countries and beneficiary countries in that area. He called on respective United Nations bodies to play their important role to provide such data in accordance with the needs of Member States. With regard to the issue of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, Indonesia underlined its unwavering commitment to the customary principle of common heritage of mankind.
He went on to say that Indonesia was of the view that the question of the ocean floor and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction should be addressed in the context of the mandate of the Working Group established by General Assembly resolution 59/24. Indonesia attached great importance to the workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Due to the significant number of submissions that body had received, Indonesia shared the view that there were some proposals that merited future consideration to expedite the submissions in a timely manner. Finally, he expressed continued concern about the illegal and unregulated fishing activities that threatened the sustainability of fish stock resources worldwide.
KAZUO KODAMA ( Japan) expressed continued concern that piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden had expanded to areas along the eastern African coast and into the Indian Ocean. A multifaceted approach that included assistance for maritime enforcement and capacity-building must be pursued to suppress such acts. Japan had dispatched two destroyers and two P-3C patrol aircraft to monitor those areas, and had contributed $13.6 million to the International Maritime Organization Djibouti Code Trust Fund.
On the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Japan fully recognized the need to improve its workload, given the large number of submissions made by coastal States. As for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, he said Japan welcomed the expansion of its activities and would contribute to its valuable work. On other areas, he said the promotion of global conservation of biodiversity was increasingly important, and in that context, he recognized the Assembly’s role in facilitating protection of such resources beyond national jurisdiction.
As a fishing State and State Party to both the Convention and the Fish Stocks Agreement, Japan was dedicated to conserving and managing living marine resources and conserving the marine ecosystem through bilateral fisheries agreements and organizations. He said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overcapacity were so serious for sustainable use of living marine resources that it was urgent to address those problems on a global scale. Japan would endeavour to enhance the effectiveness of the Fish Stocks Agreement by implementing the recommendation adopted in May in cooperation with other Contracting Parties.
DELGADO SANCHEZ ( Cuba) said UNCLOS outlined the universally recognized legal framework for oceans and seas activities. Cuba, an island nation, had a special interest in such questions and was working to implement national strategies to protect the marine environment and implement the Convention. It had institutions and legislation in place to address crimes committed at sea, including the trafficking of drugs and persons, as well as piracy. Reiterating the importance of increased cooperation on managing marine resources, he highlighted the need to increase financial and technical assistance to developing countries. It was vital to continue benefit from biodiversity and its genetic resources, which were the common heritage of mankind. They must not be patented by transnational corporations, he declared.
The right of a passage also must be respected, he said, calling on bordering States to adopt regulations on that right. Cuba required a holistic approach to those issues. On other matters, he said rising sea levels threatened the territorial integrity of small island States. Developed countries must comply with their financial commitments and reduce activities that affected the world’s delicate ecological balance. On the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, Cuba, though not a party to the related treaty, had willingly abided by its provisions. It had concerns about visits aboard fishing vessels.
MARY FLORES ( Honduras) said that the world’s oceans were an invaluable resource and legacy for future generations, and therefore constituted an important topic of discussion for the Assembly. While much progress had been made in resolving maritime disputes, exploring the oceans, expanding related science, and other issues, there remained much to do to protect the oceans. In particular, climate change had meant that oceans were “exacting savage revenge” on coastal communities, and work needed to be done to protect those communities. On a separate matter, she said Honduras had subscribed with the delegation of Palau to put an end to the fishing of sharks. It called for the full implementation of the Convention on biological diversity, among others related to the topic.
Honduras considered that it was not sufficient to adopt national conventions and agreements on these matters. She said such challenges must be addressed in a holistic way that ensured the sustainability of marine species and other ocean resources. After the necessary debate a State policy compatible with those neighbouring States must be implemented, using the peaceful means afforded. The international community had made swift progress on some of the long gamut of issues related to oceans and the law of the sea. However, more must be done in areas including marine piracy – in particular in the face of the economic crisis’ impact in coastal States – and other matters related to oceans and the law of the sea.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said his country recognized the importance of UNCLOS as the basis for national, regional and global action. As an archipelago and maritime nation that relied on the oceans for its continued development, the Philippines gave great importance to a just and equitable international legal and economic order governing the world’s ocean space. That order was key to let all of the world’s stakeholders maximize their use of the oceans’ potential while preventing and minimizing tensions between nations.
The Philippines this year actively participated in the twentieth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention and the eleventh meeting of the informal consultative process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. The progress showed that the States Parties were ready to assume a new role in the common interpretation and universal application of the Convention. Acknowledging the cooperation among stakeholders, the Philippines said there was still a wide range of problems that needed to be addressed. The workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had substantially increased due to the large number of submissions, he said, adding that without financial support the most important suggestions made by the informal working group regarding the Commission’s workload could not be implemented.
