WITHOUT MORE PROTECTION, GLOBAL OCEANS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RECOVER FROM SHRINKING FISH POPULATIONS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

7 December 2006
GA/10548

WITHOUT MORE PROTECTION, GLOBAL OCEANS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RECOVER FROM SHRINKING FISH POPULATIONS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOLD

7 December 2006
General Assembly
GA/10548
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Plenary

68th & 69th Meetings (AM & PM)

Without more protection, global oceans will not be able to recover

from shrinking fish populations, General Assembly told

 

Draft Resolutions Introduced on Law of Sea, Sustainable Fisheries

Without more protection, the world's fragile ocean ecosystems will not be able to rebound from the shrinking populations of fish and other sea creatures, diplomats addressing the General Assembly said today, as they looked to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea -- and the institutions created by that landmark treaty -- to lead the global push to tackle overfishing, poaching and the unchecked destruction of fragile marine habitats.

Throughout the Assembly’s day-long joint debate on oceans and the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries, delegations expressed serious concern that not only were fish stocks being rapidly depleted, little was being done to reverse the trend.  The speakers called for worldwide adherence to the Convention –- an historic accord outlining a set of rules for common use of the world's oceans –- and for, among other things, new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing and tighter controls on pollution.  A global process to monitor and assess the state of the marine environment was also urgently needed, some said.

Delegations identified bottom trawling and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing as the most destructive fishing practices and threats to vulnerable marine ecosystems.  Bottom trawling involved dragging huge, heavy nets along the sea floor, and large metal plates and rubber wheels attached to those nets move along the bottom of seas and oceans crushing nearly everything in their path.  Some speakers called for an outright ban on that practice, while others argued that illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing deserved equal attention, since it represented a major loss of revenue, particularly to some of the world’s poorest countries, where dependency on fisheries for food, livelihoods and revenues was high.

With the Assembly set to reconvene tomorrow to take action on two relevant draft resolutions, Brazil’s representative introduced the world body’s traditional omnibus text on oceans and the law of the sea.  Speaking in his capacity as coordinator of informal consultations on the matter, he said the draft, which covered a wide range of oceans-related issues -- from sustainable development to capacity-building to transfer of technology -- reflected the commitment of the international community to cooperate on the integration of activities and regulatory measures in ocean affairs within the framework of the Convention.

Among the highlights of this year’s draft, he said, were definitions for the terms “marine genetic resources” and “maritime security and safety”.  It also called for the 2008 reconvening of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction and the completion, within two years of the “assessment of assessments”, which would lead to a regular process for global reporting on the state of the marine environment.  Finally, it requested the Secretary-General to prepare a study on assistance available to help developing States realize the benefits of sustainable development of marine resources.

Introducing the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries related to straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, the United States’ representative, said he was pleased the text called for concrete steps to curtail destructive fishing practices; to control illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; to reduce fishing capacity, and to implement the 1995 fish stocks Agreement.  It also focused on the need for stricter regulation of bottom trawling in areas outside national jurisdiction.  He acknowledged that while the resolution was not as strong as it could have been on that point, it was a welcome first step.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Finland (on behalf of the European Community), Palau (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Egypt, Monaco, Venezuela, Kuwait, India, China, Canada, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Australia, Namibia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Iceland, Mexico, Viet Nam, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Uruguay, Cuba, Norway, Ukraine and Tunisia.

The Assembly will meet again at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 8 December, when it will commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), before concluding its debate on oceans and the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries.

Background

The General Assembly met today to take up questions related to oceans and the law of the sea and to sustainable fisheries, including through instruments on straddling and highly migratory fish stocks and the 1995 Agreement related to those stocks through implementation of the relevant sections of the Law of the Sea Convention.

The Assembly has before it the Secretary-General’s report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/61/63) for consideration by the Assembly and States parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Intended also to serve as the basis for the seventh meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (12-16 June), the report contains information on developments and issues relating to ecosystem approaches and oceans, the topic chosen for the seventh session based on the Assembly’s recommendation.

The report states that, as of 28 February, and with the European Community included, there are 149 States parties to the Convention; 122 to the Agreement on implementing part XI of the Convention related to seabed mining, and 56 parties to the Agreement on the fish stocks.  The report also contains declarations and statements made by States and on recent submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  A section on capacity-building activities is included, as is one elaborating on recent developments related to international shipping.  Included in that section are measures for the safety and security of navigation and people at sea, protection of the marine environment, conservation of marine living resources and the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Finally, the report provides information on settlement of disputes and inter-agency coordination and cooperation.

An addendum to the report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/61/63/Add.1) contains information to update the February report through July.  Thus, the States parties to the Convention stood at 149; those to the Agreement on part XI rose to 123, and the parties to the fish stocks agreement rose to 60, all numbers including the European Community.  The report is also intended to be taken up by the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention to provide them with information of a general nature.

Intended to be considered in conjunction with the main report, the addendum covers such issues as maritime space, shipping activities, security, protection and preservation of the marine environment, climate change, marine biodiversity, management of living resources, science and technology and capacity-building.  It provides information on people at sea, the settlement of disputes and international coordination and cooperation.

