General Assembly Adopts Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, but Defers Action on Draft Text Addressing Oceans, Law of Sea

GA/11599
9 December 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 66th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Sustainable Fisheries Resolution, but Defers Action on Draft Text Addressing Oceans, Law of Sea

Speakers Call for Special Focus on Significant Contributions of Seas to Development in Post-2015 Agenda

Delving into issues ranging from deep sea mining and continental shelf limits to pollution, piracy and plastic waste floating at the surface, the General Assembly today adopted, without a vote, a resolution on sustainable fisheries and deferred taking action on a draft text on oceans and the Law of the Sea, as more than 30 speakers and the heads of two of the world’s ocean and sea authorities weighed in on the instruments governing those domains.

By the terms of the 197-paragraph resolution on sustainable fisheries, the Assembly, among other things, called upon all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and urged them to intensify efforts to assess and address, as appropriate, the impacts of global climate change and ocean acidification on the sustainability of fish stocks and the habitats that support them, in particular the most affected ones.

Speakers applauded the adoption, with some hailing it for prompting action to address unsustainable practices.  Welcoming the resolution, Fiji’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, marine pollution and the destruction of habitats were damaging ocean environments and ecosystems.  The exploitation by a few was clearly inconsistent with principles on international law, he said, urging action to end those practices.

Indeed, the representative of the United States called the resolution an effective platform for strengthening existing collective efforts while ensuring Member States’ responsibilities.  In addition, the inclusion of a call for ratifications or accessions to relevant instruments would help to bring into force the Food and Agriculture Organization Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

While the Assembly decided to take action on the draft resolution on oceans and the Law of the Sea at a later date, much of today’s debate revolved around elements of that 313-paragraph text.  Taking 10 days of intense negotiations to produce, the draft resolution addressed a broad range of issues, including the implementation of the Convention and related agreements and instruments, capacity-building and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Many speakers applauded those fruitful negotiations, but some lamented the failure to find consensus on several critical issues.  The representative of the European Union Delegation expressed disappointment about the exclusion of language relating to marine mammals.  Even though a compromise paragraph was drafted, it was deleted following a single State’s inflexible position.

For some speakers from small island developing States, the day’s discussion was an occasion to reiterate the importance of addressing issues relating to, as Palau’s speaker said on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Earth’s most precious resource.  “The ocean is our way of life”, he said, noting that oceans made up 98 per cent of the region and how they were managed would determine its future.  Emphasizing that the Samoa Pathway had put oceans at the centre of priority areas for vital measures, he said “this is a year for decisive action.”

The status quo, many delegates agreed, was not an option.  Citing caution about the detrimental consequences of climate change and ocean acidification, the representative of Jamaica, speaking for the Caribbean Community, said the post-2015 agenda should place special focus on the seas’ significant contributions to development.

During the debate, some representatives raised national concerns.  Ukraine’s speaker said his Government had closed sea ports in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea, reminding Member States that ships calling in there were violating international and national laws and undermining his country’s sovereignty.  Viet Nam’s representative voiced concerns about recent developments in his region, calling on the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to apply all provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, by which Association member States and China committed to, among other things, the principles of the United Nations Charter and the Convention on the Law of the Seas.

Providing on overview of recent activities of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, its President, Vladimir Golitsyn, said its jurisdiction encompassed dispute settlements, requests for the prescription of provisional measures, prompt release of vessels and crews and advisory opinions, among other things.  The Tribunal was firmly committed to advancing the idea of peaceful settlement of disputes, he said, thanking all stakeholders for their continued cooperation.

Nii Allotey Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, also updated the Assembly on activities undertaken during its twentieth session.  Emphasizing the gravity of the issues before the body, he said “the decisions that will be made in the next few years are likely to be critical to the realization of the common heritage of mankind”, noting that it was more important than ever before for Authority members to attend meetings and fully participate.

Delivering statements were representatives of New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Japan, Monaco, Norway, Argentina, Cyprus, Guatemala, Russian Federation, Mexico, Philippines, Iceland, Maldives, India, Singapore, Pakistan, China, Turkey and Venezuela.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 December to take up reports from its Sixth Committee (Legal) and to continue its consideration of a range of agenda items.

Background

The General Assembly met today to consider its agenda item on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and had before it the reports of the Secretary-General (documents A/69/71 and A/69/71/Add.1); the report of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole (document A/69/77); the report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process (document A/69/90); and the letter from the Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to the President of the General Assembly (document A/69/177).  Action would also be taken on the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/69/L.29).

