ENSURING SAFETY OF NAVIGATION, PROTECTING MARINE ECOSYSTEMS FOCUS OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON OCEANS, LAW OF SEA

24 November 2003
GA/10210

ENSURING SAFETY OF NAVIGATION, PROTECTING MARINE ECOSYSTEMS FOCUS OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON OCEANS, LAW OF SEA

24/11/2003
Press Release
GA/10210


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Plenary

63rd & 64th Meetings (AM & PM)


ENSURING SAFETY OF NAVIGATION, PROTECTING MARINE ECOSYSTEMS FOCUS


OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON OCEANS, LAW OF SEA


The importance of protecting and preserving the world’s oceans and seas -– which constituted the cornerstone of the planet’s life-support system –- was emphasized today as the General Assembly undertook its consideration of oceans and the law of the sea.


Focusing on the dual themes of ensuring the safety of navigation and protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems, speakers raised issues such as the need to build the capacity of developing countries to fulfil their obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to further elaborate the duties and obligations of flag States. 


They also emphasized the need to ensure the sustainability of marine environments and biological diversity, including through protection from land-based and shipping-related pollution; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and overfishing, among other harmful practices.  Other areas of concern included climate change, the need to protect shipping from illegal usages –- including for terrorism and the transport of weapons of mass destruction and other weapons, and the need to bring an immediate halt to the trans-shipment of nuclear waste and other hazardous materials.


Reaffirming the interlinked nature of the themes centring the current debate, the Assembly had before it two draft resolutions, which made recommendations that would impact beneficially on both the safety of navigation and the protection of the marine environment.  Adopting the resolution related to sustainable fisheries, by consensus, the world body called on all States that had not done so to become parties to the Convention, while reaffirming the importance attached to the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of the marine living resources of the world’s oceans and seas.


The Assembly further decided to establish an Assistance Fund under Part VII of the 1995 “Fish Stocks Agreement” to assist developing States parties in the implementation of the Agreement, and called on flag and port States to take all measures consistent with international law necessary to prevent the operation of sub-standard vessels and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.


Introducing that text, the representative of the United States welcomed the successful integration of two, formerly separate, fisheries resolutions.  The combined resolution significantly advanced efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries in a number of key areas while still reflecting the diversity of perspectives represented within the United Nations community.  Applauding the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to assist developing countries in fulfilling their obligations to conserve and manage straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, he announced that the United States had made an initial contribution of $200,000 to that fund.


Introducing the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, the consideration of which was postponed to a later date, the representative of New Zealand, who spoke on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the text’s structure and length reflected a coordinated approach to the interlinked issues relating to the oceans and the law of the sea.  Specifically, section VII of the text, which represented a substantial part of the resolution, addressed the overarching issue of capacity-building.  Resource and capacity matters remained a significant impediment to the full implementation of the Convention in many areas.


Among those drawing attention to the numerous areas of concern, Iceland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arctic Council, said that climate change was a subject of great interest to that group.  The daunting implications of that phenomenon, such as rising sea levels, which would in turn affect coastal communities, islands, river deltas and harbours, had begun to emerge.  Sea ice reduction would also affect climate feedback, species migration and subsistence lifestyles and human health.


Meanwhile, the representative of the Republic of Korea noted that, increasingly, maritime transport had become the chosen means of illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, narcotics, and even human beings.  Against the backdrop of the current security situation, it was crucial that the international community take concerted and coordinated actions to combat that global threat.


Voicing another concern of many States, the representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), raised the issue of transporting hazardous materials through the Caribbean Sea and the potential risk of serious harm to its fragile ecosystem and marine resources.  Of special concern was the transport of nuclear waste materials, which had been consistently opposed by Caribbean Governments as it exposed the region to “unacceptable” risks.  The representative of the Bahamas reiterated that widespread concern by calling for the immediate cessation of the transport of nuclear waste and other hazardous materials.


In other action today, the Assembly endorsed the recommendations made by the Committee for Programme and Coordination, contained in its report, pertaining to the in-depth evaluation of the law of the sea and ocean affairs.  It also resumed its consideration of the agenda item on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to endorse the recommendations pertaining to NEPAD contained in the Committee’s report. 


Also addressing the Assembly today were the representatives of Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Morocco (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, Kenya, Tunisia, Guyana, Mexico, Namibia, Mauritius (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Japan, Ukraine, China, Australia, India, Brazil, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Indonesia, Belize, Argentina, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Uruguay, Canada, Nigeria and Fiji.


The representatives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea also addressed the Assembly.


The representative of Turkey spoke in explanation of vote.


The Assembly will next reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 1 December, to begin its consideration of the question of Palestine and the situation in the Middle East.


Background


The General Assembly met today to begin its consideration of oceans and the law of the sea.


The Assembly had before it the report of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/58/65 and Add.1), which contains information on the status of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its implementing Agreements.  It elaborates on developments regarding the protection of the marine environment and the safety of navigation, particularly in relation to the aftermath of the “Prestige” incident in 2002.  It also addresses the establishment of a mechanism for inter-agency coordination and cooperation and identifies two main challenges for the future –- to ensure that States comply fully with obligations under the law of the sea, and that inter-agency cooperation is facilitated and enhanced.


Among other conclusions, the report states that it has become increasingly evident that the adoption of the Convention was but the first step towards resolving ocean-related issues.  Since then, additional problems have arisen, such as overexploitation of fisheries and destructive fishing practices, degradation of the marine environment and the increase in ship-related accidents and crimes.  To remedy this situation, all States should take steps, including to ratify or accede to the Convention and its implementing Agreements, as well as to the many other agreements giving substance and details to the basic principles of the Convention, to implement these agreements in their national laws and administrative structures and actively to apply and enforce those laws and regulations.


As the root of too many such problems was the unwillingness or lack of capacity of certain States, especially flag States, to fulfil their international obligations, it is essential to reinforce the control of flag States over their vessels.  Additionally, cooperation and coordination among States, organizations and other actors will become more important as the international community grows more interdependent and as developments in ocean affairs continue to expand in both number and complexity.  Thus, the mechanism –- envisaged for the enhancement and facilitation of cooperation and coordination –- should discharge two main functions:  to review ongoing ocean-related work in each agency and to prepare coordinated responses to emerging challenges or urgent issues.


The addendum to the above report provides information on the status of the Convention, its implementing Agreements and declaration and statements made by States since the finalization of the report in March, and gives brief accounts of recent developments in the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, in the International Seabed Authority and on maritime claims.  It also reviews developments relating to safety of navigation; crimes at sea; the conservation and management of living marine resources, including the outcome of the second informal consultations of States parties to the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement; marine biodiversity and the protection and preservation of the marine environment.  The sections on marine science and technology, settlement of disputes and capacity-building provide information on development since 2002, while up-to-date information is provided on recent developments in the field of international cooperation and coordination.


The report of the Secretary-General on a regular process for the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment:  proposals on modalities (document A/58/423) provides an overview of the main developments concerning the establishment of a regular process for the assessment of the marine environment.  The report’s aim is twofold –- to provide States with a review of the available information and work done on the global marine assessment (GMA) and to facilitate discussions on the establishment of a regular process for the assessment of the state of the marine environment among all stakeholders.  It contains information on both the origins of the proposal for the assessment and on other environmental assessments and reflects some of the discussions on the assessment at an inter-agency consultative meeting held at the headquarters of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris on 8-9 September 2003.


Among other conclusions, the report advocates building the assessment process upon existing assessments, which are varied in scope and diverse in their thematic mandates.  In that regard, there are two possible means of integrating existing assessments:  first, by providing material from existing assessments directly to the assessment’s global scientific panel in a comparable format, to be analysed and integrated by the panel into a single global assessment; or second, to establish special regional assessment systems to develop integrated regional assessments, according to an agreed methodology, for synthesis by the global scientific panel.