The conclusion of both reports is that oceans and the law of the sea are increasingly important for the international community.  An enhanced focus on the oceans is essential for achieving the goal of sustainable development since oceans constitute 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and support the overwhelming majority of biological resources.  At oceans-related meetings, States are discussing the need to manage the oceans in a more systematic and integrated way in accordance with policies that move beyond sectoral management to integrate diverse uses of the oceans across different sectors to balance social, economic and environmental concerns through integrated planning.  A cross-sectoral approach was necessary at both national and regional as well as at the global level, with increased international cooperation and coordination also necessary.

Also before the Assembly is the report of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study conservation and sustainability-related issues of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction (document A/61/65), which met in New York from 13 to 17 February.  The co-chair summary states that the meeting reaffirmed the General Assembly as the global institution with the competence to conduct reviews of issues relating to oceans and the law of the sea with a central role in addressing conservation-related issues in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  The Convention set out the legal framework in which all related activities must be carried out.  The Convention and associated instruments must be more effectively implemented.

The summary also states that sectoral activities must be better managed and destructive fishing practices must be addressed in the context of being a major threat to the ocean environment.  While coastal States had the right to regulate activities that impacted negatively on the sedentary species of its continental shelf, area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas, were widely accepted and must be elaborated further.  Governance gaps must be examined and the legal status of marine biological diversity must be elaborated.  Coordination and cooperation must be improved, as must information sharing and transfer of technology.

Areas for further study were identified, the report states.  First was the need to improve understanding of anthropogenic impacts beyond national jurisdiction, in particular in relation to vulnerabilities.  Further research to assist in development of management options was another priority.  Economic and socio-economic aspects of conservation needed further study, along with related legal and institutional issues.

Also before the Assembly is the report on the seventh session of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (12-16 June, New York) (document A/61/156).  It states that agreed-to consensual elements to be suggested for Assembly study were the continued environmental degradation in many parts of the world and the need to focus ecosystem approaches to ocean management on managing human activity to maintain or restore ecosystem health.

Detailing specific recommendations for the Assembly’s consideration, the report concludes with recommended topics for future consideration based on the first seven meetings of the Process.  Those included social aspects of oceans and the law of the sea; maritime security; flag State responsibility, and finally, climate change and oceans.

Finally on that topic, the Assembly has before it a draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/61/L.30).  By the 17-part draft, the Assembly would call for specific actions towards implementation of the Convention and related instruments and for capacity-building towards that end.  The Assembly would also call for actions regarding peaceful settlement of disputes and for improving the effectiveness of the Tribunal and the Commission on the continental shelf.  It would address issues of maritime safety and flag State implementation, marine environment and resources, biodiversity, science, reporting and regional cooperation.  Finally, the Assembly would call for action on the open-ended consultative process and to promote coordination and cooperation under the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea.

Turning to the question of sustainable fisheries, the Assembly has before it a report by the Secretary-General on impacts of fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems (document A/61/154).  The report describes some of the most vulnerable marine ecosystems and fishing practices that could be harmful, describing also the types of damage that could be caused by certain fishing practices, whether directly or indirectly.

Further, the report outlines actions taken by States, either by themselves or through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements to address destructive fishing practices that may have adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.  It describes actions taken by the Regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, including towards the end of expanding their competence.  Finally, the report describes State initiatives to establish new Regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements where none existed.

Related to that report is a draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, including through instruments related to the 1995 Agreement on implementing provisions of the law of the Sea Convention related to conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stock (document A/61/L.38).  The 13-part resolution would have the Assembly call for actions to be taken towards achieving sustainable fisheries and for implementing the Agreement and related fisheries instruments.  It calls for actions regarding illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; for monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement of measures; fishing overcapacity; large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing; by-catch and discards, and finally, subregional and regional cooperation to achieve the measures called for and establish responsible fisheries in the marine ecosystem.  Finally, the Assembly would call for actions to be taken concerning capacity-building and strengthening of cooperation within the United Nations system.

Introduction of Drafts

The representative of Brazil introduced the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/61/L.30).  Speaking in his capacity as coordinator of informal consultations on the matter, he said the draft reflected the international community’s commitment to cooperation and integration of activities and regulatory measures in ocean affairs within the framework of the landmark Convention on the law of the sea.  The draft dealt with a wide range of oceans-related issues, from sustainable development to capacity-building to transfer of technology.

Among the highlights of this year’s draft, he said, were definitions for the terms “marine genetic resources” and “maritime security and safety”.  It also called for the 2008 reconvening of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction and the completion, within two years of the “assessment of assessments”, which would lead to a regular process for global reporting on the state of the marine environment.  Finally, it requested the Secretary-General to prepare a study on assistance available to developing States for enabling them to realize the benefits of sustainable development of marine resources.

On a technical note, he said that the growing length of the resolution was of concern.  This year’s draft had 20 paragraphs more than last year, which in turn had 11 paragraphs more than the year before.  That was fine if it reflected the overarching nature of the resolution.  If, however, nonessential issues were being included, then that could eat up valuable discussion time.

