ASSEMBLY SEEKS FURTHER SUPPORT FOR SEA LAW CONVENTION, EFFECTIVE CONSERVATION OF GLOBAL FISH STOCKS

28 November 2001
GA/9982

ASSEMBLY SEEKS FURTHER SUPPORT FOR SEA LAW CONVENTION, EFFECTIVE CONSERVATION OF GLOBAL FISH STOCKS

28/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/9982

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

67th Meeting (PM)

ASSEMBLY SEEKS FURTHER SUPPORT FOR SEA LAW CONVENTION,

EFFECTIVE CONSERVATION OF GLOBAL FISH STOCKS

Delegates Express Concern; Effective Action Needed

If Oceans are to Continue as Source of Food for Humankind

The General Assembly this afternoon, concluded its consideration of maritime issues with the adoption of two resolutions -- one on Oceans and the law of the sea; the other on the agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

The resolution on Oceans and law of the sea, calling upon all States that had not done so to become parties to the sea law Convention, and to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention, was adopted by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to one against, with four abstentions (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).  (For details of vote see Annex.)

The resolution also called on States to ensure that the knowledge resulting from marine scientific research and monitoring was made available in a user-friendly data format, especially to developing countries, and to continue to strengthen capacity-building activities.  That would be through bilateral, regional and international financial organizations and technical partnerships, in particular in developing countries, by training the necessary skilled personnel, providing equipment, facilities and vessels, and by transferring environmentally sound technologies.

In other terms, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to continue to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to him in the Convention and to ensure that the appropriate resources were made available to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.  It also requested that the Secretary-General ensure more effective collaboration and coordination between relevant parts of the Secretariat and the United Nations as a whole.

Without a vote, the Assembly adopted the agreement for the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.  By the text it urged all States to pursue cooperation in relation to straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, to ensure the effective conservation, management and long-term sustainability of such stocks.

The Assembly also urged States to coordinate their activities and cooperate directly, or through relevant regional fisheries management organizations, in the

implementation of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing which was recently adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization.  States were asked to develop national plans of action on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and management of fishing capacity; to promote information-sharing; to encourage the full participation of all stakeholders; and to cooperate in efforts to coordinate all the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization with other international organizations, including the International Maritime Organization. 

Satya N. Nandan, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said that the Authority had an important technical role to play as a global repository of data and information and as a catalyst for collaborative research at the international level.  He stressed the importance of adequately distinguishing between the terms “marine scientific research”, “prospecting” and “exploration”. He said this had become even more important with new scientific discoveries, such as the deep sea vents, which comprised both mineral and genetic resources.

The representative of Canada told the Assembly the world’s fish stocks were over-fished and in decline.  If sustainable fisheries were to be maintained for future generations, international cooperation was paramount, globally and through regional fisheries organizations, to implement and enforce conservation and management measures.  Without effective conservation action, the oceans would soon no longer be capable of feeding humankind.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, the representative of Jamaica said there was a need to ensure adequate protection of the fragile marine ecosystems from harmful events such as oil spills and pollution from hazardous waste.  Those were priorities for her region, where there was still concern at the inadequacy of protection offered coastal states by existing international regulations on the transport of radioactive nuclear waste by sea.

Explaining his vote against the resolution on Oceans and the law of the sea, the representative of Turkey said that the sea law Convention did not make adequate provisions for special geographical situations, and as a consequence was not able to establish an acceptable balance between conflicting interests. 

Also addressing the Assembly this afternoon were the representatives of Malta, Federated States of Micronesia, Indonesia, Ukraine, and New Zealand.  Others speaking in explanation of vote were the representatives of Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Norway and Japan.

The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow Thursday, 29 November, to consider the question of Palestine.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to conclude consideration of its agenda item, Oceans and the law of the sea.  (For more background information, see press release GA/9980 of 27 November.)

Statements

JULIAN VASSALLO (Malta) said his country grappled daily with the joint challenges of achieving sustainable development and a higher standard of living on a densely populated island with few natural resources.  The Mediterranean Sea was its main economic lifeline.  Malta would shortly accede to the Agreement on fish stocks, because it elaborated on the obligations laid out in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Implementing that Agreement, in concert with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) plan of action against unregulated fishing, would reinforce both instruments.

He said pollution from land-based sources and ships was as much a threat to living ocean resources as over-exploitation.  As the world’s fourth largest flag state, Malta was conscious of its special responsibilities in that regard; it had been recognized by being elevated into Category C of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) just last Friday.  Malta had also closed negotiations on transport, including the safety of maritime transport, in the context of its accession negotiations to the European Union.  Malta would be fully in line with European Union standards by 2003, an effort dictated as much by self-interest as responsibility, on the part of a country where tourism was a pillar of the economy.