The report also concludes that the assessment process should operate under the authority of the Assembly, with substantive discussions by all interested parties on the process and its results taking place either at the Informal Consultative Process or at meetings held in conjunction with it.  Moreover, while decisions will have to be made as to the location and composition of the secretariat, it may not be necessary to designate a “lead agency”; all contributing agencies, organizations and convention secretariats could be involved on a basis of equality.


Additionally, a letter dated 9 June 2003 from the Co-Chairpersons of the Consultative Process addressed to the President of the General Assembly on the Work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/58/95) details a number of elements proposed at the Process’ fourth meeting for consideration by the Assembly under its agenda item on Oceans and the law of the sea, as well as a list of issues that could benefit from attention in the Assembly’s future work on oceans and the law of the sea.


Recalling that General Assembly resolution 57/141 (2003) recommended that discussions be organized around the areas of protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems and the safety of navigation, the report notes that the catastrophic consequences of the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige provided a dramatic focus for substantive discussion on these issues.


Thus, among the areas for discussion highlighted in the report are capacity-building for the production of nautical charts, including through welcoming the work of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and its 14 regional hydrographic commissions and inviting that organization and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to continue their coordinated efforts and jointly to adopt measures to facilitate the transition to electronic nautical charts.


It also proposes urging States and regional integrated economic organizations to make progress regarding the phase-out of single-hull tankers and encouraging them to draw up plans and establish procedures to accommodate ships in need of assistance in waters under their jurisdiction.  Other areas addressed include flag State implementation and enforcement, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and cooperation and coordination on ocean issues.


The list of issues that could benefit from attention in the future work of the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea include, among others, marine protected areas, potential and new uses of the oceans, development and transfer of marine technology, food security and mariculture, impact of the activities in the international seabed area as a source of contamination of the marine environment, marine debris, navigation in ecologically sensitive areas, capacity-building for the collection of marine geographic data, human rights of seafarers, transport of illegal weapons by sea and access to and protection of the genetic resources of the oceans.


In its section on the in-depth evaluation of the programme on the law of the sea and ocean affairs, covered in Chapter III, section C.2 of the Report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination (document A/58/16), the Committee recommends the approval of recommendations 1 to 7 of the in-depth evaluation.  Among other things, the Committee emphasized the need to ensure the adequate capacity of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea to carry out its functions, and that the Division be encouraged to actively participate in regional cooperation activities on matters relating to oceans and seas. 


Also before the Assembly is a draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/58/L.19), by the terms of which the world body would request the Secretary-General, in close collaboration with Member States and other relevant organizations, to take steps to establish a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, by 2004.  Among those steps, a group of experts –- comprised of no more than 24 participants comprising representatives of States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations and including both scientists and policymakers –- would be convened to produce a draft document with details on the scope, general framework and outline of the regular process, peer review, secretariat, capacity-building and funding.


An international workshop with representatives from all interested parties would also be convened, in conjunction with the fifth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on oceans and the law of the sea.  Moreover, an intergovernmental meeting to formally establish the regular process would be convened in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2004.


Recommendations related to the implementation of the Convention and related agreements and instruments; the settlement of disputes; the continental shelf and the work of the related Commission; capacity-building; safety of navigation and flag State implementation; capacity-building for the production of nautical charts; the marine environment, marine resources and the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems; regional cooperation; inter-agency coordination and cooperation; the activities of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea; and trust funds and fellowships would also be put forward, according to the terms of text. 


The Secretary-General’s report on the status of the implementation of the provisions of the 1982 Convention relating to the Conservation and Management of Fish Stocks or “Fish Stocks Agreement” (document A/58/215) provides an overview of the main trends in operationalizing the world body’s main fish stocks agreement since its entry into force in 2001.  That Agreement has thus far been ratified by 34 States who met informally in New York in July 2002.  From that meeting, several concerns emerged regarding the make-up and response to the current report, chiefly, that the Agreement’s entry into force and relatively small number of Contracting Parties meant there is limited State practice under the instrument, and that several important fishing States are not parties.


According to the report, the July gathering also noted that no regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) were composed exclusively of States parties, so it was not possible to tell if any of the groups were explicitly bound by it.  And finally, up to this past April, none of the agreements concluded since 1995 to establish new such organizations has been in force, so practice is again limited.  Still, the report notes that notwithstanding those constraints since the Agreement’s adoption –- and even before its entry into force –- its provisions have been widely used as a benchmark for measuring State practice.


However, the report stresses that the binding nature of the Agreements, like the wider objectives of the Convention, must be fully accepted and implemented.  Along with recommendations on a Trust Fund for developing States, the report concludes that, despite progress, coastal States are not making full use of their sovereign rights to realize the opportunities provided by the Agreement and to contribute to its full implementation.  For developing States in particular, capacity is an issue, as most activities are devoted to the management and conservation of fisheries.  The report also concludes that the cooperation of adjacent States -- often not directly regulated by the Agreement –- is a prerequisite for effective cooperation with high seas fishing States.


By the terms of the draft resolution (document A/58/L.18) related to the above report, the Assembly would call on all States that have not done so to become parties to the Convention, taking into account the relationship between the Convention and the “Fish Stocks Agreement”, while reaffirming the importance attached to the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of the marine living resources of the world’s oceans and seas.  It would also decide to establish an Assistance Fund under Part VII of the “Fish Stocks Agreement” to assist developing States parties in the implementation of the Agreement.


Also, the Assembly would, moreover, make recommendations with regard to related fisheries instruments; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; fishing overcapacity; large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing; fisheries by-catch and discards; sub-regional and regional cooperation; responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystem; capacity-building; and cooperation within the United Nations system.  Among other things, the Assembly would call on flag and port States to take all measures consistent with international law necessary to prevent the operation of sub-standard vessels and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and urge them to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to overcapacity.


The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, in close cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization and in consultation with States and other relevant organizations, to include a section outlining current risks to the marine biodiversity of vulnerable marine ecosystems in his next report concerning fisheries.

The Assembly was also expected to consider the section of the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on implementation and international support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) (document A/58/16, chapter III, section B, programme 8; and chapter IV, section B).  In the first section, the Committee welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposals regarding revisions to the medium-term plan for NEPAD for the period 2002-2005, and recommended that the Assembly approve the revisions proposed to programme 8, with certain modifications that are laid out in the report.


In the second section on the future engagement of the United Nations system with NEPAD, the Committee recommends that relevant organizations of the United Nations system should assume the role of convener, consistent with their fields of competence and capacity, while avoiding inter-agency rivalry and strengthening coordination and collaboration to ensure their effective involvement in providing added value to NEPAD’s implementation.


The coordination function should be carried out at the regional and subregional levels by the Economic Commission for Africa and should be closely coordinated by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.  Furthermore, the Secretary-General should be requested to report to the Committee at its forty-fourth session and to submit to the Assembly an annual progress report on the Partnership’s implementation.


Statements


BENJAMIN GILMAN (United States), introducing the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (document A/58/L.18), welcomed the successful integration of two, formerly separate, fisheries resolutions.  The combined resolution advanced significantly efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries in a number of key areas while still reflecting the diversity of perspectives represented within the United Nations community.  As a central theme of the current resolution was the implementation of international fisheries commitments, he applauded the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to assist developing countries in fulfilling their obligations to conserve and manage straddling and highly migratory fish stocks under the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement.  The United States had made an initial contribution of $200,000 to that fund.


The resolution, he added, also contained language that called for the implementation, at all levels, of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Code of Conduct, including International Plans of Action on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, fishing overcapacity, shark conservation and management and seabird by-catch avoidance.  Of particular concern was the situation of sharks –- many species were currently vulnerable to over-exploitation.


Also addressing specific aspects of the draft resolution on oceans and law of the sea, he welcomed the continued support and development of the global marine assessment.  The capacity of the assessment to develop a comprehensive information collection process of reliable physical, chemical and biological data must be ensured.  Additionally, he placed especial importance on the development of effective strategies with regard to marine debris.  The United States would host, in January 2004, a seminar on derelict fishing gear and related marine debris, under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Fisheries Working Group.  The development of a voluntary model audit scheme by the International Maritime Organization was also encouraged as an important mechanism in dealing with substandard shipping and enhancing maritime safety, security and marine environmental protection.