The Assembly would also take up the draft resolution on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (document A/69/L.30).

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) introduced the draft resolution on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (document A/69/L.30).

By elements of that 197-paragraph draft text, the Assembly would, among other things, call upon all States that have not done so to become parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea in order to achieve the goal of universal participation.  The Assembly would also, by the text, urge States, either directly or through appropriate subregional, regional or global organizations or arrangements, to intensify efforts to assess and address, as appropriate, the impacts of global climate change and ocean acidification on the sustainability of fish stocks and the habitats that support them, in particular the most affected ones.  The draft also recognized the role of the Convention and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in international fishing governance.

EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) introduced the draft resolution on Oceans and the law of the sea (document A/69/L.29).  The 313-paragraph draft text covers a broad range of issues, including the implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea and related agreements and instruments, capacity-building, the Meeting of States Parties and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

He said the draft text contained elements necessary for the management of oceans and seas and guidelines for the conduct of States in discharging their obligations.  During negotiations, delegations had recognized that oceans, seas and coastal areas formed an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem and were critical to sustaining it.  Recalling 10 days of intense discussions, he voiced hope that the same spirit of cooperation and understanding would see the Assembly adopt it by consensus.

Statements

IOANNIS VRAILAS of the European Union Delegation said both resolutions being considered served to bring the attention of the General Assembly and the general public important issues in the marine domain.  The importance of oceans and their resources in the context of sustainable development had also been recognized by the international community, including within the inclusion of a possible new goal on oceans on the post-2015 agenda.  However, the marine environment continued to face major threats, including climate change and ocean acidification.  The international community must continue to take an active role to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of oceans and their resources in accordance with the Law of the Sea.

He went on to say that the European Union supported the ongoing ad hoc working group processes and appreciated the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  However, while largely satisfied with the draft resolution “L.29”, he said he was disappointed about the exclusion of language relating to marine mammals, which were an important and vulnerable component of the marine environment.  Unfortunately, the inflexible position of a single State had resulted in the withdrawal of a compromise paragraph on the issue.  Nonetheless, the draft text contained new language concerning the important of data collection and catch reporting for the purposes of ensuring scientific stock assessment and implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management.

STUART BECK (Palau), on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, pointed out that oceans made up 98 per cent of his region and that “the ocean is our way of life”, livelihood, economy and culture.  Oceans would also determine the region’s future.  However, human actions were destroying oceans, including by overfishing and pollution, he said, stressing the region’s tireless effort in crafting a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 development agenda.  Marine-protected areas were among the tools available that would safeguard the oceans’ health for future generations.  Other elements including enforcing fishing limits, reducing pollution and tackling climate change challenges.  Additional efforts were needed to ensure equity and justice in business partnerships between the private fishing industry and the resource owners and custodians.  Better business partnerships would provide much-needed financial security for countries in the region and could include building and strengthening fisheries management regimes and tackling problems of overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

He said he was pleased with new commitments, noting that the Samoa Pathway included oceans and seas as a priority area for action.  He also welcomed the Assembly’s robust debate on strengthening the management of sharks and recognized the importance of international cooperation to improve the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction.  National efforts were not enough to heal oceans, he emphasized, reiterating the Forum’s call to the global community to take action to ensure the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Earth’s most precious resource through the passage of Sustainable Development Goal 14.  “This is a year for decisive action,” he stated.

SHORNA-KAY RICHARDS (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the Community’s 12 single-island archipelagic States and three coastal States had a strong maritime tradition and interest in matters related to the oceans and the laws of the sea.  Thus, Section VII of the Secretary-General’s report was of great importance since protection and preservation of the marine environment were of fundamental importance and of high priority to CARICOM States’ sustainable development.  Voicing strong concern about the damaging impact of climate change and ocean acidification, she said that the post-2015 development agenda should place special focus on the significant contribution of the seas to the three development dimensions.  The Secretary-General’s synthesis report on the matter boldly asserted “We must protect our oceans, seas, rivers and atmosphere as our global heritage, and achieve climate justice.”

