Action Deferred on Draft Text Addressing Ocean, Law of Sea
With more than two dozen speakers and the heads of two of the world’s ocean and sea authorities proclaiming the crucial importance of healthy oceans and seas to coastal and landlocked States alike, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution on sustainable fisheries without a vote while deferring action on a draft text on oceans and the Law of the Sea.
By the terms of the draft text on sustainable fisheries, the post‑2015 development agenda’s commitment to conserve and sustainably use the oceans was addressed, as well as the combating of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The text also, among other things, urged States parties to the Agreement to take into account special requirements of developing States, including small island developing States, when cooperating to establish conservation measures for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.
During the all-day meeting, delegations from both developed and developing nations, as well as from small island States with vested interests in the welfare of the world’s oceans, stressed the dangers of illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries.
The representative of the European Union emphasized that the problem constituted a major threat to marine biodiversity and ecosystems, undermined efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries and penalized those fishers who respected the rules. The development of national action plans were essential in order to prevent, deter and eliminate such practices.
In addition to illegal fishing, the representative of Palau, also speaking for the Pacific Small Island Developing States, pointed to marine pollution, destruction of marine habitats and climate change, all of which continued to pose significant challenges to the health and resilience of oceans, as well as to sustainable development. His country had been at the forefront of those advocating for the inclusion of the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Indeed, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be critical in demonstrating the international community’s will to make the paradigm shift that the Government of Nauru had been calling for, that country’s representative told the Assembly. Noting that marine and coastal resources were vital to Nauru’s economy, food security and culture, she called for strengthened and concrete efforts by the international community to address the special needs of small island developing States.
Several delegations said they looked forward to the development of an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, both within and outside areas of national jurisdiction.
However, while Norway’s representative expressed hope that discussions would produce a draft text of elements for a new agreement by the end of 2017, the representative of Iceland cautioned that the scope of a new legally binding instrument under the Convention should not include fisheries.
While underscoring that marine species such as marine mammals, sea turtles and marine birds should be taken into account in the draft resolutions, the representative of Monaco pointed to pollution and microplastics, which were affecting the world’s oceans. By a specific request from Prince Albert of Monaco, plastic bags would be prohibited in the Principality in the coming days.
Plastic pollution was a theme also highlighted by the representative of the United States, who said that, building on the momentum of the Our Ocean conferences, he was pleased to work with all partners to advance a number of critical issues in the oceans resolution, in particular marine debris.
Zambia’s representative, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, reiterated the need to consider the special challenges that landlocked developing countries faced in accessing and utilizing the common resources of the seas. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf should ensure that all established interests of landlocked countries in the Convention be preserved and enhanced. Key among those were landlocked developing countries’ established rights related to the exclusive economic zone of coastal States.
Those common resources were the concern of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, as well, said its President, Judge Vladimir Golitsyn. Giving an overview of the Tribunal’s activities, he told the Assembly that States were increasingly bringing cases concerning their disputes to that body, whose jurisprudence clearly demonstrated its potential.
Nii Allotey Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, also highlighted the activities of Authority which, he stressed, had been entrusted with the implementation of the “common heritage of mankind”. That applied to mineral resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Such responsibility represented a major innovation not only in the law of the sea, but also in international law in general, he said, adding that it was creating a “revolutionary vision” towards sustainable development of mineral resources and the sharing of benefits by all States, including landlocked and geographically disadvantaged States.
Also speaking were representatives of New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia (on behalf of Pacific Island Forum members), Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Cuba, Thailand, Colombia, India, Singapore, Japan, Philippines, Argentina, Maldives, Ukraine, Viet Nam, Kuwait, Russian Federation and China.
Representatives of Argentina, Venezuela, Turkey and Colombia spoke in explanation of position.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of China and the Philippines.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 December, to take up the agenda item “Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin” and to continue its consideration of a range of agenda items.
The General Assembly met today to consider agenda items on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and had before it the reports of the Secretary-General (documents A/70/74 and A/70/74/Add.1); the report of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the States of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (document A/70/418); the report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process (document A/70/78); 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/70/112). Action would also be taken on the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/70/L.22).
The Assembly would also take up the draft resolution “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/70/L.19).
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) introduced the draft resolution titled “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”, also known as the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (document A/70/L.19).
The text was a step forward in the conservation and management of fisheries, she said. Among other things, it addressed the post-2015 development agenda’s commitment to conserve and sustainably use the oceans. Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was a key focus of the draft, which addressed an advisory opinion given by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea on the request from the Subregional Fisheries Commission. States were encouraged to apply appropriate penalties to any vessels engaging in the aforementioned activities.
The text also urged States parties to the Agreement to take into account special requirements of developing States, including small island developing States, when cooperating to establish conservation measures for straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, she noted. In addition, the central role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in the governance of the international fisheries was highlighted. The Secretary-General was also requested to resume the Review Conference on the Agreement from 23‑27 May 2016, an important event for assessing the ongoing effectiveness of the Fish Stocks Agreement.