DON MACKAY (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said that as ocean States, the group remained interested in the ongoing developments in oceans affairs and the law of the sea.  The Forum considered the Assembly’s annual debate of the issue and subsequent resolutions to be part of an ongoing strengthening of the governance of the oceans.  Both resolutions before the Assembly enabled it, as a collective body, to take stock of, and reflect on, the events of the year in a variety of forums.  The group greatly valued the primacy of the Convention as the constitutional framework of the oceans and seas, and was gratified at the evolution and successful functioning of its subsidiary bodies.


The Pacific Islands Forum looked forward to the operation of the newly established inter-agency coordination mechanism as a vehicle for drawing together the various threads of the work of the agencies and institutions involved in oceans and law of the sea matters.  Similarly, he was pleased that the entry into force of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean appeared imminent.  In that context, he was hopeful the Assembly would note that development at its next session.  With the growing support for the Convention, he urged the distant water fishing nations with a real fisheries interest in the region to spare no effort to become a party to the Convention.  Also, the group considered the review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), scheduled for Mauritius next year to be a fresh opportunity to consider appropriate management approaches and tools to conserve, manage and protect ocean resources within a small island developing States context.


Introducing the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, he said the text’s structure and length reflected a coordinated approach to the interlinked issues relating to the oceans and the law of the sea.  He explained that the resolution’s preamble and Section I laid out the fundamental principles, enshrined in the 1982 Convention that governed all activities in the oceans and the sea.  Sections II, IV, V and VI recognized the institutional framework that underpinned the Convention, while section VII, representing a substantial part of the resolution, addressed the overarching issue of capacity-building.  Resource and capacity matters remained a significant impediment to the full implementation of the Convention in many areas.  Similarly, Section XI set out the fundamental importance of regional cooperation, while Sections VIII, IX and X reflected the Assembly’s discussions and recommendations at this year’s fourth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process on oceans and the law of the sea.


MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), on behalf of the Rio Group, reaffirmed that the Convention established the legal framework for activities on the sustainable development of the oceans and seas, and welcomed Canada’s recent ratification of the Convention, as that was an important decision for the hemisphere.  The maritime jurisdictions of many of the member States of the Rio Group contained considerable extended sea areas, and their geographical proximity and maritime vicinity created common interests in that regard.


Regional and sub-regional cooperation and initiatives were the best way to undertake some of those common interests, he continued.  Capacity-building was essential for developing nations so that they could benefit from the sustainable use of oceans and seas, and to apply the law of the sea in an effective way.  For that reason, his Group found it satisfactory that both draft resolutions contained sections on that matter, and called on donors and financial institutions to assist developing States so that they could obtain sufficient capacities.


The design of reliable electronic nautical charts was indispensable for safe navigation and the protection of marine environments, including vulnerable ecosystems such as coral reefs and marine biodiversity of seamounts, he said.  As such, coordination between the International Maritime Organization and the International Hydrographic Organization in that regard was essential.  Fishing was one of the main economic activities in the countries of the Rio Group.  Nevertheless, they were confronting threats, including the increased presence of international fishing vessels near the coast, many times subsidized without any control, that came in search of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks.  The lack of some fish created an adverse impact in maritime ecosystems due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as stated in the draft resolution on sustainable fishing.  The members of the Rio Group supported regional and subregional cooperation in that regard and the implementation of the International Plan of Action of the Food Agriculture Organization.


In addition, the Group believed that maritime transportation of radioactive material and hazardous waste required effective liability regulations, he said.  There was concern, in particular, of the use of oceans and seas as routes for the transportation of radioactive waste.  He regretted the attitude of some shipping countries which did not provide adequate information on those shipments and routes.


KARIM MEDREK (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said he remained concerned about the growing deterioration of the marine environment and the overexploitation of living marine resources.  It was urgent to end the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities and ships, a phenomenon which was detrimental to human health, combating poverty, securing food security and to industry.  For that reason, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities was supported.  It was also noted that the Prestige incident had focused attention on the important role played by the International Maritime Organization in elaborating international rules and regulations to prevent pollution of the marine environment from ships.


As marine biodiversity was threatened by a variety of human activities, he added, the effective protection and sustainable exploitation of marine and coastal biodiversity must be a matter of urgency for concerned States and international organizations.  Moreover, as international coordination and cooperation were prerequisites for the effective management of the oceans and seas, particular importance was attached to the informal process for the integrated review of marine affairs.  The themes chosen at the fourth session of the Informal Consultative Process –- navigation, including strengthening the capacity to produce nautical charts, and the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems –- were of great importance.  Thus, sharing the view that hydrographic surveys and nautical charting were critical to the safety of navigation and environmental protection, he encouraged the intensification of efforts for capacity-building in developed countries.


GUNNAR PALSSON (Iceland), on behalf of the Arctic Council, said that ocean issues continued to be a subject of growing attention in the Assembly, as it was the cornerstone of the life-support system on Earth.  The World Summit on Sustainable Development confirmed the global importance of the maritime environment and the Johannesburg Plan of Action had provided important policy direction, including objectives and targets for sustainable fisheries, the application of the ecosystem approach, the reduction of land-based pollution and the improvement of scientific understanding and assessment of marine and coastal ecosystems as a basis for sound decision-making.


His Government had begun to take part in efforts to contain and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and supported endeavours to diminish the overcapacity of the world’s fishing fleets, a principal contributor of overexploitation and depletion of fish stocks in many regions.  It was important to remember that, while global instruments were often called for, the responsible management of living resources of the sea were best carried out at the local and regional levels, in partnership with those closest to and most dependent on the resources for their livelihood.


The Arctic was predominantly a marine environment, he stated, and the Arctic Council addressed issues related to the marine environment, including biodiversity, pollution, shipping and the utilization of resources such as oil and gas.  As a regional organization, the Council played a role in the implementation of commitments of the Johannesburg Summit, and provided regional coordination to protect the Arctic marine environment.  Its strategy for carrying out the Johannesburg commitments was based on an integrated approach to sustainable ocean management.  He was confident that that plan would contribute to the fulfilment of targets set by the World Summit.  Climate change was a subject of great interest to the Council, and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) would provide an assessment on the impact of climate change on the environment and its living resources, on human health, and social and economic activities.  In addition, it would guide policy responses.


Still, the daunting implications of climate change had begun to emerge and some findings of the Assessment included rising sea levels, which would in turn affect coastal communities, islands, river deltas and harbours, he stated.  Sea ice reduction would also affect climate feedback, species migration and subsistence lifestyles and human health.  Climate change concerned the global community and must be viewed through a global prism.  In addition, Iceland encouraged an open discussion on marine pollution, an international issue, as it had no boundaries and could not be tackled in the absence of global coordination.  Efforts to strengthen international action to protect oceans from land-based pollution were hampered by a lack of information, readily accessible to policy-makers, on the state of marine environments.  The lack of a comprehensive overview was arguably one of the main reasons why measures to protect the marine environment had not been focusing on the real issues.  Regular assessments were needed for responsible decision-making.


GIUSEPPE NESI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, drew attention to the need to progressively phase out the use of single hull oil carriers.  In wake of the Prestige accident of November 2002, the European Commission had launched a number of initiatives to improve safety at sea, including through banning the transport of heavy fuel oil in single hull carriers to and from European Union member State ports and speeding up the timetable for the withdrawal of single hull oil tankers.  It also invited members to ensure the adoption of similar measures by the International Maritime Organization, including an appropriate inspection scheme for double hull oil tankers more than 15 years old.