He went on to say that maritime piracy continued to be a menace and its impact on international trade and commerce, as well as the human costs, could not be ignored. The Security Council, the Assembly and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia had all underscored the need for improving the capacity of States to counter that persistent scourge. With respect to marine environment protection and marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdictions, he said most ocean pollutants were generated by land-based activities, and as such, he called on all States to implement the relevant Programme of Action and fulfil commitments embodied in the Beijing Declaration on Furthering Implementation of that programme.
MORTEN WETLAND (Norway), recalling that establishing the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles was central to the implementation of the Law of the Sea regime, said his Government had signed an agreement to assist six West African countries in preparing their submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, with the aim of enabling them to exercise their sovereign rights to natural resources on their continental shelves. Closer to home, the Arctic Ocean was seeing significant changes due to climate change and important provisions of the Convention must be implemented to improve safety of life at sea, as well as environmental protection. Norway had prioritized work by the International Maritime Organization to adopt mandatory rules for ships operating in polar waters.
Indeed, standards for the design and operation of such ships must be improved and he called on other States to make such work a priority. Elsewhere, he said regional environmental organizations played a crucial role in protecting maritime biodiversity. One such arrangement – the Oslo-Paris Convention – established a regional mechanism for protecting the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic. He welcomed its adoption in September of innovative measures to establish and manage six marine protected areas beyond national jurisdiction, which complemented other measures adopted by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission last year.
Their cooperative efforts were an example of how cooperation could be organized to combine sustainable management and use of resources with biodiversity protection. He cited an “important milestone” in the global fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agreement on Port States Measures adopted last year. It was important to initiate measure to reduce fish discards. Finally, he said it was of utmost importance that captured pirates were brought to justice. Norway had contributed to the Trust Fund of the Contact Group to fight such acts off the coast of Somalia, with a view to strengthening justice in the region.
SAUL WEISLEDER ( Costa Rica) underscored the Convention’s universal nature and urged all States that had not done so to accede to both that treaty and the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement. Capacity-building and technology transfer were essential for implementing the regime. Least developed countries and the small island developing States, the success of capacity-building, and related transparency, depended to a large extent on international cooperation. That was true for Costa Rica. He urged promoting cooperation among all countries, including South-South cooperation, saying that for its part, Costa Rica had implemented national measures for the sustainable use of its marine resources. In July 2009, Costa Rica created two new management categories to sustainably use its marine wealth, designed to protect ecosystems.
Through a broad consultation process, Costa Rica last year had adopted a national strategy for managing marine and coastal resources, which established policies for integrating conservation efforts with socioeconomic development. The Secretary-General’s report was clear in showing that oceans and coastal ecosystems played a key role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, and he called on United Nations bodies to cooperate in the promotion of capacity in that regard. Such cooperation was important in identifying coastal marine areas’ vulnerability to climate change. In sum, he reiterated the importance of using scientific criteria in conservation management decisions. It was vital to ensure more information exchange on fish stocks and to implement the precautionary principle. He urged sanctions be carried out in the practice of shark finning, and in the transhipment of sharks on the high seas.
ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said the Assembly’s annual discussion on oceans and the law of the sea placed before member States many of the challenges that the world as a whole was confronting. Regarding the viability of fisheries, Monaco wished to stress the role of RFMOs. Price reduction measures were needed, and as that was the case, Monaco remained concerned about the high price of blue fin tuna. Illegal and unregulated fishing also continued to be a concern, threatening resources and the livelihood of legitimate fishermen. She highlighted an aspect shared by all the documents before the Assembly, as well as by the results of the Open-ended Informal Working Group – capacity strengthening. Without strengthened capacity, the peaceful use of oceans and the conservation of their resources would not be achieved, said the delegate.
Monaco was engaged in the preparation for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, she continued, highlighting consultative processes, workshops and other activities undertaken throughout the year that had made strides in the area of oceans and sustainable development. She further noted that ocean acidification, sometime called the “dangerous twin of climate change”, was affecting arctic environments as well as coral reefs worldwide, and that many sectors had been threatened. Additionally, the creation of protected marine zones was essential. The second round of the Monaco Blue initiative, a group created for the reflection and action on the protection of marine environments, would also continue and address relevant topics.
LOYOLA SULLIVAN ( Canada) said that UNCLOS remained the legal framework governing ocean activities, with other initiatives and instruments useful to complement that treaty in light of the increasingly complex and multifaceted oceans agenda. In the area of conservation and sustainable use of oceans resources, better governance, compliance control and enforcement was needed. He urged States to accede to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated Fishing, as Canada had done. In light of that Agreement, he supported efforts within FAO to develop flag State performance criteria.