He expressed approval for the consensus around the choice of protection and preservation of the marine environment as a theme for next year’s Informal Consultative Process on Oceans.  The theme would be a valuable contribution to better governance of the oceans because concurrent consideration of related issues held the key to solving many problems of the oceans.  The International Seabed Authority was an example of that approach, in protecting resources on the ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction.

MASAO NAKAYAMA (Federated States of Micronesia) said significant progress had been made with the recent decision by parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to extend the timeframe for the delimitation of the continental shelf.  However, despite efforts by the international community to obtain a new deadline for submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the problem of “getting it done” remained a basic concern for many small island developing States.  Preparing and presenting a submission had remained a complex task, requiring significant financial resources, capacity and expertise.  Many of those States saw capacity building as one of the key areas where developed partners and international organizations could help, from the ground up.

He said the pleas of many small island developing States for action against illegal and unregulated fishing were not merely self-serving; the indiscriminate destruction and loss of vast ocean resources was threatening to a large part of the world, and careful management as well as monitoring was needed to address those problems.  However, the Convention of the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific addressed them. Implementing that new convention would ensure the rational conservation, management and sustainability of migratory fish stocks in the convention area.

FERRY ADAMHAR (Indonesia) said the depletion of marine resources over the past decade had led to a new legal regime assuring the sustainable yield of fisheries and the protection of the environment, based on the shared responsibility of the international community.  The entry into force of the fish stocks agreement would put an obligation on States parties to provide information to the Secretary-General on developments relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, while non-State parties could participate on a voluntary basis.  As a developing and archipelagic State, Indonesia attached utmost importance to that dynamic and evolving body of law.

In the field of capacity building, he underscored the importance of assisting developing States in the economic, legal, navigational, scientific and technical sectors needed to fully implement the provisions of the Convention and the sustainable development of oceans and seas.  Cooperation at the international and regional levels was key to combating piracy and armed robbery at sea. Ministers from countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) during a meeting last month on transnational crime, had recognized the growing need for the region to deal with many forms of such crime and had reaffirmed their commitment to enhance cooperation towards that end.

He said his Government deemed marine and maritime development to be of the utmost importance, and had established a Department of Maritime Affairs which would assist Indonesia’s contribution towards establishing integrated and better management of the oceans and the seas.  He was pleased that the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf were fully functional.

OLEH HERASYMENKO (Ukraine) said the current over-exploitation of fishery stocks not only hindered the process of sustainable development but also endangered the delicate legal balance struck in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Piracy and armed robbery were costing the shipping industry millions, and they endangered the lives of seafarers.

He said Ukraine strongly believed that all States should apply an effective precautionary approach to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks, in order to protect living marine resources and preserve the marine environment.  The fishing industry, traders and consumers should be equally liable for damage inflicted on such resources.

Ukraine, he went on, shared the view that many documents adopted at a high level, within the FAO in particular, were largely declarative and recommendatory, and that did not help with their effective and speedy implementation.  That could be said of a number of international plans of action, in particular the International Plan of Action against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing.  The non-binding character of that, and several other plans, gave rise to doubts about whether they could be promptly and effectively implemented.  The desired results could be achieved only if such plans were applied universally.

He said the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea was initiated as a forum for a more substantial debate on those matters within the global perspective for the United Nations, he continued.  The time allotted in the General Assembly plenary for those important issues allowed only for general statements of principle, and highlighting a laundry list of matters of particular interest to each State.  It provided a limited opportunity for a genuine exchange of views among States on possible solutions to common problems. That was clearly inadequate.

DIANE MARIE QUARLESS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the fourteen coastal states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) underscored the importance those States attached to the Convention as the comprehensive legal framework for governance of the oceans.  As preparations were made to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its adoption at Montego Bay, Jamaica, next year, she encouraged all States to work towards the Convention’s universal acceptance and application. The CARICOM also placed great store on the sustainable development challenges faced by small island developing States.  The CARICOM States were particularly exposed to the influence of natural phenomena which played a big role in the deterioration of coastal and marine environments.

The challenge posed by marine pollution was a good example of environmental and economic vulnerabilities, and its effective management was crucial for the viability of important industries like tourism and fisheries.  She stressed the importance of a regional approach to the management and protection of the regional marine space of the CARICOM States.  The need to ensure adequate protection of the fragile marine ecosystems from harmful events such as oil spills and pollution from hazardous waste remained priorities for her region.  She reiterated concern at the inadequacy of protection offered en route coastal states by existing international regulations on the transport of radioactive nuclear waste by sea. That was an issue that must engage the international community urgently.