With regard to the draft resolution on oceans and law of the sea, he welcomed the decisions to invite relevant competent international organizations to study, examine and clarify the duty of flag States to exercise jurisdiction and effective control over ships flying their flag and to request the Secretary-General to prepare and disseminate a comprehensive elaboration on the duties and obligations of flag States.


On the marine environment, he focused specifically on the Mediterranean Sea, the North-East Atlantic (including the North Sea) and the Baltic Sea region.  The Barcelona Process, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, the Helsinki Commission and the North Sea Conferences had provided useful frameworks for cooperation.  The special configuration of the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas had given rise to agreements concluded with the specific objective of consolidating friendly relations among respective coastal States and influencing political developments in those regions.  Moreover, the creation of maritime protected areas such as the Baltic Seas Protected Areas constituted good examples of regional cooperation.


Similar legal instruments could be usefully adopted in others areas of the world.  Through the IMO, the Union would continue to support the designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, which constituted a system of defence for States’ vulnerable seas and coasts against the threats posed by international shipping.


STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), welcomed and underscored the importance of the Convention as the overall framework governing ocean activities.  He was encouraged by the progress made toward universal adherence to the Convention, and was pleased that, since the last meeting in December, eight countries had ratified it, bringing the number of States parties to 145.  The nations of his region were satisfied that the three institutions created by the Convention were carrying out their mandates efficiently and that good progress was being made by the International Seabed Authority in developing the framework for cooperation in seabed resources.


He noted that the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, also created by the Convention, continued to receive submissions from States for the settlement of disputes relating to various provisions of the Convention.  Its record in dealing with such cases in an efficient and timely manner was now established.  The range of cases for which judgement was sought was also an indication of growing confidence in the competence of the Tribunal.  The CARICOM consisted of island and coastal States that had a vital and continuing interest in their shared patrimony in the Caribbean Sea.


The region’s Governments continued to express their concern over the transport of hazardous materials through the Caribbean Sea and the potential risk of serious harm to its fragile ecosystem and marine resources, on which a large percentage of the population depended for a livelihood.  Of special concern was the transport of nuclear waste materials, which had been consistently opposed by Caribbean Governments, he said.  That activity exposed the region to what he termed “unacceptable” risks, and he continued to urge the parties concerned to refrain from use of the Caribbean Sea as a transit route for such shipments.


However, he said that while CARICOM member States had all demonstrated their commitment to the Convention by their ratification, their ability to effectively implement its provisions was constrained by inadequate resources.  In that regard, he welcomed the recommendation of the Consultative Process for the International Hydrographic Organization to intensify its efforts to build capacity in developing countries for the production of electronic nautical charts and provide data and information that could be used for fisheries activities and for other uses.


WEGGER CHRISTIAN STROMMEN (Norway) welcomed the focus on capacity-building as the main challenge in relation to the law of the sea, and said his country had played an active role in facilitating the implementation of the Convention through capacity-building.  Among other undertakings, Norway had contributed financially to the programme whereby the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Global Research Information Database made research data available to States, to the trust fund for participation in meetings of the Continental Shelf Commission and to the trust fund for training and scientific advice related to the continental shelf.  Norway would also make a contribution to the trust fund for developing States, to be established under the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries.


Among other issues to be addressed, he said efforts to prevent shipping from becoming a tool of terrorists –- particularly with regard to trafficking in weapons of mass destruction –- must be intensified.  Moreover, the management and prevention of illegal activities with regard to living marine resources outside national jurisdiction constituted a huge challenge, which should be dealt with through competent resource management organizations –- such as the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources –- that possessed the necessary scientific and decision-making capacity.  Furthermore, as some illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing vessels used re-flagging as a means to escape control, it was essential to ensure flag States’ implementation of their obligations.  In that respect, the decisions to ask the IMO and other relevant organizations to study, examine and clarify the “genuine link” between vessels flag States, and to request the Secretary-General to elaborate on flag State duties, were welcomed.


The international community must also respond to the challenges posed by pollution, he added, including preventing land-based pollution, transboundary environmental damage, safety of navigation and the phasing out a single hull tankers and safety of transport of radioactive material.  An important aspect of Norway’s marine environmental policy was the preservation of biodiversity, habitats, fauna and flora through the establishment of marine protected areas. Some of the world’s largest cold-water coral reefs were located in the Norwegian part of the North-East Atlantic.  Norway had initiated, in cooperation with UNEP, an International Coral Reef Initiative, to which it had contributed both financially and practically.


P.R.O. OWADE (Kenya) said since its adoption 20 years ago, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea represented the “most elaborate scheme of codification and progressive development of international law”.  Nevertheless, States continued to be confronted by a myriad of ocean-related challenges.  He said the lack of effective control by flag States over ships flying their flags posed a threat to the safety of navigation and the marine environment.  For that reason, he fully endorsed initiatives by United Nations bodies aimed at strengthening the capacity of flag States in implementation and enforcement.


He was also encouraged by the Train-Sea-Coast programme, which was administered by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, and hoped that the Division would continue to administer the programme taking into account the need for geographic participation.  On the issue of fisheries, he said that as a developing coastal State, Kenya had a keen interest in the implementation of the Fish Stocks Agreement.  Among other concerns, he highlighted the lack of comprehensive national fisheries management plans and legislation for implementation of the Convention and the Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as the lack of capacity to exercise flag State controls.  He urged the United Nations and other relevant organizations to take into account the principle of equitable geographical distribution as it related to participation in the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.


ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the Convention on the Law of the Sea reflected the desire to establish a more just and equitable international economic order over ocean spaces.  The concept of a shared human heritage contained therein crystallized the hopes of developing countries for a world founded upon peace, justice, solidarity and progress for all.  However, it must be underscored that universal participation in the Convention could not be achieved without the adherence of certain major industrialized -– and maritime -– powers.


The protection and preservation of the marine environment and resources constituted a source of ongoing concern for his country, he said.  The Mediterranean had seen its flora and fauna increasingly threatened by pollution, whether from land or shipping sources.  To combat such phenomena, the international community must work out binding guidelines for conduct in the area of preserving and protecting the marine environment, and elaborate both short- and long-term measures in that regard.


Another concern, he said, was the overexploitation of marine resources and overfishing, which constituted grave threats to biological diversity and the equilibrium of marine ecosystems.  For countries such as his own, situated on closed or semi-closed seas that relied on fishery resources to feed their populations, those threats were of particular concern.  The situation of “geographically disadvantaged” countries merited specific solutions under international law to protect their rights from such threats.


GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) welcomed concerns regarding capacity-building in developing States, calling it a sine qua non for their full participation in matters pertaining to the law of the sea.  He endorsed the call for developing countries to improve their hydrographic services, their production of nautical charts, and make timely submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  The establishment of a trust fund enabling developing nations to develop their capacities in that area, and to make submissions in a timely manner, was also welcomed.  Capacity-building was a praiseworthy effort that enabled affected countries to present their claims.  As such, it was necessary for the international community to strengthen mechanisms to support innovative initiatives for the utilization of resources and peaceful resolutions in instances of dispute.  The protection of marine ecosystems and the preservation of biodiversity were necessary, and he applauded recommendations for enhancing the safety of navigation and maritime administration. 


Overfishing by ships, lawfully within the exclusive economic zone of a single State, was not uncommon, as the resources of the coastal State did not permit effective policing and, as a result, a number of severely depleted fisheries existed around the world.  It was, therefore, a situation that called for the increased involvement of the international community with a view toward conserving that resource.  In addition, it was imperative that measures devised for the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks continue and grow, for that was a resource that transcended several national jurisdictions.  The absence of regulation in that critical area had, in the past, precipitated many disasters, and it was in the interest of the global community that those species be protected and preserved. 


CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said the topic of oceans and the law of the sea was one of strategic importance to his country, as Mexico was a nation located between seas.  Marine spaces were interrelated and thus required an interdisciplinary approach.  One of the main objectives was the protection of marine environments, and he was pleased that the draft resolution placed attention on fragile marine ecosystems and the importance of containing adverse impacts on coral reefs caused by grounded ships or collisions.  The draft resolution was an important step to promoting coordination and cooperation among nations.