Speaking in his national capacity, he said his country was one of the first to make a submission regarding the establishment of the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.  The process was now in its final stages and would soon be brought to the attention of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

He said the next session of the informal consultative process should focus on the complex and little understood subject of “marine genetic resources”.  That could help clarify and identify options for development of legal mechanisms to provide for access and benefit sharing.  It could shed light on how to increase international cooperation for enhancing capacity-building in developing countries.  It could also lead to possible intellectual property rights regimes and bring forward the socio-economic implications of using marine genetic resources relative to products, derivatives and impacts on global social-economic development.

If sustainable fisheries were to be achieved, he said, a number of measures would have to be taken.  The first was to increase the signatories to the 1995 agreement.  The second was to control illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and to urgently reduce the capacity of the world’s fishing fleets.

The representative of United States introduced the draft on sustainable fisheries related to straddling and highly migratory fish stocks (document A/61/L.38).  He said he was pleased that the resolution called for concrete steps to curtail destructive fishing practices; to control illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; to reduce fishing capacity, and to implement the fish stocks Agreement.  The current resolution focused on the need for stricter regulation of bottom trawling in areas outside national jurisdiction.  The resolution was not as strong as it could have been on that point but it was a welcome first step.

He said the resolution endorsed the work of the Fish Stock Agreement Review Conference that had taken place in May.  The Agreement must be the basis for new regional agreements, such as the one currently under way in the South Pacific.  Its basic principles should be applied to discrete high seas stocks by all flag States.

Reducing the capacity of the world’s fishing fleets continued to be a high priority, he said, and more needed to be done about illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  The upcoming meeting in Kobe, Japan represented an opportunity to strengthen the way that the five Regional fisheries management organizations highly migratory fish stocks would address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, the management of fishing capacity and other related matters.  Port States should also take stronger measures to prevent the landing and transhipping in their ports of fish caught in contravention of existing regulatory regimes.

Saying much work remained to be done if the sustainability of global fish stocks was to be ensured, he said Regional fisheries management organizations were the best available mechanism for regulating international fisheries.  A systematic review of the performance should be initiated starting with the Kobe meeting.  Reviewing other elements of the resolution, he said his country placed great importance on compliance with the call for States to ensure freedom of navigation.  The International Maritime Organization had not authorized compulsory pilotage, but States were strongly encouraged to take a pilot when transiting straits used for international navigation as part of measures to protect sensitive ecosystems.

RAYMOND O. WOLFE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that his delegation had noted with satisfaction the increasing number of signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provided impetus for greater cooperation and understanding between States in promoting their maritime interests.  CARICOM would continue to support the progressive development and interpretation of the Convention and the institutions established by it, he said, highlighting the work of the International Seabed Authority, which had held its 11th session in Jamaica during the past year.

Of significance -- and indeed part of the Authority’s success to date -- was the application for the approval of a work plan by the Authority for the exploration of polymetallic nodules in the area by the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources.  That represented the first such application since the Authority had been established and certainly since the launching of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  Turning next to the work of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, he mentioned, among other things, that panel’s training and outreach programme initiative, which had been conducting relevant regional workshops.  The CARICOM region expected to benefit from that initiative as the next workshop would be held in Jamaica in 2007.  The Tribunal’s establishment of a Committee on Public Relations was another progressive initiative, which was deserving of international attention and Member States’ support.

He went on to discuss the work of another institution created by the Convention, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and urged States Parties to the Convention to engage in constructive consultations aiming to find ways to ease the Commission’s burgeoning workload and towards the allocation of adequate funding for the meetings of its subcommissions.  Turning next to regional issues, he said that CARICOM sought the international community’s cooperation in recognizing the Caribbean Sea as a “special area” within the context of sustainable development and he called on all delegations to support that initiative, which was within the legal framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The region would further benefit from the proposed establishment of a Caribbean Revolving Fund for Waste Water Management, which would provide additional opportunities for relevant States to access funding for such water management.  Those and other efforts were critical for CARICOM economies, since well over 80 per cent of the region’s trade was seaborne and cruises and other marine-related tourism activities continued to be one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings.

He went on to say that the transport of radioactive materials through Caribbean waters remained of paramount concern and CARICOM would continue to implore States concerned to examine alternative means of disposing of such materials and other toxic waste.  The damage and pollution that might flow from a nuclear waste-related accident would be devastating to lives and livelihoods in the region, he added.

KARI HAKAPAA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that, while the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea had provided the basic legal framework for national, regional and global measures taken to counter challenges threatening the ocean environment, more concerted action was necessary.  Furthermore, there was a need to take a more integrated approach to the marine environment’s many threats.  On a regional level, his delegation had published a communication last summer outlining ideas to address maritime affairs in a comprehensive and holistic way.

Referring to the urgent nature of the conservation and management of biodiversity, he said that the European Union proposed that prompt action be taken by convening a conference on the matter.  On the matter of fishing practices, he noted that this year marked a turning point in common efforts to promote increased adherence to the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, but it was now for Regional fisheries management organizations and for States to ensure that fishing be regulated in a way that mitigated adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.  In light of that, transparent and mutually-scrutinized measures were crucial, as were more resources to improve marine scientific research.  In conclusion, as all members of the international community should have the full opportunity to benefit from the applicable legal regimes over ocean uses, it was imperative to support developing States in order to better integrate sustainable and effective marine development into national policies and programmes.