The CARICOM States attached priority to establishing a strong regional framework for the management of fisheries, she said, and hoped that the recently established Regional Fisheries Mechanism would be central to a regional management regime.  The focus on the development and strengthening of indigenous capacity for marine science and technology research was both timely and welcome.  There was also urgent need for financial investment to support regional fisheries programmes. Funding was being sought from donor countries, agencies and non-governmental organizations for the Coastal and Marine Management Programme of the Caribbean Conservation Association, she said.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that New Zealand, like its Pacific neighbours, was an island country surrounded by ocean.  The sea was an integral part of the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of New Zealand.  The areas of ocean under New Zealand’s jurisdiction amounted to almost 4 times the size of its land territory. 

Healthy and well managed oceans required an integrated approach, he said, reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The challenge was to carry that approach forward in the implementation of the legal framework, with coordination between States, organizations, agencies and programmes. 

The General Assembly had a critical role to play in that regard; however, two days within the Plenary schedule could not be expected to deliver everything that was required, he said.  That was why New Zealand considered the informal consultative process established in 1999 an important tool to assist the Assembly in its task.  That process provided a vital opportunity to survey the various aspects of the international oceans framework and to apply an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to the issues before it.

New Zealand was seeking to apply that approach in its domestic system, through the development of a framework Oceans Policy, and in working with Pacific partners to create a regional strategy.  Developing such a framework oceans policy was not proving to be easy, he said, but the exercise of identifying key interests, and seeking to place each part of the system within a whole, was an important investment for the future. 

CHRISTINE HANSON (Canada) said that many of the world’s fish stocks were over-fished and in decline.  If sustainable fisheries were to be maintained for future generations, international cooperation was paramount, globally and through regional fisheries organizations, to implement and enforce conservation and management measures.  Without effective conservation action, the oceans would soon no longer be capable of feeding humankind. 

Fortunately, the means to take action were at hand.  The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement established principles and practices designed to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory and sustainable fish stocks.  The Agreement grew from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.  As the international community headed towards Rio + 10, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in 2002, the entry into force of the Agreement could be heralded as a concrete achievement. 

However, entry into force of the Agreement was not the end of the story.  She said that one must continue to encourage States to become party to the Agreement and to implement it fully and effectively.  Canada urged the international community to renew its efforts in that regard. 

SATYA N. NANDAN, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said the signature in 2001 of 15-year contracts with six out of the seven registered pioneer investors marked a milestone for the authority.  The signature also gave practical effect to the single regime of the Area established by the Convention, the Agreement and the Regulations for Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules in the Area.  The objective of the reporting requirements under the contracts was to establish a mechanism whereby the Authority could be provided with the information necessary to carry out its responsibilities under the Convention and the Agreement to ensure the protection of the marine environment from harmful effects arising from activities in the Area.

He said the Authority had an important technical role to play as a global repository of data and information and as a catalyst for collaborative research at the international level.  It would have to work closely with contractors in the implementation of exploration contracts and the practical application of the recommendations.  At the same time, there was a need for ongoing involvement of a political nature in the work of the Authority.  The Council of the Authority had commenced work on regulation for prospecting and exploration for hydrothermal polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts.  He therefore called on all Member States to seriously consider participation in the meetings of the Authority.  He also urged those Member States that had not done so to pay their contributions to the administrative budget of the Authority in full and on time.

The subject of marine scientific research was a matter of great concern to the Authority, he said.  Two issues needed to be addressed through better coordination:  clarification of the regime for marine scientific research, and the question of how to deal with newly-discovered genetic resources.  While there was a freedom to engage in marine scientific research on the high seas and in the seabed, mineral resource prospecting and exploration in the Area were regulated through the Authority.

The Convention had failed to adequately distinguish between the terms “marine scientific research”, “prospecting” and “exploration”, he said.  Nor did it make a distinction between “pure” and “applied” scientific research.  That problem became more acute with new scientific discoveries such as the deep sea vents, which comprised both mineral and genetic resources.  In that regard, there was not only a conflict between true marine scientific research and mineral prospecting, but also the potential for multiple use conflicts between, for example, deep-seabed miners, so-called bioprospectors, and the proper conservation and management of the deep ocean environment.

A major problem in fisheries was the illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU fishing).  Draft resolution L.18, relating to the Fishstocks Agreement, requested flag States to exercise effective control over fishing vessels flying their flags.  The fact was that in many cases, flag States were not in a position to control and prevent IUU fishing, particularly if they were flags of convenience.  It was well known that flags of convenience were invariably used as a device by the owners of fishing vessels to avoid compliance with conservation and management measures.  That festering problem should be tackled head-on by making owners and masters equally responsible for the activities of the fishing vessels under their ownership, direction and control, he said.

Action on Drafts

The Assembly then turned its attention to the draft resolutions before it -- on Oceans and the law of the sea (document A/56/L.17) and on 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/56/L.18).