The protection of ecosystems and the safety of navigation required navigational marine charts, which were essential for the protection of coral reefs and the prevention of accidents that had great impact on human life and the environment.  There was a need to promote capacity-building and the hydrographic capacities of developing nations.  Another necessary tool for the conservation of the marine environment was the development of contingency plans in the case of pollution and other emergencies.  That, he said, would be in compliance with international conventions and international law.


States must continue to test ways of preserving the marine environment and the international community must act with greater resolve in that area, he said.  One area of priority was regional cooperation for the management of oceans and the implementation of the Convention.  Mexico would continue to support the initiative to facilitate compliance with the Seabed Authority and support its work, especially in regard to its progress in the exploration of cobalt crusts.  In addition, he recognized that a large part of environmental deterioration was caused by land-based activities.  He also believed that the management of sharks was of great importance, and he noted that the draft resolution placed the issue in proper perspective.  In fact, the role of shark fishing was just as important as any other fish stock, and one that required inter-agency coordination.  In conclusion, he was pleased that the draft resolution on oceans called for the establishment of a regular reporting process, which would include social and economic aspects.


MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said because his country has a large territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, it has closely adhered to the law of the sea, particularly the Convention.  Apart from updating and revising the country’s 1992 Sea Fisheries Act and replacing it on 1 August with the Marine Resources Act, Namibian regulations often went beyond its international obligations.  Together with adjacent coastal States and other interested parties, Namibia played a significant role in the negotiations towards the “Convention on the Conservation and Management of Fishery Resources in the South-East Atlantic Ocean”.  That Convention provided for the establishment of the South-East Atlantic Fisheries Organization (SEAFO), which was signed under the framework established by the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement.


He reiterated the call for further ratifications or accessions, particularly by adjacent coastal States, to provide the necessary impetus and momentum to the fledgling regional fisheries management organization –- SEAFO.  He stressed that national efforts and international cooperation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing be strengthened.  States needed to exercise more control over their nationals who engaged in such fishing.  He emphasized that certain countries needed to set an example in acting to control their nationals, particularly given the large amount of beneficial ownership those countries had in fishing vessels flagged to open registers, while carrying masters and crews of their own origin.


While he believed that the FAO’s International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks was highly laudable, he stressed that the various FAO Plans of Action were voluntary instruments and, therefore, not legally binding.


CHUN YUNG-WOO (Republic of Korea) said remarkable progress has been achieved over the last two decades in the fields of international maritime trade and transport, as well as oceans development.  While he was pleased to note that, so far, there were 145 States parties to the Convention and 117 States were parties to the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI, he said achieving the universality of the Convention in and of itself would not guarantee its effectiveness and applicability as the global legal framework for the oceans and the sea.


Today, some of the daunting challenges facing the international community involved trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, narcotics, and even human beings.  Increasingly, maritime transport had become the chosen means of such illicit trafficking.  Against the backdrop of the current security situation, it was crucial that the international community take concerted and coordinated actions to combat that global threat.  This year, in response to the threat of terrorism at sea, his country had acceded to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and its Protocol.  The country also attached great importance to the protection and conservation of the marine environment and marine resources. 


In that context, the Government had taken proactive measures to prevent and reduce pollution from vessels and land-based activities, including oil-spills.  States must cooperate to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.  The international community must set priorities for the measures that must be taken.


PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said that, as her country was an archipelago of some 700 islands –- 22 of which were inhabited, the maritime transport of goods and people had always formed an essential part of Bahamian life.  At the same time, its geological structure as one of the world’s largest areas of coral reef had ensured that high priority was given to protecting the marine environment.  With the third largest ship registry in the world, her country exercised the utmost due diligence and the Bahamas Marine Authority had clear, well-defined policies regarding the de-listing of ships that failed to meet national and international standards.  Moreover, as a responsible member of the shipping community, the Bahamas had served on the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) from 1991 to 1995 and from 1999 to the present, during which it had engaged in constructive cooperation with fellow members through the implementation of IMO resolutions and decisions, and the submission of forward-looking proposals to protect the marine environment.


With regard to the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, her Government had established five marine protected areas throughout the archipelago, she said, and identified eight additional potential sites.  Geographically, the country was situated along the migratory route of a vast number of marine and terrestrial species.  And while tourism was the country’s main industry, that tourism had not always been an environmentally friendly activity.  The challenge for the Bahamas now was to continue developing ecologically sensitive tourism.


The Bahamas was also aware that, as many international shipping lines traversed Bahamian waters, the potential for marine degradation was very high.  The necessary steps would continue to be taken to ensure that vessels transiting national waters complied with international standards.  Moreover, the immediate cessation of the transport of nuclear waste and other hazardous materials was called for, so as to prevent any accident that could seriously threaten the sustainable development of the country and the health of the people.


JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that, along with sustaining the livelihood of many of its nationals and shaping the cultures of island communities, oceans continued to play a vital role in the efforts of small island developing States towards attaining sustainable development.  It was, therefore, only natural that small islands paid interest in matters concerning the ocean.  Almost all members of the Alliance who were able to sign and ratify the Convention had done so.  The law of the sea played an important role in the strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations, while promoting economic and social advancement of all peoples.


However, the implementation of the Fish Stocks Agreement continued to be impeded by financial constraints and a lack of capacity.  Adding to that challenge were existing international legislative frameworks and mechanisms.  Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, as well as monitoring and surveillance of the countries’ respective exclusive economic zones, continued to pose a tremendous challenge to small island developing States.  There was a need then to create and strengthen existing regional fisheries management mechanisms to conserve and manage that valuable resource.


He noted the need to focus on capacity-building for small island developing States and other geographically disadvantaged nations in specific areas.  A lack of capacity due to limited resources and technical know-how had been continually identified as a major impediment for small island developing States in their efforts to implement important conventions.  Still, he was encouraged to observe that the fourth Open-ended Consultative Process had come up with interesting recommendations.  The international meeting to review the Barbados Programme of Action, to be held in Mauritius in August 2004, would provide an opportunity to consider in-depth relevant ocean issues including management approaches, conservation tools, and the management and protection of ocean resources within the context of small island developing States.


In addition, it was hoped that issues relating to the transport of hazardous materials, especially nuclear waste, which would have the potential risk of serious harm to the ecosystem and marine resources, would receive particular attention.


YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) expressed concern over the fact that, at the same time that the Convention was providing an almost universal legal framework for ocean affairs, the international community was facing a new range of problems.  They included transnational crimes such as terrorism, the illegal trafficking in drugs and the growing pressure on the maritime environment.  Each of those issues needed to be addressed in a manner that respected the spirit and provisions of the Convention while maintaining, in principle, its framework.  Japan would continue to support the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  The country was an active and determined participant in the work of those organs, which were all established under the Convention.


Concerned over the increased frequency of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Asian region, Japan had been actively contributing in the formulation of the regional agreement for cooperation in preventing and fighting those crimes.  In order to suppress and prevent those crimes, Japan had been cooperating with South-East Asian countries in particular to take various measures in that direction.  They included consultation among experts; the dispatching of Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels and aircraft; combined exercises with those countries; holding of a Maritime Law Enforcement Seminar; and acceptance of exchange students at the country’s Coast Guard Academy.  Japan was also seriously concerned about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and the overcapacity issues in global fisheries, in spite of efforts towards sustainable use of living marine resources. 


He added that scientific evidence provided by competent organizations such as the FAO and the regional fisheries management organizations should form the basis of discussions on conservation and management problems, as well as the sustainable use of maritime resources.


VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said his country was firmly committed to the Convention, which represented a significant achievement by the international community and an important testimony to United Nations efforts to codify and develop the international law of the sea.  As a geographically disadvantaged country, bordering a sea poor in living resources and suffering from the depletion of fish stocks of its exclusive economic zone, Ukraine placed special emphasis on the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  He strongly believed that all States should apply effective measures for the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks, in order to protect living marine resources and preserve the marine environment.  He suggested that better international cooperation in that area was needed and a crucial role belonged to the relevant regional organizations.