He said that other key priorities for the FAO should include international guidelines on aquaculture certification and on bycatch and discards, as well as best practices on traceability and catch documentation schemes and a further work programme to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems. In regard to the Fish Stocks Agreement, he reiterated the call for all States to implement the recommendations of the resumed Review Conference and, for all States that had not done so, to accede to the Agreement. Words must be translated into action through regional fisheries management organizations. In regard to counter-piracy, he noted Canada’s strong support for international efforts to foster a secure maritime environment.
Turning to biodiversity and ecosystems, he said that action in those areas should not await the development of new technology and, in that light he welcomed the outcome of recent meetings on the topic. Upcoming meetings of the Working Group of the Whole, he commented, must develop a process that was policy relevant but not prescriptive on the topics. In preparation for the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development, he welcomed the decision to focus on progress achieved and gaps that remain in the Law of the Sea. In other areas, he said it was critical to set down clearly, and in a timely fashion, all options and requirements relevant to the workload of the continental shelf Commission, and expressed hope that regulations concerning cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts received swifter passage in the seabed authority. In all areas of the Law of the Sea, it was critical to work smarter within available resources, with better cooperation, he maintained.
JOSE LUIS JESUS, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, giving an overview of three new developments in the past year, described a dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the delimitation of their maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. The Tribunal President had held consultations with the parties to ascertain their views. Bangladesh had submitted its memorial and Myanmar its counter-memorial on 31 July and 1 December respectively, as scheduled, and the written phase of the proceedings should conclude by 1 July 2011. Both parties had chosen judges ad hoc to sit in the case.
Next, he said the Tribunal’s Seabed Disputes Chamber had received a request for an advisory opinion from the International Seabed Authority. Twelve States and three international organizations had made written submissions and during the three-day hearing, held in Hamburg, nine States and three international organizations had made oral presentations. The Chamber was deliberating the case and advisory opinions were to be given as a matter of urgency, expected in early 2011. “This request of an advisory opinion is a significant development in our work,” he said, as it was the first case brought before the Seabed Disputes Chamber.
Continuing, he said that on 24 November, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had instituted proceedings against Spain over a vessel flying its flag, which allegedly had been arrested by Spanish authorities and held since 2006. The request included a request for provisional measures and hearings for those measures were scheduled to take place on 10 and 11 December. On other matters, he said the case on the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of Swordfish Stocks in the South-Easter Pacific Ocean was discontinued last December at the request of the two parties and, though the Tribunal had not dealt with the substance of the case, the fact it had been filed might have helped the parties to reach an out-of-court agreement.
As for other work, the Tribunal continued to disseminate information on the law of the sea dispute settlement system by holding regional workshops on the relevant Convention provisions, he said. The annual capacity building and training programme on dispute settlement had seen the participation of five Government officials and researchers from China, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya and Romania during the 2008-2009 cycle. In addition, the fourth International Foundation for the Law of the Sea Summer Academy was held from 25 July to 21 August. In closing, he congratulated Malawi on becoming the 161st Party to the Convention.
JORGE ARGÜELLO ( Argentina) said biodiversity was one of the emerging issues in the area of the law of the sea, and in February 2010, the second meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group created by Assembly resolution 59/24 took place. Argentina was concerned with certain proposals that could have overburdened the Working Group when it had not concluded an extremely important debate on the legal regime applicable under the Convention to the marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The ambiguity of “areas beyond national jurisdiction” had blurred the distinction between the two maritime areas involved — the high seas and the Area. He reminded the Assembly that the question of the legal regime was unresolved and should be addressed in the Working Group’s next session.
Regarding the International Seabed Authority and its adoption of regulations for prospecting and exploring polymetallic sulphides at its sixteenth session, he said there were still challenges ahead. This year the Authority asked the Seabed Disputes Chamber for an advisory opinion on the responsibilities and obligations of States that sponsor persons and entities regarding activities in the international seabed Area. Argentina participated in the advisory opinion, which showed the commitment of States to the regime established by UNCLOS for the Area.
Turning to the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, Argentina repeated the need not to step aside from the rule of all law of the sea negotiations, which was to proceed by consensus. This was the only way to ensure acceptance of the Assembly resolution. Unfortunately this did not happen in relation to one aspect of the resolution on Sustainable Fisheries, and Argentina would make an explanation of vote. Argentina repeated that it was concerned about the trend to use Assembly resolutions to legitimize the exercise by RFMOs of some authority over vessels flying the flag of countries that are not members of those organizations nor had consented measures of such nature. This would contradict one of the basic norms of the Law of Treaties.