STUART BECK (Palau), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the ocean and its resources were vital to the very existence of the Forum’s region, and, as joint custodians, the Forum’s leadership had come together this past October in Nadi, Fiji, where they agreed on an historic commitment to protect the ocean environment.  The Nadi Declaration committed the Forum’s membership to “advance international efforts to institute an immediate interim prohibition on destructive fishing practices, including bottom trawling,” in unmanaged areas beyond national jurisdiction, and to seek the implementation of appropriate conservation and management measures for destructive fishing practices in other high sea areas.

He said the leaders felt that urgent action on destructive fishing practices was required because such practices undermined the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, which was so crucial to the way of life of small-island developing States.  Responsible fishing nations understood the need to end destructive fishing practices on vulnerable marine ecosystems and many had adopted measures to restrict such practices in their national waters.  In that regard, he noted that the Secretary-General’s relevant report noted that it was believed that some 95 per cent of the damage to seamount ecosystems worldwide was caused by bottom trawling –- usually concentrated in areas where fish congregated to feed and spawn –- and that, in international waters at least, the practice remained poorly regulated.

The Forum, therefore, welcomed the final resolution of sustainable fisheries before the Assembly as a significant advance in global efforts to regulate bottom fishing in international waters.  However, he emphasized that the Forum had been disappointed that the resolution did not generate an immediate interim prohibition on bottom trawling in unmanaged areas.  The Forum considered that, in interim, prohibition would have encouraged the development of new Regional fisheries management organizations in unregulated areas.  The Forum was further disappointed that a number of States had not been willing to consider a freeze on the expansion of bottom fisheries.  The Forum believed that view went against the spirit of many of the measures agreed to in this year’s resolution, he said.

Ms. NEGM ( Egypt), expressing concern over destructive fishing practices, said that the international community had not adopted sufficient measures to protect the marine ecosystem and establish its sustainable development.  Damaging coral habitats was a real problem and needed to be tackled in the near future.  On that note, the use of modern technology in fishing and in drawing maps for the deep seas, would be helpful in curbing such harmful practices.

On future discussions relating to maritime security, she suggested that those scheduled to take place in 2008 focus on building the capacities of developing States in order to enable them to fulfil contractual obligations according to existing conventions.  Examples of such support could include assistance in updating systems for collecting information or helping port States take the necessary measures for the safety of their ports.  In addition, effective measures against piracy and armed attacks against ships in the high seas needed to be studied.

ISABELLE F. PICCO ( Monaco) said that her country was well aware of the importance of preserving marine ecosystems and promoting sustainable water use and safe water management.  To that end, Prince Albert II had created a foundation to focus on technological innovation in that area, as well as relevant development activities, biodiversity and marine research.   Monaco was also actively involved in several initiatives to protect Mediterranean ecosystems, including an accord between Italy, France and Monaco on the preservation of the so-called Pelagos maritime space.

She said that Monaco was also actively involved in the efforts of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), which aimed to, among other things, reduce noise pollution and accidents on the high seas, as was well to protect fragile marine species, such as Black Dolphins, Bottle-nose Dolphins, Sperm Whales and Orcas, all of which lived in habitats that had shrunk to limited areas within their respective waters.

LUIS NINO ( Venezuela) said that his delegation attached great importance to today’s debate, due in part to Venezuela’s geographic location, concern for environmental preservation of marine ecosystems and its respect for international law.  Venezuela had actively participated in the February meeting of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group studying the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction, which represented a mechanism through which the international community could express its concern for all marine ecosystems and their deterioration.

At the same time, Venezuela noted that the Convention on Biodiversity had been carrying out important work in that area and was pleased that the relevant draft resolution before the Assembly today included a chapter on the matter.  Turning to sustainable fisheries, he said that Venezuela had taken concrete initiatives towards the promotion and implementation of programmes aimed at conserving, protecting and managing hydro-biological resources, within the framework of its national legislation.  Venezuela had also established a regime of sanctions to address cases where the laws regulating bottom fishing had been breached.

Ms. AL-EBRAHIM ( Kuwait), while welcoming the increased number of parties to join the Convention, urged those Countries who had not yet joined, to do so.  She said that increased participation would only further the consolidation of peace and security and cooperation amongst States.  She commended the progress made on issues covered within the Convention, most notably on the International Seabed Authority and the Continental Shelf Commission.

The Convention provided not only a legal framework, but constituted the basis for the rule of law on the sea and in the oceans.  As the Protection of marine biology was an issue of utmost importance, the international community’s approach needed to be more integrated, she added.  In light of that, recommendations made by the Johannesburg Plan of Action needed to be taken into account.  In conclusion, she noted that Kuwait was the headquarter country for the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment, which aimed to increase coordination among the Arab Gulf states in an effort to conserve and protect marine biology.

NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said that there was now undeniable evidence that certain forms of intrusive scientific research, such as the practice of so called “bio-prospecting” -- exploration for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources -- could put fragile marine ecosystems and deep sea species at risk.   India believed that the general principles of marine scientific research outlined in the Convention should also apply to such practices.  The deep seabed, its ecosystems and living and non-living resources were the common heritage of mankind and therefore the Assembly’s task was to identify the risks to that heritage and then agree on a substantive legal basis for its conservation and management, including the use of biological and biogenetic resources of the deep seabed and sub-soil.