To ensure effective coordination and cooperation in integrated ocean management, to facilitate sustainable fisheries and to enhance maritime safety, as well as the protection of the marine environment from pollution, he believed that the relevant chapter of the Plan of Action adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development should be implemented as a matter of priority.  The growing number of cases of piracy and armed robbery continued to be a major concern to the international community.  More attention should be paid to the issue of the prevention of terrorist acts at sea.  In that regard, universal participation in and proper implementation of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and other related instruments were of paramount importance.


WANG GUANGYA (China) said the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of that Convention contained provisions that covered all areas concerning ocean affairs and, thus, constituted a basic legal framework for human activities in that regard.  It also served to establish an order for ocean affairs in the modern era.  Therefore, it was satisfying that, with ratification and accession from 143 countries, the Convention was gaining universality.  China was pleased with the positive development in the work of the three international bodies established under the Convention, namely, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Seabed Authority.


He noted that discussions within the United Nations framework of matters related to the Convention were of critical importance.  The setting up of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea reflected the international community’s general concerns over maritime environmental protection, integrated management, sustainable utilization of marine resources, developing countries’ ocean-related capacity-building and other issues.  To that end, the Consultative Process had become an important forum where questions about oceans and the law of the sea were discussed and coordinated among countries, including non-States parties to the Convention.


To fill the vacuum left by the abolition of the Sub-Committee on Oceans and Coastal Areas, he proposed the creation by the Assembly of an effective, transparent and regular inter-agency cooperation mechanism within the United Nations system.  He further proposed that the Assembly request the Secretary-General to convene an intergovernmental meeting soon to discuss and develop an implementation plan related to the mechanism of global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment.


While the entry into force in December 1991 of the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement had been conducive to the harmonization of regulations on fishing activities on the high seas, the key to its enforcement was at the regional level, he contended.  Membership in regional fisheries management mechanisms and participation in the formulation of management measures in that context would help eliminate differences among countries within a regional mechanism.  At the same time, developing countries’ difficulties and special needs in implementing the Agreement needed to be fully considered.  It was incumbent on developed countries to provide developing countries with the necessary assistance and facilities, so as to enhance their capacity to implement the Agreement and manage their fisheries.


MICHAEL BLISS (Australia) said the continuing challenge to which all must respond was to ensure effective governance through implementation of the Convention and related instruments.  As the omnibus resolution stated, effective implementation of the Convention and related instruments could only be achieved through action at every level –- national, regional and global.  At the national level, Australia continued to work under the framework of its Oceans Policy –- a policy to improve governance of the vast marine areas under its jurisdiction.  Similarly, action has been taken at the regional level and there had been “considerable action” at the global level as well.


As an island State heavily dependent on trade, the vast majority of which was transported by sea, Australia attached great importance to ensuring the safety of navigation.  However, he said, the current picture was not a good one –- acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea and damage to marine environment as a result of spills and groundings remained regular occurrences, sometimes with devastating effects.  The answer was better implementation of the Convention and related instruments.  States could not continue to treat with disdain provisions of the Convention on effective flag State enforcement and the need for a genuine link between a vessel and its flag State.  He said the establishment of the Global Marine Assessment Process was a major step towards improved oceans governance.  The assessment would provide better information on the state of the world’s oceans and be an important tool for policy makers at all levels.


VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) said he was pleased to note that the number of States parties to the Convention had risen to 143, including the European Community.  Capacity-building of developing States to assist them in acquiring knowledge and skills with regard to their preparation and submission on the outer limits of the continental shelf was vital to the effective implementation of the Convention.  States with expertise in the delineation of outer limits of the continental shelf could extend cooperation in providing assistance to developing States.  For its part, India had expertise on the assessment and mapping of the continental shelf, and was willing to extend cooperation in training developing countries for that purpose.


The international community continued to focus on issues relating to navigation, conservation and management of living marine resources and coastal biodiversity, protection of marine environment and international coordination and cooperation, he said.  Regarding navigation, he wished to express serious concern with the increase in incidents of crimes at sea, in particular the 37 per cent increase in the number of reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide during the first six months of this year, compared to the corresponding period in 2002.  Regional cooperation to combat piracy was vital.


In the Asia Pacific region, India had been actively involved in ongoing efforts initiated by Japan to establish a regional cooperation agreement on anti-piracy, along with 15 other States in the region.  In addition, he attached great importance to the prevention and suppression of acts of terrorism against shipping.  Thus, he welcomed the decision of the International Maritime Organization to include new offences against security of navigation, and supported the inclusion of new interdictory measures authorizing a State party -- other than the flag State -- to take action with respect to a vessel suspected, within reasonable grounds, of being involved in, or the target of, a commission of an offence under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. 


Finally, it was a matter of grave concern that, in less than 50 years, industrial fishing fleets had managed to wipe out nine tenths of the world’s biggest and most economically importance species of fish.  Efforts to improve conservation of fisheries had been confronted by the increase of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities on the high seas.  The displacement of fishing fleets from areas under the national jurisdiction of developed member States to fisheries located in developing nations gave rise to a significant problem that encouraged the expansion of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, with negative implications for global fisheries.  Enhanced cooperation among States was needed.


REGINALDO DOS SANTOS (Brazil) described the recent entry into force of the Fish Stocks Agreement as a remarkable milestone in the quest to progressively enact what he called a comprehensive “Constitution of the Oceans”.  Any progress in generating an improved legal framework for regulating the use of the oceans would be highly positive and welcomed.  The challenge of effective implementation of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea would require the fuller understanding of the interrelation of problems concerning the oceans and seas that required a holistic approach.  He believed that the Informal Consultative Process had helped focus attention on the need for greater coordination of ocean-related issues.


However, he expressed concerns about the constrictive timeframe set to reach the Consultative Process’ outcome, which intended to express an achievable consensus.  There should be no doubt that the necessary scientific explanations and the subsequent debate were the principal goals of that process.  Further, the Process continued to highlight the need to activate existing regional and global mechanisms towards fostering international cooperation.  Only in that way would many countries, especially developing ones, acquire the means to promote the sustainable exploitation of their marine resources.  On safety issues, he stressed that any measures regarding maritime safety and security or protection of the marine environment should consider the global consequences and be consistent with the rights and obligations contained in the Convention and other related international instruments.


ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone) said that, as an ocean and marine state, Sierra Leone had a global commitment to the sustainable use and development of oceans and their varied resources.  He noted the progress achieved by the International Seabed Authority.  However, there was still much work to be done, especially as developing States, particularly the least developed countries and small island developing States, as well as coastal African States, did not appear to have derived substantial benefits from the concepts of the exclusive economic zones and the common heritage of mankind.


He had serious concerns over the widespread use by ships of flags of convenience.  Therefore, he welcomed and joined the call of many States that flag States should have an effective maritime administration with a firm legislative framework, complying with the accepted international regulations, procedures and practices.  While many developing countries experienced untold damages to their territorial seas and waters by heavy tankers carrying high-grade oil, those countries did not have the monitoring capacity and capability to identify those heavy tankers and take appropriate action.


He added that nautical charts were another concern, as they were no longer useful in the twenty-first century.  He called for any assistance from the developed world, with a view to taking action and developing an effective and efficient maritime administration.  He also welcomed concerted international action to address and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.


ALBERT HOFFMANN (South Africa) noted the progress that the International Seabed Authority had made with respect to the development of a legal regime for prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts.  In addition, he welcomed steps taken by the Authority to develop a better understanding of the biodiversity of the seabed and deep ocean, so as to enable effective measures towards the protection of the marine environment against harmful effects from activities relating to prospecting and exploration of mineral resources.  He appreciated the important role of the Tribunal in the settlement of disputes concerning the law of the sea, and was encouraged to learn that more States elected to refer cases to the Tribunal.  Yet, he noted the remark made by its President that the Tribunal had not been put to full use.