VANU GOPALA MENON ( Singapore) stated that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea had served the international community well for three decades. Noting that Singapore was an island nation, surrounded by the seas and sitting on one of the busiest straits in the world, he noted that it was therefore of utmost importance to his country’s survival and continued growth and prosperity that the rights of passage guaranteed by the Convention continued to be respected by all countries. Singapore saw two potential challenges to the Convention. First, as globalization had “shrunk the world, including its oceans”, and as resources available in the oceans remained scarce, it was vital that the international community work together to manage those resources.
However, he said related discussions sometimes focused solely on the technical, scientific or environmental aspects of the issue, which often threatened to undermine the complex web of interlocking rights and obligations so carefully balanced in the Convention. Singapore therefore urged all countries to ensure that there was a holistic approach to the complex issues relating to the use of oceans and the seas, and to create mechanisms, as well as a culture, whereby all experts dealing with those issues would also be congruent with the wording of the Convention.
He said the second challenge to UNCLOS was a consequence of an emerging multipolar world. As the “totem of global power” was realigned, temptation would grow for national assertions of territory, including parts of the high seas, as areas or zones of influence. The international community must therefore not forget that international law governed the issuance and resolution of such assertions, and that the Convention had unequivocally guaranteed the freedom of the high seas and the rights of transit passage for common benefit of all nations.
Additionally, he noted that a network of submarine fibre optic cables linked the world together, serving as “the true skeleton and nerve of our world”. Nevertheless, many countries remained unaware of the critical importance of submarine cables, and many States Parties to the Convention had not paid sufficient attention to the obligation under the Convention to ensure that they had criminal jurisdiction over the wilful or negligent damage to those cables in the high seas.
SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) expressed concern about the increased frequency and ferocity of piracy attacks on merchant ships, saying Malta had always supported ships registered under its flag that had suffered an attack. Since 2003, about 100 Malta flagged ships had been attacked off the coast of Somalia and his country’s participation in Operation Atalanta was in line with its commitments as a State Party to the Convention. Malta’s location at the centre of the Mediterranean had exposed it to huge influxes of illegal immigrants and the situation was not sustainable. Despite such difficulties the country had honoured its international obligations regarding refugees and persons qualifying for humanitarian protection.
Turning to climate change, he said that Malta, like other small islands, faced severe adverse impacts from the phenomenon. Paragraphs 133, 134 and 160 of the draft resolution before the Assembly referred to the importance of regional seas agreements and conventions in protecting and preserving the marine environment, and such schemes had proven useful in helping countries enforce multilateral treaties on such protection. Malta was proud to host the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea, which had helped some 13 countries draft national contingency plans.
His country was also fully committed to implementing the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols. He looked forward to the entry into force of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, whose different provisions, objectives and principles provided additional tools for States to implement good governance in guiding economic development.
GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia) said his Government highly appreciated the work of the Tribunal in the peaceful settlement of disputes, welcoming its unprecedented decision to provide an advisory opinion, which he considered a sign of the Tribunal’s growing maturity and States Parties’ confidence in it. He also welcomed the International Seabed Authority’s regulations on polymetallic sulphides, but said the mining code would remain incomplete as long as regulations for the Area’s resources were not developed in the medium-term. Tunisia supported the commissioning of a preliminary study for all issues associated with the development of exploration codes for the Area.
While Tunisia had noted the improved efficiency of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he also registered concern at the high number of submissions to it, saying its workload could be addressed through improved working methods and longer working sessions. On the question of biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an emerging issue, he recalled that the legal regime for genetic resources in those areas was still outstanding. He hoped deliberations of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on that question would be guided by principles in resolution 27/49.
Attaching importance to the early implementation of the principle of common heritage of mankind, he said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing must also be addressed. Tunisia was dedicated to the conservation and management of living marine sources and had taken measures to meet European Commission standards prohibiting the import of such fishing products. Combating such behaviour would not be efficient if not undertaken on a global scale and more must be done to close the gaps in fisheries governance. Tunisia strongly supported efforts to find long-term solutions to the issue of piracy. A multifaceted approach including assistance for enforcement and capacity-building must be pursued.
WANG MIN ( China) said his Government attached great importance to the role of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in implementing the Convention and had taken note of its achievements in that regard. China fully supported the Commission in fulfilling its responsibilities and hoped its consideration of submissions by coastal States would both meet international expectations and stand the tests of science, law and time. He called for a balanced approach that ensured the speed and quality of its consideration of submissions, saying the following: “The need to expedite consideration should not be allowed to compromise the serious, scientific and professional nature of the Commission’s work.”