India was not averse to looking at new approaches within the confines of UNCLOS to promote international cooperation aimed at conservation and sustainable use of living resources of the high seas, and benefit sharing of seabed resources located in areas beyond national jurisdiction, he said.  However, the participation of developing countries in devising such new approaches greatly depended on the scientific information available to them.  So, promoting the flow of scientific data and the transfer of relevant knowledge to developing countries was essential.  Turning to the area of maritime navigation, he expressed serious concern over incidents of piracy and robbery at sea.

In that regard, India welcomed regional efforts to establish cooperative mechanisms on navigational safety and environmental protection and particularly welcomed the entry into force of the Regional Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, this past September, as well as the launch of its Information Sharing Centre.  He went on to stress the importance of the principle of freedom of navigation, including the right to innocent passage, as well as transit passage through straits used for international navigation.

LIU ZHENMIN (China), noting that the number of State parties to the Convention had climbed to 152,  said that such increased participation reflected its universality and authority, its ability to adapt to change, to meet new challenges, as well as its dynamic vitality.  As science and technology developed and the exploration of the oceans by mankind advanced, nations’ capability to utilize and protect the oceans was increasing, while new issues and challenges were emerging.  Furthermore, the development of marine science and resources was important for ensuring food security, alleviating poverty, promoting economic growth and preserving social stability in all countries, especially the developing countries.

On the utilization of fishery resources, he said that the international community needed to ensure that people, especially those in developing countries, enjoyed their legitimate rights.  On the issue of marine navigation, the regimes established by the Convention for governing the transit and passage through straits used for international navigation and the passage through sea lanes of archipelagos were important in ensuring its freedom.  In that context, all States needed to comply.

JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said that 2006 was a pivotal year in helping to close the gap between what the international community had been talking about doing and what it was now actually achieving.  It was important to build on that momentum.  That said, Canada’s first priority was strong and effective Regional fisheries management organizations, credible organizations making tough decisions and implementing modern management principles, based on the best science available.  Also necessary were effective deterrents for rule-breakers, whether for over-fishing or illegal fishing.

Referring specifically to the Sustainable Fisheries resolution, he said that his Government’s overarching goal was responsible fishing.  Furthermore, the text made clear that if fishing was not responsible, it should not be authorized.  Likewise, the new transparency provisions were an important part of making legitimate and responsible fishing a tangible and measurable outcome.  Moreover, Canada was fully committed to the Informal Consultative Process and was, in fact, co-chairing the process -- one it felt could add much to the collective discussion on ocean issues.

VANU GOPALA MENON ( Singapore) stressed that an important characteristic of UNCLOS was that it was an “indivisible package” and that its various provisions were interconnected.  Competing interests, therefore, had to be reconciled and trade-offs had to be made.  Since the landmark treaty was a “package,” he said, States parties to it must avoid the temptation to emphasize the chapters and articles that they liked and ignoring the elements with which they disagreed on.  For example, he noted several new concepts, including the creation of exclusive economic zones, archipelagic States, transit passage and archipelagic sea lane passage.

He went on to note some other threats to the Convention, including a worrying trend by some costal States to tilt the balance of the treaty in favour of conservation.  While Singapore supported efforts to protect marine and coastal environments, it believed that such measures should not contravene the carefully negotiated package enshrined in the Convention.  Hence, during negotiations on the omnibus text before the Assembly, Singapore had sought to restore the balance between the rights of coastal States to implement laws and regulation and the right of transit passage in straits used for international navigation.  While Singapore’s reasonable proposal had been supported by many delegations, time had run out on the negotiations, and it had not been included in the draft.

GRITAKUMAR CHITTY ( Sri Lanka) said that the Convention was the overarching instrument providing the legal framework for all maritime activity and regulating the exploitation of resources of the seas and oceans and their uses.  All States, therefore, had the responsibility to protect its integrity.  The Convention had also achieved many delicate compromises, which, for instance, included the case on the provision on laws and regulations of States bordering straits relating to transit passage and the rights and responsibilities of States bordering straits used for international navigation, as well as those of foreign ships transiting such straits.

Relating to Sri Lanka specifically, his country had a long history of environmental protection and a tradition of sustainable development, he continued.  The goal of sustainable development of the oceans’ resources, if effectively implemented, would contribute to the social and economic development of the world’s poorest nations.  With that in mind, this year, his Government had taken the initiative to introduce in the resolution paragraphs that offered the opportunity to developing States -- especially those least developed and small-island States -- to identify their needs in attaining sustainable development of marine resources and uses under their jurisdiction.

JORGE SKINNER-KLEE ( Guatemala) said that divergent positions on the law of the sea could be reconciled through dialogue, compromise and negotiations.  Guatemala believed that the consensus reached on the texts before the Assembly had, therefore, been a significant step forward.  He said that his delegation would reaffirm its belief in the primacy of the Convention, and would stress that the meeting of States Parties was the only competent body to discuss important issues on the law of the sea, including differences of opinion, implementation or interpretation of the various elements of the Convention.  Guatemala considered it essential to increase cooperation between States in areas such as capacity-building and adoption of joint measures to address regional law of the sea matters.