CARICOM would actively participate in those post 2015-development deliberations and other consultative processes, she continued, welcoming the progress of the Ad Hoc working group on the scope, parameters and feasibility of the Convention’s implementing agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  Also welcomed was the adoption last week of the resolution entitled “Towards the sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea for present and future generations”.  Given the challenges of sustainable development of fishery stocks, she said she was pleased to note the adoption on 10 October of the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy which collaborated on conservation, management and enforcement of fisheries and related eco-systems in the region.  Because of the growing seaborne trade, she welcomed the growing attention to entry into force of the International Maritime Organization instrument for safe, secure and crime-free routes.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, said that overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, marine pollution, and the destruction of marine habitats damaged ocean environments and ecosystems.  The Samoa Pathway was an important blueprint for the sustainable development of small island States and he welcomed its full implementation.  He highlighted the important stride made towards deepened international attention to the problem of ocean acidification.  Heighten global cooperation to address the cause of acidification, finance capacity for conservation efforts and stop minimize its impact were critical.

Welcoming the resolution on sustainable fisheries to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he recalled the Pacific small island developing States were on the cutting edge in ensuring the application of precautionary approach.  The exploitation by a few was inconsistent with principles on international law; the status quo was not an option.  Acknowledging the contribution of the Convention, he underscored the development of a comprehensive set of rules governing seabed mining by the International Seabed Authority and the important role that body played.

TANIERIS DIEGUEZ LAO (Cuba) said her country had made great efforts to implement national strategies for sustainable development and the protection of oceans through its participation in regional discussions on pollution and the adoption of laws in line with the Convention.  It was important to continue to strengthen international cooperation on ocean management, she underscored, stating that she was pleased with the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  However, it was important that its effective work to be executed in a timely manner.  The territorial integrity of States must be recognized, especially regarding small island developing States.  All States must urgently comply with their commitments regarding the recognized links between ocean systems and climate change, she stated, voicing support for the draft texts.

HIROSHI ISHIKAWA (Japan) said, as a maritime State surrounded by water and dependent on maritime transport, his country attached great importance to the rule of the law at sea.  He stated appreciation of the role played by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in peaceful settlement of disputes, and of the International Seabed Authority, applauding its role in managing exploration and exploitation of mineral resources.  Maritime safety and security required a multi-layered approach, including assistance to enhancing maritime law enforcement capacity in Somalia and the operation of naval vessels.  Turning to sustainable fisheries, he underscored that Japan was dedicated to addressing the promotion of sustainable use through the conservation and management of marine living resources and the appropriate conservation of the marine ecosystem.

CAROL HAMILTON (United States) said the annual resolutions on oceans and fisheries served as important opportunities for the international community to identify key marine-related problems and develop constructive ways forward to address them.  She was pleased that Member States had supported the need for increased focus on the impact of ocean acidification in fisheries, and concerted action to minimize fisheries waste and discards.  Further, the text on sustainable fisheries before the Assembly was as an effective platform to strengthen the collective effort to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, whilst ensuring the responsibilities of the Member States.  The inclusion in the resolution of a call for ratifications or accessions would help bring into force the global Port State Measures Agreement.

ISABELLE PICCO (Monaco) said that each year since the General Assembly’s sixty-sixth session her delegation had presented a proposal under the current draft text “L.29” regarding the protection of marine mammals.  The approach during the current session had taken into account the position of all delegation and had addressed issues including ocean debris, pollution and migration patterns.  Although acknowledging the flexibility shown during discussions, she lamented the lack of consensus on the matter.  However, she said she was pleased that the matter of oceans had a place in the post-2015 agenda, which should also recognize its link with climate change.  Monaco would be working with other delegations on the issue of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions, she said, noting that a new agreement on that issue should include capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.  Her country was also active in other fora, including at the Conference of States Parties of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, and was supportive of bolstering international cooperation and capacity building of small island developing States.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said that her country’s research sea vessel, Dr Fridtjof Nansen, was available to developing countries for research of their own marine ecosystems, and that an additional new $75 million vessel would be operational in late 2016, as well.  Combined with an ecosystem approach to fisheries, the vessel would strengthen regional cooperation and competence, essential to achieving sustainable management of marine resources and the ensuing food security.  Norway had also provided financial and technical assistance to seven developing States including Cabo Verde, Sierra Leone, and Somalia in preparing their submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  In the forthcoming sessions of the International Seabed Authority, States needed to make important decisions regarding the framework for mineral exploitation, as mineral-related activities must not cause irreversible or unacceptable damage to the marine environment.  A new agreement under the Convention needed to be fully integrated into the established Law of the Sea architecture.