He congratulated the International Seabed Authority for adopting regulations on prospecting and exploration for polymetallic sulphides in the Area, expressing hope for continued State efforts to promote the early adoption of regulations for cobalt-rich crusts. Also, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was handling its first case of maritime delimitation and China both attached importance to its significant role in peaceful maritime dispute settlement and supported it in fulfilling its duties, in line with the Convention.
On the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, he underscored the need to balance the protection and use of biodiversity in such areas, taking into account developing nations’ dependence on oceans. A universally accepted legal framework had yet to be established and States must be cautious in establishing protected areas. It was imperative for the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of Marine Environment to be country-led, abide by international law, respect the sovereignty of coastal States and make recommendations on the sustainable development of oceans. China would continue to work with interested States to promote an improved international fisheries regime that aimed to ensure marine ecological balance.
SHIN BOONAM ( Republic of Korea) welcomed new States Parties to the Convention and called on those States that had not yet done so to join the treaty and its implementing agreements. Indeed, the Convention’s implementing mechanisms — the International Seabed Authority, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf — had played important roles, and concerted efforts by States were required to address difficulties that those bodies might encounter in carrying out their work. Amid piracy and degradation of marine resources, there was serious concern over maritime safety and security.
To address those issues, his Government had hosted the seventh plenary meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia on 10 September. In other areas, marine science could contribute to poverty elimination, food security and marine conservation and, as such, the Republic of Korea continued to transfer marine technology to developing nations through the Korea International Cooperation Agency. Each State must devise better ways to sustain marine biological diversity, taking into account recommendations adopted at various international forums.
As economic security and sustainable development depended heavily on healthy oceans and seas, he expressed hope that the Regular Process would enhance the scientific basis for policymaking and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to its success, as its first cycle had begun this year. In sum, there was a great need for mutual understanding and cooperation as enshrined in the Convention and he renewed his Government’s commitment to ensuring the sound governance of the oceans and seas.
HADI MUTLOQ ALSUBAIE ( Kuwait) said the growing number of States acceding to the Convention was an indication of its importance. States not party to that treaty were called upon to do so, thus contributing to international peace and security. An increase in piracy and armed robbery against ships was a threat to international commerce and maritime navigation that also put the lives of those working on ships in jeopardy. All acts of piracy and hijacking of commercial vessels, as well as acts of terrorism at sea, were denounced by Kuwait, particularly piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the attack launched by Israeli authorities against the “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters in May 2010.
United efforts by the international community were needed to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships, he said. Capacity-building in the field of ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea was important, as it would guarantee that all States, and developing countries in particular, would benefit from the sustainable development of oceans and seas. A more integrated method was needed to examine and strengthen to conserve marine biodiversity from the effects of climate change. Kuwait was home to the headquarters of the Regional Organization for the Protection of Marine Environment, which coordinated efforts by Gulf States to protect their environmental maritime resources; it also implemented marine environment programmes with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was the desire of Kuwait that all Member States work together to conserve marine resources and use them optimally, through compliance with international maritime law.
GUNNAR PÁLSSON (Iceland) said that by ratifying and implementing the Convention, States promoted some of the most cherished goals of the United Nations and every effort must be made to use existing instruments to the fullest before other options were given serious consideration, including new implementation agreements under the Convention. He noted with satisfaction the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf but shared the concern that its heavy workload posed demands on the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. The integrity of the Convention must also be safeguarded as there had been a lack of appreciation of the rights of the coastal State over its continental shelf.
Accordingly, a paragraph had been included in the draft resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea, he said, referring to the Convention’s article 77, paragraph 3, which spelled out that those rights were inherent and not dependent on a submission to the Commission. The Fish Stocks Agreement was also of paramount importance, and he welcomed recent ratifications to the Agreement. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was also a key instrument and the strategic plan to 2020 directly addressed the effects of fisheries on biological diversity and the way fisheries should be conducted.
He said that for years Iceland had called for action to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and welcomed signatures to the Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures for its prevention. Iceland was open to cooperation with developing nations in the area of sustainable fisheries. Welcoming the launch of the first cycle of the Regular Process, which could contribute significantly to improving ocean governance, he looked forward to the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole to oversee the Process.
Andrey V. Kalinin ( Russian Federation) said the General Assembly had a pivotal role to play in discussions within the United Nations on the world’s oceans. A comprehensive legal regime had been created and its integrity had to be preserved at all costs. The Russian Federation approved of the work of the bodies created by UNCLOS. The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea had been playing an important role, with fuller use of the body being made in 2010. The Russian Federation had been among the first to apply for the borders of the continental shelf under the Arctic and Pacific Oceans to be determined. There was a need to further expand the useful practice of interacting more closely with the Commission, whose workload was a matter of concern.