He said his delegation welcomed the omnibus draft resolution’s recognition of the links between marine conservation and management, and sustainable development.  He went on to say that illicit and destructive fishing practices needed to be effectively banned, according to the ecosystems approach, to bring about short-term, as well as future, benefits.  Banning such practices as bottom trawling and other destructive fishing methods were crucial, especially in light of recent scientific reports that the world’s major fish stocks might be totally depleted by 2050.  Guatemala was, therefore, disappointed at the weak language regarding overfishing and fisheries management in the relevant draft resolution.  He hoped that deficiency could be addressed in the future.

On the issue of high seas governance, FRANCES LISSON ( Australia) said that the international community needed to work towards identifying governance gaps and take strides towards building mechanisms for conserving and managing the living resources of the oceans.  On maritime security, the potential negative impacts of significant threats on sea transportation, safety of navigation, and the marine environment, as well as the threat posed to human life and property, called for the design and implementation of effective counter-measures at all levels.  Welcoming the recent entry into force of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia, she said that it had provided a transparent means of engaging Asia-Pacific countries on maritime security through information sharing.

On the issue of fisheries and straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, regional mechanisms were central to cooperative management of responsible and ecologically sustainable fishing.  Global Regional Fisheries Management Organization coverage needed to be the ultimate objective, she added.  Furthermore, Australia was a key player in the development of a new regional fisheries management organization for the South Pacific. Her Government also saw illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as three problems, not one. Each of those required focused and determined international responses.  It was, thus, imperative to hone in not only on flag state responsibilities, but also make sure that port States restricted market access to illegal, unreported and unregulated catch.

KAIRE MBUENDE (Namibia), aligning himself with the statement made by South Africa on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that his delegation welcomed this year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries.  His Government had advocated a management through regional fisheries management organizations -- rather than an outright blanket ban -- as it believed that was the most realistic and constructive way forward.  One such regional fisheries management organization was the South East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation.  Namibia had played a key role in its establishment, and called on all States -- developed and developing -- to participate in all such organizations in whose areas their vessels fished and, further, to establish organizations in areas where they did not yet exist.

On the notion of technical cooperation between developing countries, his country had much to offer in terms of fisheries know-how, but faced a major stumbling block in terms of financial resources.  In addition, a regular process for global reporting and assessing the state of the marine environment was important.  Without such regular assessments, effective conservation, as well as the sustainable and integrated management of marine biodiversity, would remain elusive, he added.

ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said that while her delegation would have preferred a more ambitious resolution on fisheries, particularly on important issues such as destructive fishing practices, the negotiated consensus nevertheless marked significant, substantive progress on that issue.  It reflected the international community’s concern about the serious and adverse effects that practices such as bottom trawling might have on vulnerable marine ecosystems, and the need for such practices to be responsibly regulated by regional fisheries organizations and flag States.  New Zealand continued to believe that urgent action in the area was necessary, and therefore looked forward to the opportunity to review progress on interim measures and on improvements to regional management arrangements during the Assembly’s sixty-second session next year.

She said that New Zealand was also concerned about the negative impacts of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, particularly the extent to which it undermined conservation and management measures adopted by regional fisheries management organizations, and, ultimately, the sustainability of fish stocks.  Her delegation was pleased that the fisheries resolution contained useful elements in the sections on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and subregional and regional cooperation, and noted that States were urged by that text to take effective measures to deter activities, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, of any vessel that undermined conservation and management measures adopted by regional organizations.

JIRO KODERA ( Japan) said his country was considering contributing to the voluntary fund to facilitate participation of developing country members in the work of the Commission on the limits of the Continental Shelf.  In cooperation with the United Nations University, a symposium had been held in Tokyo on 6 and 7 March in relation to the scientific and technical aspects of establishing the outer limits of the continental shelf.  It was hoped that such activities would contribute to the preparation of submissions to the Commission.

He said he regretted that consensus had not been reached on the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation since it was of concern that some States bordering straits had adopted laws restraining the right of transit passage.  Consideration must be given to bordering States in preserving the environment but actions taken should be appropriate and not impose constraints on the right of transit passage.

Incidents of piracy were decreasing in frequency, but increasing in violence, as in hijackings of ships and crews, he said.  Welcome developments in that regard included the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy adopted in September, and an Information Sharing Centre in Singapore established at the end of November.

As a citizen of a country surrounded by water on all sides, he reaffirmed the importance of protecting the marine environment and called for measures to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  Deep sea fishing, he said, should be properly managed based on scientific evidence provided by flag States or regional fisheries management organizations.  An appreciable level of consensus had been achieved in establishing an international framework on high sea bottom trawling in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.  Again, it was important to base all discussions on scientific evidence gathered by competent organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), or the regional fisheries management organizations.

HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said he welcomed the work of the three institutions established by the Convention -- the International Seabed Authority, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the sea.  Specifically, he noted the Authority’s work on developing a legal regime for the prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts, as well as its work in the conservation of biodiversity through rules, regulations and procedures to protect natural resources and prevent damage to flora and fauna.  He said the Commission’s increased workload was of concern and the Tribunal’s work in adjudicating disputes arising from differing interpretations of the Convention had gained it a high reputation for fairness and integrity.

Noting the importance of the fish stocks Agreement for ensuring the long-term sustainability of stocks and their maximal utilization, he said his country was now harmonizing domestic legislation to bring it into line with the provisions of the Convention, with a view to becoming a party in the near future.  Since effective implementation was a prerequisite, the necessary assistance should be made available to States who needed it.

HJALMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) noted that his Government had made an additional contribution of $100,000 to the voluntary trust fund in order to facilitate the preparation of submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by developing States.  Continuing, he said that the world’s marine ecosystems were coming under increasing strain from different sources, including marine pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices and climate change.  In light of that, more efforts needed to be devoted to scientific assessments and to ensure that management policies were made based on the best possible scientific information.

On illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he said that it should be put on a short list of priority issues.  Moreover, measures taken in order to deter such fishing were not limited to flag States.  The development of exemptions from, and limitations to, the general principle of exclusive flag State jurisdiction was paramount if the fight against illegal and unregulated practices were to be won.  In order to end such illegal practices, financial and economic incentives needed to be effectively removed, and adequate enforcement measures, put in place.  In conclusion, his delegation remained concerned about the effects of destructive fishing methods on vulnerable marine ecosystems.  In that context, there was a need for more extensive research and scientific advice on the types of fishing gear used, on a case-by-case basis.

ALEJANDRO ALDAY GONZALEZ ( Mexico) said that, while there had been some progress in preserving the world’s marine environments, unfortunately, those fragile ecosystems were still deteriorating, largely due to non-compliance with the international maritime legal regime as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  He said that while full adherence to the Convention was critical, international environmental law should also be considered when addressing issues such as the preservation of coral reefs and curbing marine pollutants.  He went on to say that while Mexico had witnessed some progress on the part of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the areas of transhipment of radioactive material, it nevertheless agreed with the view of the CARICOM States that much more work in the area needed to be done, particularly regarding studying the impact of such practices on small island developing States.

He said that Mexico reiterated its concern that genetic resources of the international seabed should be used in a sustainable fashion, and, to that end looked forward to the next meeting of the Consultative Process, which was set to focus squarely on the matter of genetics.  He said that the way to promote the universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was to ensure a broader exchange of ideas in order to take into account the views of non-State Parties.  Such a dialogue would also be helpful in identifying relevant national and regional initiatives.

On the texts before the Assembly, he said that the draft resolution on fisheries did not reflect the urgent need to address the problem of destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling and the need to take measures to avoid damage to vulnerable ecosystems.  Mexico, therefore, considered that the text before the Assembly did not make any significant progress.  The Assembly must address that deficiency quickly, drawing in new technologies and scientific research to point the way forward, because waiting until a tragedy occurred before taking action would be too late.

NGUYEN TAT THANH (Viet Nam), noting the current trend in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea’s broadening of its membership, said that it was concrete proof of its vital importance in strengthening peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among nations.  He also stressed the need for coastal States to strengthen cooperation in order to ensure maritime safety and security, as well as the freedom of navigation and the rights of transit passage, in accordance with international law -- and in particular, with the Convention.

At the national level, he said his Government was continuing efforts to improve the legal framework regulating maritime issues.  His country’s National Assembly was currently at the final stage of consideration on the Law on Viet Nam’s Sea Zones.  At the regional level, Viet Nam had signed and approved the Tokyo Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia.  His Government was, likewise, doing its best to implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  Moreover, at the international level, Viet Nam had acceded to the 1994 Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It had also been elected to the International Seabed Authority’s Council for the 2007-2010 term and, in that capacity, would do its utmost to contribute further to the Authority’s work.

HYUN CHO ( Republic of Korea) called for all States to uphold the right of transit passage, while reaffirming the rights and responsibilities of States bordering straits used for international navigation.  He said all States parties should seek to preserve the integrity of the Convention against any measures not consistent with it.  The important issue of conserving marine biodiversity should be considered in the context of the Sea Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, to balance the protection of marine ecosystems with the sustainable use of marine biodiversity.

As a responsible fishing State and a party to the Convention, he continued, his country was seriously concerned by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  It was one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems and its effects had a substantial impact on the conservation and management of ocean resources.  More work needed to be done to put effective measures into place to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities.  Measures should also be put into place to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems, including seamounts, hydrothermal vents and cold-water corals.  The FAO and regional fisheries management organizations should be consulted in considering solutions to challenges.

ADAM MULAWARMAN TUGIO ( Indonesia) said that, as the world’s largest archipelago with an ocean-going society and important waterways traversing its territory, Indonesia was greatly concerned with marine affairs, including fisheries, maritime environments, conservation and navigation.  Further, Indonesia was also taking important steps towards ensuring security in its national waters, in order to deal with non-traditional maritime threats, such as armed robbery on the high seas, people smuggling and illegal logging, among others.  He stressed, however, that that step had been a calculated measure taken in accordance with national priorities and not a reaction to “alarmists” who had begun reporting a link between terrorists, and pirates -– two different types of people with diametrically opposed purposes.

He went on to say that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea -– the “Constitution of the Ocean” -– had evinced a delicate balance by which all States had an obligation to implement the treaty’s legal norms in full.  Picking and choosing among the treaty’s carefully negotiated requirements was a betrayal of its letter and spirit.  On the issue of ensuring security in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, he said that all the littoral States of the Straits had met this past September in Kuala Lumpur to further strengthen their cooperation.  The States had also discussed a mechanism of burden-sharing to ensure safety of navigation in the area.  As a result of this cooperative effort, navigational charts of the area would soon be launched in the form of a “marine electronic highway” for the Straits.