FERNANDA MILLICAY (Argentina) said that goal 14 of the report of the Working Group on the sustainable development goals did not accurately reflect the work of the Convention.  Furthermore, in regards to the “L.30” text, marine biodiversity and the sharing of benefits, conservation measures, and capacity-building beyond the areas of national jurisdiction was one of the new issues emerging in the law of the seas.  It was necessary to agree on the parameters and scope of a new agreement prior to convening a negotiating conference.  The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had encountered some challenges, such as the need for health insurance and office space, but her Government fully supported their work.  The Commission’s work involved the matter of limits already established in article 76, not the rights of the coastal State.  She emphasized that conservation and management of sedentary resources were subject to the sovereign rights of the coastal States, including bottom-fishing in the high seas.  She also said she objected to the fact that the Assembly resolutions could be misinterpreted to reflect some kind of claim over vessels that were not under their scope, and expressed concern over the attempt to legitimize the acts of some States over areas of the sea that were not under specific national jurisdiction.

NICHOLAS EMILIOU (Cyprus), associating himself with the European Union, said the resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea contributed to the strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations.  In compliance with the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Cyprus had proclaimed its exclusive economic zone and had signed delimitation agreements with three of its neighbouring countries.  Cooperation between States in the eastern Mediterranean could be a driving force for achieving sustainable development and prosperity in the region.  Thus, he called upon all States to respect the sovereignty rights of their neighbours in the sea areas, and act in accordance with international laws while refraining from violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.

MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) said the Convention was the world’s guide on the use of oceans and seas.  Therefore, its principles must be upheld when considering questions on conservation and the sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  On the latter, she said negotiations must produce a strong instrument, as “status quo is not an option”. She voiced support for “L.29” as oceans were an important basis for development and progress.  Going forward, the international community must strengthen cooperation when facing those and emerging issues, including the acidification of oceans and the decision to incorporate oceans in sustainable development goals.

EVGENY ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that, as it entered its second decade, the Convention was the only international tool that covered many types of activities in the oceans, and he voicing support for the strengthening of its regime and proper implementation.  He also expressed appreciation for the work done on the draft resolutions on sustainable fisheries, “L.29”, which was an important text on those issues, and the efforts made on the omnibus draft resolution “L.30”.  Supporting the recommendation to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend the continental shelf of his country, he said the Russian Federation was gathering information about the Arctic Ocean and would soon submit it to the Commission.  While his delegation could not support any limitation on activities in oceans without the provision of legitimate reasons, measures to improve efforts to combat illegal fishing were supported.

OLEKSIY SHAPOVAL (Ukraine) said his Government had closed sea ports in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea in March 2014 and that ships calling at those ports were in violation of international and national laws.  They also undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, he said, noting that the Convention stipulated that every State effectively exercised its jurisdiction and control in matters over ships flying its flag.  The competent authorities of United Nations Member States should be expected to apply appropriate mechanisms of influence on owners and operators of ships flying their national flags in order to ensure their strict compliance with international law and Ukraine’s national laws regarding Crimea.  As one of the major origin States of seafarers, Ukraine was actively engaged with Member States, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other actors aimed at developing measures to protect the welfare of victims of piracy.

MAX DIENER SALA (Mexico), noting that the omnibus resolution, “L.29”, covered the Convention’s implementation, among other critical elements, voiced his appreciation for the robust discussions on issues including mining in the deep sea.  However, it was not enough to recognize the sharing and exploitation of resources, he said, stressing that guidelines were needed.  Welcomed was the balanced nature of the draft text that had resulted from tireless deliberations on a range of issues.  Furthermore, the adoption of the resolution on sustainable fisheries, “L.30”, was not an option; it was a need.  Companies were overfishing and unsustainable practices must end, he said.  Debates had recognized the contribution of oceans to development, particularly regarding small island developing States, he said, noting that the outcome of such gatherings could contribute to discussions on the post-2015 agenda.

PHAM QUANG HIEU (Vietnam) said the Convention embodied the efforts of all nations to build a comprehensive legal order for the oceans and seas, establishing, in the interest of mankind, effective mechanisms for international cooperation in different fields.  He expressed support for the General Assembly’s efforts towards sustainable development, conservation of marine diversity and effective utilization of oceans resources.  His country actively participated in all activities within the framework of the Convention.  The adoption of the Law of the Sea onto a national platform was a testimony of his country respect for it.  He said he was concerned about the recent developments in the South China Sea and called on the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States and China to implement all the provision of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on that matter which would then contribute to stability and security in the region.