Turning to the challenge of preserving vulnerable ecosystems, he said that in order to properly allocate resources in the future, the situation “here and now” needed to be established through an effective mechanism. More intensive maritime studies were favoured by the Russian Federation, given that processes happening in the world’s oceans affected all mankind. A further strengthening of measures to ensure marine security was also favoured. Piracy off the coast of Somalia had reached a point at which both pirates and their bosses were not being brought to justice, an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The Russian Federation would continue to participate in discussions on marine diversity within framework of a Working Group of the General Assembly whose meetings in 2011 should be provided with full conference services. The Russian Federation had a responsible approach to fisheries, paying due attention to preserving and managing fish stocks, and it welcomed measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
PHAM VINH QUANG ( Viet Nam) noted the profound impact that ocean affairs and the law of the sea had on national maritime policies. The fact that UNCLOS had been accepted by most of the international community strengthened hope for promoting legitimate and optimum use of the world’s oceans and seas in line with the principles of justice, equal rights and respect for sustainable development. The workload of the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had in the past year been heavy. The Assembly of the Commission was to be commended for adopting regulations on the prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides in seabeds outside national jurisdictions. Viet Nam was a coastal State whose Government had adopted a Maritime Economic Overall Plan until 2020 based on the principles of an ecosystem-based economy.
Recognizing the importance of an environment in the South China Sea conducive to legitimate and sustainable uses of the sea, Viet Nam had joined other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China in signing a Declaration of the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea; that document underlined the need for peace, stability and cooperation and the peaceful resolution of disputes in line with universally agreed principles of international law, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Promoting confidence through cooperative projects — including environmental protection, scientific research, search and rescue, and combating transnational crime — was also part of the Declaration. The commitment of Viet Nam, ASEAN and China to implementing the Declaration was reaffirmed at the ASEAN-China Summit on 29 October in Hanoi, together with a commitment to adopt by consensus a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
DIRE DAVID TLADI ( South Africa) was steadfast in its view of the Convention as the “constitution of the oceans”. It was binding on all States, whether they were party to it or not. He expressed hope all nations would soon accede to the Convention and that States Parties not party to the treaty’s two implementing agreements would accede to them “sooner rather than later”. Welcoming the outcome of the Resumed Review Conference of Fish Stocks Agreement, held in May, he was also pleased with the recommendations, annexed to the report of that Review Conference, emphasizing the prohibition of shark finning. Though States had agreed on the importance of marine scientific research, they struggled to implement outcomes on that topic.
South Africa wished the mandate of the Informal Consultative Process had been extended for a longer period of time, he said. Noting concern of others that the Informal Consultative Process had become a negotiation forum and had at times usurped the Assembly’s authority, he said that although South Africa shared those concerns, he was unconvinced that they justified the conclusion that “agreed consensual elements” should never be adopted by the meeting. Attaching importance to the common heritage of mankind concept, he pushed for its early operationalization. He hoped the spirit at the International Seabed Authority Council’s last session would continue on the issue of prospecting for cobalt-rich crusts.
The request for an advisory opinion by the Tribunal was important in the protection of the marine environment in the Area, he said. Negatively impacting the Convention were difficulties in establishing the outer limits of the Continental Shelf, and he recognized that there were would be interests and countervailing interests pushing towards various solutions. The application of the common heritage of mankind principle also was slow in relation to marine genetic resources in the deep seabed. The maritime zone in which those resources were found was applicable. He called for the institutionalization of the Ad Hoc Working Group with a view to elaborating an instrument for legalizing the law of the sea regime.
ADELA LEAL PERDOMO ( Venezuela) said her country attached primordial attention to the issues today, as reflected in plans and programmes observing conservation principles and those for the sustainable use of resources. The consultations of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group provided a forum for technical cooperation on assessing the world’s marine environment. It was the framework for achieving synergy among the major environmental conventions. The role of oceans must be explored as related to poverty eradication and food security.
Stressing concern at the inadequate implementation of the international legal framework for the conservation of resources beyond national jurisdiction, she said all conventions on biological diversity must be embraced and called it “unacceptable” that decisions would be taken alone by an exclusive juridical regime. More research was needed to guide the international community in preserving living resources from pollution and other threats. Also, the Convention did not cover some aspects of the oceans and seas and the key role of other international instruments on marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction must be recognized.
The sustainable fishing draft resolution dealt with a sector of greatest importance for Venezuela, she said. Sanctions were applicable to vessels flying the national flag that illegally extracted resources, as well as to those entering territorial waters without presenting authorizing documents. Venezuela also prohibited bottom trawling. Internationally, Venezuela was a member of various regional fisheries management organizations and participated in joint actions to monitor illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Legislation provided for GPS equipment to be placed on vessels exceeding 10 gross register tons (GRT). The Convention was not the sole instrument and she rejected the idea it be considered as such.