ELBIO ROSSELLI ( Uruguay) said measures for managing and protecting ecosystems should be in line with applicable instruments.  The rights of coastal States should be recognized in line with the reality that most damage to the marine environment came from activities on the high seas, since most coastal States had legislation in place to regulate activities in the coastal area.  It must also be realized that conservation measures alone would not be enough to protect sustainable fishing because, again, the damage came from fishing on the high seas and the lack of regulation or assumption of responsibility by flag States.  The financial and technical support should be provided to help States implement measures that would help them carry out their obligations.

Another concern, he said, was the security of nuclear materials in transport, particularly through geographically sensitive or vulnerable areas such as straits.  One key was for States of transport to hold talks with transit States and deepen the functioning of regulatory instruments.  A complete study of liability systems should be conducted in consultation with the IAEA.

Finally, he said the question of coastal States located on straits should not allow for discriminatory measures that affected the right of passage.  His country had been a party to the Agreement on fish stocks since 2001.  Three principles were worth noting regarding coast States:  they were sovereign; they had a right to take measures to protect their sovereignty; and they had a right to refuse to accept measures they considered coercive.

ILEANA NUNEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said that, for her country, given its geography, issues relating to the seas and oceans were of particular interest.  Economic hardships notwithstanding, Cuba made enormous efforts to implement national strategies for sustainable development and for protecting the marine environment with a view toward coherently and effectively implementing the Convention’s provisions.  The Convention was the universally accepted legal framework for work on oceans and seas, but some State strategies contravened the Convention’s provisions, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Also, she continued, all activity relative to the biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction should be governed by the Convention’s principles, including the provision that all such marine research should be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes and the benefit of humanity.  The work of the ad hoc open-ended working group was welcome, but all issues related to the group’s mandate should be comprehensively reviewed, including those linked to the common heritage of mankind and the effective distribution of benefits.  While Cuba was not a party to the Agreement on fish stocks because of concerns over inspections, it complied with its major conservation and management provisions in a spirit of good will.

OLA BREVIK ( Norway) expressed satisfaction with the consensus reached in May by the Review Conference, and called for States and regional fisheries organizations to implement the results as a priority.  Also, he said the wide range of maritime issues being dealt with in the broader framework of the Assembly illustrated the Assembly’s role as the universal forum for discussing issues on ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea.  The Division provided excellent support and must be given the resources to carry out its important function.

He said that, by the year 2010, management of the oceans should be based on the ecosystem approach in accordance with the 2002 Johannesburg Plan, and the accumulated effect on the environment must, in the long term, not be greater than the structure of the ecosystems, or what their biological diversity could bear.  The Norwegian Government was applying the ecosystem approach to management of its oceans, having developed a framework for sustainable use of natural resources for the Barents Sea and areas off the Lofoten Islands.  Gathering a large body of scientific knowledge was critical in that regard.

Expressing deep concern about the impact on the marine environment of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, he called for implementation of measures to counteract degradation and protect ecosystems from the introduction of species alien to particular ocean environments.  Fighting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing was a high priority for Norway, in part by implementing a port State control regime.  Developing cooperative approaches to counter piracy and defining the limits of the continent shelf, including by relying on the Trust Fund established to help developing countries perform the documentation were also important.  Norway had recently contributed $1 million to that Fund, and was eager to see increased activity being financed by the Fund.

DINA MARTINA ( Ukraine) said the exploitation of living marine resources, due to overfishing, continued to be a grave international concern.  As a geographically disadvantaged country bordering a sea poor in living resources and suffering from depleted fish stocks in its exclusive economic zone, Ukraine would emphasize the need to address the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  It, therefore, believed that all States should strongly apply effective measures towards the conservation, management and use of fish stocks in order to protect living marine resources and protect the marine environment.

Ukraine also believed that better international cooperation in that sphere was needed, and the crucial role of regional organizations needed to be enhanced.  She added that it was very important for regional fisheries to increase their cooperation with a larger number of States, especially high seas fishing States, and geographically disadvantaged States.  She went on to emphasize the need to introduce stricter measures aimed at limiting the exploitation of most major fish stocks, taking into account that presently, there was no universal approach to determine biological criteria of admissible levels of stock exploitation.

ALI HACHANI ( Tunisia) said the protection and conservation of the marine environment and its relevant fish stocks was vitally important for countries like his, which ringed the Mediterranean, and whose populations depended on those waters for their livelihoods.  Tunisia was concerned by recent reports that some of the world’s major fish stocks might be completely wiped out in the coming years, and it would stress that all parties to relevant international agreements must uphold their promises to ensure sustainable fishing practices.

He said Tunisia believed that regional fisheries management organizations should strengthen their mandates and incorporate the ecosystems approach, and regarding practices such as bottom trawling, fisheries beyond areas of national jurisdiction must be regulated by regional management organizations.  He went on to stress the growing importance of safety and security on the high seas and the need to recognize that some of the initiatives proposed by the international community needed to be re-examined, particularly because a few required the allocation of massive financial resources that were beyond the capability of some developing countries.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.