He emphasized that assistance to members from those nations having been elected to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, as well as the Legal and Technical Commission and the Finance Committee of the Authority, was necessary to ensuring that those bodies discharged their functions in a timely and efficient manner.  Capacity-building and the transfer of technology to developing countries were fundamental for the full implementation of the Convention.  The need to assist developing countries with adequate resources to establish national and regional programmes, and to develop skills to ensure their effective implementation, was crucial to maintaining and strengthening the regime of the oceans.


He was particularly pleased with the capacity-building provisions in the oceans and fisheries resolution before the Assembly, which he considered to be essential in addressing the challenges and imbalances facing developing nations.  South Africa attached special importance to international cooperation on fisheries, and, as a sign of its commitment, had ratified the Fish Stocks Agreement.  The use of subsidies in some countries had contributed to overcapacity, overfishing and the depletion of fish stocks in many parts of the world.  Subsidies had also contributed to the persistent incidences of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. 


In addition, the world’s oceans and their resources were part of the system of global commons from which all nations should benefit.  In fact, fisheries were seen as important for poverty eradiation and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  In that regard, he called for fairness and equity in the allocation of the share of fisheries resources for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks.


DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) was supportive of the important role of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea in the settling of disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention by peaceful means and urged the Tribunal to make further progress in its current cases.  Also, the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process played a similarly important role in facilitating the Assembly’s work to provide its annual review in an effective and constructive manner.  As an archipelagic State and one of the earliest States parties to the Convention, Indonesia had consistently viewed as important questions pertinent to the law of the sea.  Its firm support for the Convention was reflected in the country’s active participation in all the bodies since the outset.


Aware of the vulnerability of the ecosystem of its archipelagic waters both from land-based and vessel-sourced pollution, as well as the growing concern and interest of local governments in the process of decentralization, Indonesia was currently completing draft legislation on the protection of coastal zones and small islands.  That draft legislation was aimed at improving the mechanism of resource management of coastal zones and small islands in the framework of economic empowerment and marine environmental protection.


Regional cooperation was key to further progress of international cooperation in the field of oceans and the law of the sea.  In the framework of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional institutions, several meetings had been convened to discuss issues of common interest such as combating piracy and armed robbery at sea, fisheries, people smuggling, and other transnational crimes.  In that context, he attached particular importance to the need for capacity-building so as to ensure that all States, especially developing ones, were enabled to implement the Convention and benefited from the sustainable development of the oceans and seas, as well as participated fully in the global and regional forums and processes that dealt with issues on oceans and the law of the sea.


STUART W. LESLIE (Belize) said the gap between policy-making and action constituted a factor which belied the integrated management approach to ocean space and the comprehensive legal and institutional nature of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.  In many cases, that gap was further compounded by States’ lack of capacity to participate in the policy-making process and to take necessary actions.  Thus, the three main areas for improvement critical to the implementation and enforcement of the Convention were the establishment of an inter-agency coordination mechanism, development of the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and capacity-building.


At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, he added, the importance of effective coordination and cooperation among relevant bodies and actions at all levels had rightly been emphasized as a fundamental element of the sustainable development formula for the oceans.  The Assembly’s decision to establish an effective, transparent, accountable and regular inter-agency coordinating mechanism was thus welcomed.  Similarly, the development of a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment was viewed as a mechanism for more integrated and comprehensive coordination.  Yet, while those new coordinating mechanisms would significantly narrow the gap between policy-making and action, their impact at the national level would be limited by a lack of capacity.  Thus, the strengthening of national capacity for implementation and enforcement of the Convention should be central to all deliberations on oceans and the law of the sea.


RICARDO BOCALANDRO (Argentina) said that, in the past, many organizations had pursued tasks regarding oceans and seas in an independent manner.  There was no coordinating forum for international work, which could be described as having been carried out in a compartmentalized fashion.  Then, the issue of sustainable development as it related to the oceans and seas took on a different meaning, creating a turning point in how the United Nations organized its affairs regarding the oceans.


The reports on oceans and fisheries entrusted to the Secretary-General were important.  But he noted that, in those reports, there was sometimes analysis on the conduct of a particular State.  States should be consulted first, he said, and the reports should discuss that consultation, not the State.  It was important not to express value judgment before discussing issues with a State.  He recognized the work of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, whose work was of the highest calibre.


DMITRY A. LOBACH (Russian Federation) said his country had consistently supported the multifaceted implementation of the legal bases of the oceans regime, of which the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea represented the apex.  As regards the expansion of international cooperation in maritime affairs, he remained confident that those States that had not done so should accede to the Convention in the near future.  Another promising area of international cooperation was represented by the nascent work on the limits of the continental shelf.


The Informal Consultative Process, among other initiatives, had made a substantive contribution to expanding development in maritime affairs, he added.  That process had taken its place among the variety of open-ended mechanisms overseeing ocean affairs and was capable of proposing promising areas for international development in maritime affairs.  He also welcomed the establishment of a regular process of global maritime assessment.  He said the work pursued by the States parties to the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement and other relevant agreements led to the hope that current negative trends in the depletion of global fish stocks would be redressed.


NGUYEN DUY CHIEN (Viet Nam) said that while he acknowledged that there still existed in the field of ocean activities certain specific issues that needed continued and concerted actions of the international community at the global, regional and national levels, not all States were in the same position to adequately address their problems and issues.  Therefore, greater assistance should be given to developing countries to ensure that they could get access to information and technology.


Vietnam had signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (Eastern Sea), he said.  That marked an important step towards building a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and a valuable contribution to peace and stability in the region.  The members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) continued to call for continued self-restraint and avoidance of any action that would complicate the situation in the South China Sea and emphasized the need for all concerned to seek to deal with the disputes in the South China Sea by peaceful means in conformity with international law, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.


FELIPE H. PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said the periodic review and assessment of reports on the state of oceans indicated that their condition continued to deteriorate.  When the debate on the topic of oceans got under way each year, it appeared that the condition continued to worsen despite calls by organizations and scientific experts in that field.  It was not due to a lack of warning that that process of deterioration continued.  There were constant warnings about the great dangers posed to the sea and the consequences to marine environment.  In addition, numerous international instruments contained the rules of conduct to protect the marine environment and ensure its resources.  It was important to pursue periodic submissions of assessments on the environment.  The establishment of that system required time but he was convinced of its importance, as it might have an impact on attitudes adopted by States, changing them from one of ignorance to defence of the marine environment

He hoped the Secretary-General would adopt measures recommended in the resolution.  Regarding the periodic assessments, they should be focused on the marine environment, broad in scope, and encompass all aspects of the marine environment.  The expansion of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was a problem and its growth occurred because countries, in particular small developing countries, lacked the resources to curb that practice.  His nation had made every effort to combat such activities.  Important measures adopted included more frequent inspections of ships, the use of software and data processing by shore-based control centres and the registration of ships caught in illegal acts.  Marine safety was also an issue.  Crimes such as piracy and armed robbery were problematic and should remain a priority item on the agenda.  Finally, he praised the Open-ended Consultative Process, saying all delegations participating in it had been enriched by it.


GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said his country had always believed in the law of the sea.  By ratifying the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, Canada had affirmed its belief in the application of the rule of law to the world’s oceans.  The Convention, which had proven a resilient document, provided for an amendment process to open 10 years after its entry into force, thus making it a living document with which to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century.  Some of those challenges –- such as overfishing and the use of flags of convenience to avoid conservation and management measures –- were depressingly familiar, while others –- such as marine bioprospecting –- were new.  In both regards, the discussion to take place under the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea regarding new sustainable uses of the oceans were welcomed. 