EDUARDO JOSE A. DE VEGA (Philippines), pointing out that water covered two-thirds of the planet’s surface, one-half of that surface the high seas and “beyond the jurisdiction of any state”, emphasized that sustainable global cooperation on ocean matters was paramount.  He called for action to arrest marine pollution and to neutralize and reverse the adverse economic, social and environmental impacts of the physical alteration and destruction of marine habitats.  The Convention’s rules-based approach to the settlement of maritime disputes was the way forward, and he called on those involved to avail of the dispute settlement mechanisms.  He then reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for States Parties to the Convention to clearly define and publicize the limits of their respective maritime zones in order to have greater certainty of maritime spaces and avoid disputes.

MATTHIAS G. PALSSON (Iceland) called on all Member States to ratify the Convention, emphasizing that it was imperative for that instrument to be fully implemented.  Furthermore, all States should work together to improve the conditions of service of the members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  A key issue was the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biological diversity in areas beyond nation’s jurisdiction and he welcomed the meetings of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on the subject.  The sustainable use of living marine resource was at the core of Iceland’s ocean policy.  His country strongly advocated the same principles in all international fora and endorsed the reaffirmation of the importance of long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of living marine resources of the world’s oceans and seas and the obligation of States to cooperate towards that end.

HASSAN SHIHAB (Maldives) said the oceans surrounding his country’s archipelago contributed significantly to its society and economy.  The Government was committed to the Law of the Sea and the conservation of the ocean and fish stocks needed to be discussed at the international level, under the aegis of the Convention.  Because sustainable use of the oceans entailed different methods for different species, the Maldives had banned the fishing of certain species such as shark.  As an international community, Member States could build on the common understanding of long-lasting gains concerning the oceans.  They also needed to reverse biodiversity loss, and to that end he called on all Member States to renew their commitment to enforce the agreements in place on the management of ocean stocks.  Fishing subsidies should be abandoned as they contributed to illegal and unreported fishing, and they were economically unprofitable.

KOTESWARA RAO (India) said that the Convention represented a major achievement in codification and progressive development of international law, contributing pre-eminently to the sustainable development of the oceans and seas and to the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people.  Welcoming the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process report, he stressed the need of devising improved methods of harvesting marine living resources to help combat illegal fishing and to ensure the safe and sustainable fisheries required to add to food security worldwide.  Also welcoming the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole’s report, he commended the efforts towards materializing the first global integrated assessment of the state of marine environment.  The smooth functioning of the International Sea-Bed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf held the key to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention, he underscored, voicing support for all efforts toward ensuring their good functioning.

KAREN TAN (Singapore) recognized the contribution of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations, and called on Member States to become parties to it.  Commending the International Seabed Authority for establishing a deep seabed mining regime, she urged all Member States to actively participate in its meetings.  Turning to the issue of sustainable development, she noted that oceans and seas form an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem which was critical to sustainable development.  She then asked that the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals propose a goal to conserve and use oceans and seas as resources for sustainable development.

SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN (Pakistan) said global warming and fish stock depletion, among others, threatened the existence of low-lying States, noting that sustainable management of marine resources would increase global food security.  He expressed concern over the backlog experienced by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, calling for additional technical support so that it could fulfil its responsibilities.  Ensuring maritime security was important for trade, he continued, as secure and tranquil shipping rules were important for economic development.  Pakistan had played an active role in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia, which resulted in a 12 per cent reduction in 2013.  Transfer of technology and capacity building was also crucial to access marine resources, including genetic resources, adding that genetic resources of the seabed were the common heritage of mankind to be exploited by all.  Further progress needed to be made on that issue. 

LIU JIEYI (China) said his Government had actively participated in the development of the draft resolutions before the Assembly.  His country attached great importance to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and had contributed to a trust fund that helped stakeholders attend its meetings.  China had also helped finance developing countries’ participation in meetings of the Legal and Technical Committee, and the Financial Committee of the International Seabed Authority.  However, despite his country’s support of the International Tribunal in enforcing the Law of the Sea, he said he was concerned about the first ever request to that body for an advisory opinion of the full bench, underscoring his expectation that the Tribunal would be giving all parties full consideration and approach the case with caution.  As high seas and international areas of the seabed involved the entire international community, all countries needed to be accommodated in the reasonable use of resources.  He also noted that China took an active part in various international fishing organizations, and would continue to regulate issues concerning biological balance and the sharing of fishing benefits by countries.  He said that it was the right of Member States to choose the means of peaceful settlement of maritime disputes after dialogue had been initiated and attempts had been made towards cooperation.