Ibrahim O. A. Dabbashi ( Libya) said his country had been among the first to sign the Convention, although some of its provisions would likely deprive it of historic rights of waters over which it had exercised sovereignty for many years. Appeals for an overall reconsideration of the Convention to meet the concerns of those who had not yet ratified it were supported by Libya. The international community must work more quickly to take appropriate measures to protect the marine environment, halt pollution at sea and preserve all marine species. Action was also needed on improving fishing practices and preserving fish stocks. All efforts to preserve the wealth of the oceans as the common heritage of all mankind, including managing fisheries on the high seas, were supported by Libya, which also appealed for an exchange of experiences on polymetallic sulphides and other minerals, the exploitation of which should be free of any monopoly.
Illegal exploration and use of resources had been harmful to developing countries and this was a source of ongoing concern, particularly when they involved activities taking place openly near the shores of African countries, he said. Unfortunately, such acts of aggression against African maritime resources had been exacerbated by the fact that those countries lacked the capacity to guard their own shores. Piracy was a problem that had become uncontrollable over the past few years. Libya, with one of the longest Mediterranean coastlines, had assumed a heavy burden in combating illegal immigration across the Mediterranean. The material and human costs of such migration were rising and Libya could not bear that burden alone. Recently it had established 15 control posts along its coast to control illegal immigration and embarkation towards Europe. In doing so, it was trying to counter both trafficking in human beings and drug trafficking, which imperilled international peace and security.
NIL ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, referred to the draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/65/L.20), and in particular its operative paragraph whereby the General Assembly would welcome the Seabed Authority’s adoption of regulations for prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides. Since adoption, two States had submitted applications for licences, which are to be considered at the next session of the Authority in 2011.
That was a very important development, he continued, noting that the huge technological and financial challenges involved in recovering nodules from great depths had led to long delays in making these resources capable of commercial exploitation, and that in turn had raised questions as to whether seabed mining would ever take place at all. A robust legal and jurisdictional framework was a key driver for activity in that area, sending a signal to the mining community that the Authority could do its work under the Convention effectively and efficiently. The next step was for the Authority to examine issues relating to the nature of the regulatory framework that would apply after the exploration period.
The decision to request an advisory opinion from the Seabed Disputes Chamber was another milestone for the Authority in the past year, he said. It demonstrated that the system set out in the Convention worked. The ability of the Authority and its political organs to respond to difficulties should be a great comfort to States and the future seabed mining industry. Fifteen States Parties and four intergovernmental organizations had made submissions to the Chamber, demonstrating the strong interest and commitment of States Parties to ensuring the integrity of the legal regime set out in the Convention.
He went on to say that measures to preserve and protect the marine environment in areas beyond national jurisdictions, emphasized in draft resolution L.20, were a particular concern for the Authority, which had a legal duty to elaborate rules, regulations and procedures in order to guard against potential harmful effects from seabed mining. The draft recalled the need to be guided not only by the Convention, but by other commitments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the declarations of the World Summit for Sustainable Development. Over the past four years, the Authority had developed a geographical model of the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Central Pacific Ocean, a vast area that was a prime area of interest for nodule mining. It had enhanced understanding about mineral deposits on the sea floor; formulating an environmental management plan for the area would be the next step.
A lack of adequate data on which to base decisions was a problem for the Authority and others dealing with managing biodiversity under the world’s oceans, he said. The Authority had been collecting and standardizing available information, in collaboration with contractors, scientists and international research programmes, including the Census of Marine Life. The Authority was well placed not only to promote standardization, but also to act as a repository for such data. Its Endowment Fund for Marine Scientific Research had, in two years of operation, provided training and research opportunities for some 20 individuals from developing countries. There had been strong interest in collaborating with the Authority in providing such training opportunities. Three research fellowships were being supported at the National Oceanographic Institute of India and support has also gone out to the Rhodes Academy for Oceans Law and Policy, but much more could be done, and Member States were encouraged to make greater contributions in that regard.
HARLAN COHEN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), welcomed language in the draft resolutions on the need to protect marine biodiversity, including reference to the programme of work of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Parties had committed to ensure by 2020 the conservation of at least 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas through equitably managed and well-connected systems of protective areas, among other measures. The draft encouraged States to make progress towards establishing representative networks by 2012 and called on States to consider options to protect ecologically or biologically significant areas.