ALTAY CENZIGER (Turkey), in explanation of vote, said his delegation would vote against resolution A/56/L.17 because some of the elements in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which had prevented Turkey from approving the Convention, were once more retained in this year’s draft.  Turkey supported international efforts to establish a regime of the sea which was based on the principle of equity and which could be acceptable to all States.  However, the Convention did not make adequate provisions for special geographical situations, and as a consequence, was not able to establish an acceptable balance between conflicting interests.  Furthermore, the Convention made no provision for registering reservations on specific clauses.  Although Turkey agreed with the Convention in its general intent and most of its provisions, Turkey was unable to become party to it, owing to these serious shortcomings.

As to draft resolution A/56/L.18, his delegation reaffirmed its position just elaborated vis-à-vis the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Turkey was unable to give its consent to certain references to the Convention made in the draft, in particular to its second operative paragraph by which States were called upon to become parties to it, and so dissociated itself from the consensus on that paragraph.

ALEJANDRA QUEZADA (Chile) said she would join consensus by voting in favor of the draft on the Agreement for fish stocks (resolution L.18).  However, her country considered other relevant instruments, such as the FAO convention on the code of conduct or other regional agreements, equally important.  The Agreement would not enter into force for six years.  Chile would not sign it because it would leave coastal states unprotected, while giving other States undue rights.  Chile would sign the convention for protecting the living resources of the Pacific.  The framework convention on the law of the sea was open for signature.  It was the definitive framework convention for protecting the sea.  Because concerns to make sure third parties that were not part of a treaty could not impose conditions, Chile had interjected its views into some paragraphs during drafting of the present resolution.

ANGELA CAVALIERE DE NAVA (Venezuela) said she had joined the statement of the Rio Group motivated by the spirit of cooperation.  That same spirit made her country endorse efforts to promote international coordination in the area of the law of the sea.  As Venezuela was not party to the Convention, she would abstain from voting.

The Assembly was informed that Belize, Madagascar and Mongolia had joined as co-sponsors of draft resolution A/56/L.17.

The draft was then adopted in a recorded vote of 121 in favor to one against (Turkey) with four abstentions (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela).  (For details of voting see Annex.)

The Assembly further informed that Barbados, Malta and Monaco had joined as co-sponsors of A/56/L.18, which was then adopted, without a vote.

AUGUSTO CABRERA (Peru) said his abstention on the drafts on Oceans and law of the sea should not be seen as a reflection on his country’s commitment to protecting the oceans.  Peru had not yet acceded to the Convention on the law of the sea; it hoped to do so after the appropriate political debate.

RICARDO BOCALANDRO (Argentina) said his country voted in favour of resolution L.18, but wished to reiterate that the reference to ‘entities’ in the resolution should be understood as a reference to entities listed in article 305 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

HANS BRATTSKAR (Norway) said his country had traditionally co-sponsored the Assembly resolutions on Oceans and the law of the sea and regretted not being in a position to do so this year, due to the language of the operative paragraph dealing with the informal consultative process.  That process was meant to facilitate the annual review by the Assembly of the Secretary-General’s report.  That process, which was to be reviewed at the next session, was to be regarded as a non-institutional mechanism and it was not certain how the Assembly would proceed after the evaluation of the mechanism before that session.  The language of the operative paragraph was not helpful to the organization of the process to be held next year.  It made reference to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which was awkward and inappropriate since it indicated a linkage between the informal consultative process and that Summit.  The identification of

areas for deliberation lacked focus and suffered from the omission of wording offering guidance to the effect that the process was first and foremost concerned with the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

HIROYUKI YAMAMOTO (Japan) said his country was in favour of draft resolution L.17 because it supported the overall content, and because of the importance of the draft to the framework of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Customarily, Japan would have co-sponsored the resolution, but a preambular paragraph failed to reflect its views.

As for draft resolution L.18, he said Japan was committed to making serious efforts to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, as well as other living marine resources.  It had tried to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and also to apply management measures that considered the ecosystem.

However, in light of a recent development about the conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, Japan could not help but feel uncertainties about the possible implications of new regional organizations.  The drafting of resolution L.18 had frequently failed to reflect Japan’s concerns, and it was difficult to accept as it was.  Japan had opted to dissociate itself from the consensus on the resolution, but had not opposed its adoption by the consensus of other States.

(annex follows)

Annex

Vote on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

The General Assembly adopted the draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/56/L.17) by a recorded vote of 121 in favour to one against, with four abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Comoros, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia, Zambia.

Against:  Turkey.

Abstaining:  Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela.

Absent:  Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lesotho, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Namibia, Palau, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

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For information media. Not an official record.