VLADIMIR GOLITSYN, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said the Tribunal had an important role in the dispute settlement system established by the Convention.  Regardless of whether States Parties to a dispute had made a declaration under article 287 or had expressed a choice in any declaration, the Parties might agree to submit the dispute to their preferred dispute settlement body, including the Tribunal.  Its latest case was that of a dispute between Panama and Guinea-Bissau concerning the oil tanker M/V “Virginia G”.  The Tribunal had exercised its contentious jurisdiction and had adjudicated the case to contribute to the development of international law.  The Tribunal had also, for the first time, ruled on the delimitation between Bangladesh and Myanmar of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, adopting a decision on the issue of a “grey zone”.

The Tribunal’s contribution to the development of the Law of the Sea was not limited to its judgements on the merits in contentious cases, he went on to say.  Its jurisdiction encompassed a number of other procedures, including requests for the prescription of provisional measures, prompt release of vessels and crews, and advisory opinions.  With regards to prompt release proceedings, he said that the Tribunal had developed a coherent jurisprudence concerning the reasonableness of a bond or other financial security for the release of the vessel and/or its crew.  In addition, the Tribunal could exercise advisory functions, pursuant to article 21 of its Statute.  Indeed, its Seabed Disputes Chamber had delivered its first advisory opinion in 2011.  The Tribunal was firmly committed to advancing the idea of peaceful settlement of disputes, he underscored, thanking all stakeholders for their continued cooperation.

NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said the concept of the “common heritage of mankind” represented by the legal regime for the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction remained one of the major innovations in modern international law.  The far-reaching implications and benefits of the regime, for the next 20 years, would be understood and appreciated more, now that the world was at a juncture where ocean-based economic development was at the top of the agenda for many Governments.  Providing an overview of the twentieth session of the Authority’s Council, he said 18 contracts had been signed for exploration for mineral resources in what is referred to as “the Area”.  Contracts the Authority signed in 2001 were due to expire in 2016, he said, underlining the need to formulate draft procedures for extensions, a topic to be taken up at the Authority’s Council in 2015.

Turning to draft resolution “L.29”, he said the text reiterated the importance of the Authority’s work to develop a standardized taxonomy and nomenclature for the fauna associated with polymetallic nodules, pursuant to article 145 of the Convention, to protect the marine environment and prevent damage to the flora and fauna.  Workshops for contractors had been completed and had involved experts from the International Network for Scientific Investigations of Deep-Sea Ecosystems, the Committee for Mineral Reserves International Reporting Standards and the United Nations International Framework Classification for Mineral Reserves and Resources.  Member States had shown a clear commitment to build upon the work done by the Authority with an environmental management plan for the Clarion Clipperton Zone and discussions were underway to commence work on a strategic environmental assessment for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  The Authority had also adopted its budget of $15,743,143 for the 2015–2016 period and had elected 17 new Council members for four-year terms.  Emphasizing the gravity of the issues before the body, he said “the decisions that will be made in the next few years are likely to be critical to the realization of the common heritage of mankind.”  It was more important than ever for Authority members to attend meetings and fully participate.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The General Assembly first decided to defer action on the draft resolution on Oceans and the law of the sea (document A/69/L.29) to a later date.

The Assembly then took up the draft resolution on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments (document A/69/L.30).  The Secretariat delivered a statement on its budgetary implications, which was $554,300 to cover meetings and documentation, and $33,800 for consultancy services under the Office of Legal Affairs.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution, as orally revised, without a vote.

In explanation of position after the action, the representative Argentina said that none of the recommendations in the resolution could be considered mandatory for the States that had not expressed agreement, nor as in the case of her country, could those recommendations be considered enforceable.  Her country disassociated itself from the Assembly with regard to the relevant paragraph in the 10 December 1995 agreement.  Current international law did not authorize fishing arrangements to take any measures on vessels whose flags belonged to States not partners to the agreement.  Implementing the conservation measures recommended in this resolution and related instruments constituted a mandatory framework under the Convention, among them article 77.  Nothing in this resolution or any other could affect the sovereign rights of States with relation to their continental shelves pursuant to international law.

The representative of Turkey, also speaking in explanation of position emphasized that her country was fully committed to sustainable fisheries; however, she said her delegation disassociated itself from certain references in the resolution.

The representative of Venezuela, in explanation of position, extended her gratitude for the work done on the resolution.  Her country was committed to sustainable fisheries and was a contracting Party in organizing fisheries.  Nonetheless, she expressed reservations with respect to the content of the resolution; Venezuela was not a State Party to the Convention’s provisions on the conservation of straddling of fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.  Therefore, the standards were not applicable as customary law, unless as expressly recognized through Venezuela’s standards of national legislation.

For information media. Not an official record.