He urged effective measures to attain the 2012 target, saying his delegation would welcome explicit language in 2011 calling on States to work together to establish and manage marine protected areas on the high seas. IUCN members at the 2008 Fourth World Conservation Congress, held in Barcelona, urged the Assembly to call on States to develop assessment processes of human activities that could significantly adversely impact the marine environment and ensure that assessed activities with the potential for such impacts were subject to prior authorization by States responsible for nationals and vessels engaged in those activities.
He looked forward to progress in the coming year on the application of environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment to ensure all activities likely to harm marine biodiversity would be assessed and managed to prevent significant adverse impacts. He urged a commitment to ensure that future management decisions taken by regional fisheries management organizations and by States took into full account the 2020 target included in the strategic plan adopted by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. On fishing, he said States should prohibit their vessels and nationals from fishing on the high seas for stocks for which conservation and management measures were not in force.
Action on Drafts
Having concluded its debate, the Assembly turned to the draft resolutions before it, first taking up the text on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/65/L.20).
Speaking before action, Venezuela’s delegate reasserted her country’s commitment to promoting coordination on matters pertaining to oceans and the law of the sea. However, the Convention should not be deemed the sole legal framework governing the world’s deep waters. Operative paragraph 65 of the resolution emphasized that the principle of common heritage of mankind was the legal system applicable to marine diversity, and those in the seabed beyond national jurisdiction. Recalling that the Convention did not enjoy universal participation, she said there were reasons why Venezuela was not Party to it. Thus, it was not obliged to observe its provisions and would abstain from the vote.
A Secretariat representative took the floor to note that though modalities contained in L.20 exceeded those allocated in the meetings calendar for the biennium, the Secretariat would seek resources to be redeployed to fully service conferences.
By a recorded vote of 123 in favour, to 1 against ( Turkey) and 2 abstentions ( Colombia, Venezuela), the Assembly then adopted the resolution on “oceans and the law of the sea” (document A/65/L.20).
The Assembly then adopted without a vote the text on sustainable fisheries, including to 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/65/L.21).
Prior to action, a representative of the Secretariat then took the floor to say that no financial implications would arise for the 2010-2011 biennium from the Assembly’s adoption of resolution L.21.
Speaking after action, Turkey’s representative said he had voted against resolution L.20, explaining that reasons preventing his country from being a Party to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea remained valid. The Convention did not provide sufficient safeguards for special geographical situations and did not consider conflicting interests stemming from special circumstances. It did not allow States to register reservations to its articles. Turkey could not support a resolution calling on States to become Parties to the Convention and harmonize their legislation with its provisions.
As for the sustainable fisheries resolution, he said Turkey was fully committed to conservation, management and sustainable use of marine living resources. It had supported resolution L.21 but disassociated itself from references made to international instruments to which it was not a Party. Those references should not be interpreted as a change in Turkey’s legal position regarding those instruments.
The representative of Argentina said that, while his delegation had joined consensus, it did not consider that recommendations made in the resolution meant that sections in the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning straddling and highly migratory fish stocks were binding on those States that had not indicated their consent to be governed by that Agreement.
The representative of Venezuela expressed her delegation’s reservations with the entire resolution.
Chile’s delegate said resolution L.21 mentioned the Convention and its relation to the New York Agreement, ensuring that vessels flying flags complied with management measures for fishing on the high seas. She reiterated the sovereignty of States and their ports in relation to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Operative paragraph 25 included the Chilean request to take account of conclusions of the Scientific Working Group of the South Pacific that Regional Fisheries Management Organizations were closely linked to the critical situation affecting fish stocks. On the recommendations of the Review Conference of the New York Agreement, she emphasized the positive results in the annex to the report.
The first two preambular paragraphs on the Convention and the New York Agreement provided the legal framework for the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, she said, and they must be implemented consistently. Full compliance with measures adopted pursuant to international law arrangements, including precautionary measures, was necessary. The Conference’s recommendations on the need to improve the situation of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks were relevant. Effective conservation and management measures must be taken, and efforts intensified for cooperation among flag States and coastal States.
Ecuador’s delegate, speaking about resolution L.20, and specifically on biodiversity and areas beyond national jurisdiction, said all genetic resources in the sea and oceans and under the seabed were the common heritage of mankind and must benefit all mankind. Exclusive exploitation of them had serious global consequences. On resolution L.21 and regarding the recommendations of the Review Conference, he reiterated there had been no assessment of the suitability of the provisions of the New York Agreement. States not party to that agreement were not bound by its provisions.
Vote on Oceans and Law of the Sea
The draft resolution on Oceans and Law of the Sea (document A/65/L.20) was adopted by a recorded vote of 123 in favour to 1 against, with 2 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia.
Abstain: Colombia, Venezuela.
Absent: Afghanistan, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Poland, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe.
* *** *For information media • not an official record