Another issue before the Assembly today was related to the coordination and cooperation necessary to achieve effective oceans governance.  While governance of the ocean had evolved piecemeal, in conjunction with technologies that enabled the exploitation of ocean resources, the vast range and integrated nature of ocean activities made it painfully clear that no single activity could be managed in isolation, nor could any single organization operate in isolation.  Thus, applying a holistic and integrated ecosystem-based approach constituted part of the challenge presently before the international community.  The ministers of the Arctic Council had taken a major step forward in that vein by initiating a strategic plan for the protection of the Arctic marine environment, founded upon an ecosystem-based approach.


N.U.O. WADIBIA-ANYANWU (Nigeria) said his nation continued to grapple with the enormous responsibility of improving the living standards of its coastal populations by seeking ways to ameliorate the economic and social setbacks occasioned by adverse environmental impacts.  Nigeria strongly supported an assessment that would address the socio-economic causes and consequences of the dreadful conditions of the marine environment.  He appreciated the management and conservation of fish stocks, as commercial fishing constituted an important factor in ensuring food security, a cardinal policy of the Government.  He was concerned that, despite good progress, developing coastal States were not yet able to make full use of their sovereign rights to realize the opportunities provided by the Fish Stocks Agreement and to contribute to its full implementation.  The main constraint was a lack of capacity.


He underscored the fact that developing countries were at a disadvantage in terms of acquisition of technology and expertise.  In areas such as exploration and exploitation of seabed minerals, conservation and protection of living resources and coastal management, marine scientific research, pollution, toxic and chemical waste dumping, developing countries lacked the relevant expertise and tools.  Developing nations would also require timely assistance in the area of an appropriate and comprehensive legal regime governing the effective management of the ecosystem.  There was no doubt that developing countries needed help through cooperation, partnership and technical assistance.  As such, Nigeria called for efforts to extend meaningful assistance to developing nations with regard to capacity-building to conserve and manage stocks, and facilitate their participation in existing regional fisheries management organizations.


ASENACA ULUIVITI (Fiji) said that universal participation in the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea would help ensure the holistic and sustainable global governance of oceans and seas.  Such governance had become even more important, given new and emerging challenges associated with the uses of oceans.  Moreover, as many of those challenges were unanticipated 20 years ago, the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process had become a critical process, which afforded member States an annual informal occasion for sharing between and amongst governments, experts, institutions, agencies, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations.  That cross-hybridization process was reflected by the two draft resolutions presently before the Assembly, she said, particularly as they related to the inter-agency international coordination mechanism.


The growing value of the Informal Consultative Process was appreciable given the increasing complexity of ocean and sea issues.  The many developing countries that lacked the requisite capacities, knowledge and resources to explore and provide obligatory reports and assessments remained needful of information sharing and international assistance for capacity-building.  Given that situation, a global oceans exploration within the parameters of the Convention was worth considering.  Finally, apart from the enormous challenges already highlighted, the issue of fisheries comprised its own set of problems and difficulties.  Committed to finding solutions to the problems of overfishing and overcapacity, caused primarily by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, Fiji recognized that overcoming such problems required avoiding the transference of overcapacity to other regions, as that would ultimately only exacerbate the problem.


LEE A. KIMBALL, Permanent Observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, said sustainable ocean development was a major concern of the Union.  Growing threats to fish stocks, marine species, and the biodiversity, productivity and ecosystem processes of the oceans were a cause for grave concern.  Impacts in coastal areas were already profound, while technological advances continued to expand human uses of the high seas.  The World Summit on Sustainable Development highlighted the need for conservation of important and vulnerable marine and coastal areas within and beyond national jurisdiction.  Participants in the second informal consultation of States parties to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in July had expressed concern that its important provisions on the precautionary approach and ecosystem-based fisheries management were not being fully implemented by regional fishery management organizations, and about the prevalence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and excess fishing capacity.


She pointed out that the importance of protecting high seas biodiversity and vulnerable marine ecosystems had become an increasingly important goal for the Union during the last three years.  The Union had joined with other scientists and conservation organizations in calling for immediate protection of seamounts, deep-water corals and other biodiversity hotspots from high seas bottom trawling.  She said a major upgrade in national, regional and global arrangements to strengthen compliance with and enforcement of international rules for fishing specifically and shipping more generally was also needed.


SATYA NANDAN, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, expressed satisfaction that the resolutions before the Assembly made extensive reference to the needs and interests of the developing countries.  It was important that those needs were given practical meaning so that developing countries could see some tangible benefits from the implementation of the Convention. 


He was pleased to report that one important outstanding organizational matter that had been of concern to member States of the Authority –- that of the Supplementary Agreement between the Authority and its host country regarding the contributions towards the maintenance costs of the headquarters premises in Kingston, Jamaica -- had been concluded.  The conclusion of that Agreement effectively completed the outstanding work with respect to the organizational phase of the Authority’s existence.  The focus of the Authority’s work was now very much on substantive and technical matters.  The most important way the Authority could contribute to the overall scheme for ocean governance set out in the Convention and the Agreement was as a repository of scientific data and information on the deep seabed, and as a catalyst for marine scientific research in the international area.


Thus, one of the basic responsibilities of the Authority under the Convention was to promote and encourage marine scientific research in the area and to disseminate the results of that research.  The most immediate and practical way in which the Authority had begun to implement its responsibilities was through a programme of technical workshops, which brought together internationally recognized scientists, experts, researchers, contractors, representatives of the offshore mining industry and member States.  Additionally, the Authority was a partner, along with scientists and institutions from the United States, France, United Kingdom and Japan, in a major international research project to study large-scale patterns of species diversity and gene flow in the deep Pacific, with a view to better predicting and managing the impacts of deep seabed mining. 


All that notwithstanding, he believed that much could be done to promote, sustain and manage an effective international programme of ocean exploration.  In that regard, the Assembly, as the supreme political body of the United Nations system, with global competence for ocean governance, could take a lead and declare its support for enhanced efforts in the research and exploration of the oceans.


DOLLIVER M. NELSON, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, reporting on developments that had taken place with respect to the Tribunal over the past year, said that upon the death of Judge Lennox Fitzroy Ballah of Trinidad and Tobago, Anthony Amos Lucky, also of Trinidad and Tobago, had been elected to fill the unexpired term of office.


Among the cases with which the Tribunal had dealt in the past year, he said, was the “Volga” case between the Russian Federation and Australia and a case, instituted by Malaysia against Singapore, concerning land reclamation by Singapore in and around the Straits of Johor.  Still pending before the Tribunal was a case concerning the conservation and sustainable exploitation of swordfish stocks in the South-Eastern Pacific Ocean.  However, having already dealt with 12 cases, the Tribunal had made significant pronouncements on several aspects of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.  And while those cases that had been dealt with had largely been confined to instances in which the Tribunal had been granted special jurisdiction –- the prompt release of vessels and crews and the prescription of provisional measures –- the Tribunal had the competence, and remained ready, to resolve a much wider range of disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention.


Also drawing attention to the establishment of a voluntary trust fund to assist States in the settlement of disputes through the Tribunal, he noted that only one State had thus far made a contribution.  Moreover, as of 1 November 2003, there was an unpaid balance of assessed contributions to the overall budget of the Tribunal of $1,704,736 for the 1996/97 to 2003 budgets.


Action on Drafts


Before taking action on the draft resolution related to sustainable fisheries, which was adopted by consensus, the Assembly was informed that action on the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea would be postponed to allow time for the review of its programme budget implications by the Fifth Committee.


Speaking before the adoption, EMINE GOKCEN TUGRAL (Turkey) said her country supported international efforts to elaborate an equitable and just international legal order for the law of sea.  However, the Convention did not make adequate provisions for spatial geographic conditions.  Although Turkey agreed with the tenets of the Convention in general, it could not become a party to the Convention for aforementioned reasons.  She was unable to give her consent to certain references to the Convention made in the draft resolution on the Fish Stocks Agreement.  Thus, she desired to dissociate her country from the consensus on the related text, only on operative paragraph 2, which called for States to become parties to the Agreement.


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For information media. Not an official record.