MELISSA BOISSIERE (Trinidad and Tobago) introduced the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/70/L.22), noting that the 55‑page draft text covered issues ranging from implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to maritime safety and security and flag State implementation, among other issues.
By the terms of the draft text, the Assembly would encourage States to work closely with and through international organizations, funds and programmes, as well as the specialized agencies of the United Nations system and relevant international conventions, to identify emerging areas of focus for improved coordination and cooperation and how best to address those issues.
Highlighting certain points of the text, she said the draft resolution contained important elements necessary for the management, preservation and sustainable use of the resources of the international community’s oceans and seas, and guidelines for the conduct of States in discharging their obligations. During negotiations, delegations had noted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reaffirmed their commitments to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development under Goal 14 of the outcome document.
EGLANTINE CUJO, the European Union, stressing the necessity that the Convention on the Law of the Sea remain relevant in addressing current challenges, expressed support for the upcoming negotiation of a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The marine environment continued to face major threats, including climate change, marine debris and over- and illegal fishing. Thus, it was important to implement Goal 14 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which recognized the importance of oceans and their resources. She also underlined the importance of regional and subregional efforts in tackling those challenges while better taking into account regional specificities.
She welcomed the Sustainable Fisheries draft resolution, which addressed the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries that constituted a major threat to marine biodiversity and ecosystems, undermined efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries and penalized those fishers who respected the rules. She encouraged the development of national action plans to prevent, deter and eliminate such practices, and emphasized that penalties in relation to such cases should be adequate in severity for effectively securing compliance. For its part, she concluded, the European Union remained fully committed to achieving maximum sustainable yield for its fisheries by 2020 at the latest.
CALEB OTTO (Palau), speaking for the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said healthy, productive and resilient oceans and seas were critical for poverty eradication, economic development and essential ecosystem services. However, illegal fishing, marine pollution, destruction of marine habitats and climate change continued to pose significant challenges to the health and resilience of oceans, as well as to sustainable development. His country had been at the forefront of those advocating for the inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals of the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas. To that end, he welcomed the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda, including the First Triennial Oceans and Seas Global Conference to be held in Fiji.
Turning to the effective protection of the marine environment, he acknowledged the International Seabed Authority’s contribution to the ongoing capacity-building initiatives targeting developing countries. The resolution on fisheries would be a critical tool in the realization of the 2030 Agenda to effectively end illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as overfishing and destructive fishing practices. The text also recognized the need for target reference points in the management of fish stocks, which would enable a long-term sustainable exploitation of such stocks.
KASWAMU KATOTA (Zambia), speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the overall socioeconomic development of the Group’s countries was constrained by their lack of direct territorial access to the sea, remoteness and isolation from world markets and high transit costs. Although he noted that UNCLOS acknowledged some of those factors, he reviewed its specific wording pertaining to landlocked States, observing that only a little over half the Group’s membership had ratified it. He called upon the International Seabed Authority and other stakeholders to help landlocked developing countries not only in the accession process, but with technical assistance towards ratifying, implementing and effectively utilizing the provisions of the Convention, as well.
Reiterating the need to consider the special challenges that landlocked developing countries faced in accessing and utilizing the common resources of the seas, he said that it was only through solidarity and support that such nations could overcome their isolation from multilateral processes, such as activities related to the Convention. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf should ensure that all established interests of landlocked countries in the Convention be preserved and enhanced. Key among those was landlocked developing countries’ established rights related to the exclusive economic zone of coastal States.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia), speaking for the Pacific Island Forum members, said the work of the Forum on oceans was underpinned by UNCLOS and augmented by the Pacific Oceanscape Framework, which addressed issues concerning the health, productivity and resilience of the Pacific Ocean. At the forty-sixth meeting of the Forum in Papua New Guinea in September 2015, leaders had adopted the Roadmap for Pacific Sustainable Fisheries, which represented a significant achievement and milestone for the region and further unscored the States’ collective commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.
Turning to the resolution on sustainable fisheries, she said she was pleased that the text had focused on the need for target reference points in fisheries management, as well as the need to improve data reporting to regional fisheries management organizations. However, it was disappointing that the recognition of the Roadmap had not been incorporated into the resolution. She welcomed the General Assembly’s decision taken to develop an internationally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. Underscoring the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals that acknowledged the fundamental importance of oceans to global sustainable development, he urged all States to commit to the full and effective implementation of Goal 14.
COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted the growing activities of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea and urged the Fifth Committee to approve additional resources. Goal 14 had set a clear goal to ensure the future of the oceans and the seas. A robust follow-up and review process was therefore key. There were also strong concerns over the persistence of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Caribbean waters, which was threatening the viability of its fisheries and undermining effective conservation management.
He went on to say that States were urged to take into account the special requirements of developing States, particularly small island developing States, when applying unilateral measures to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fish from entering target markets. With regard to the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, he welcomed the attention to the issue of alien invasive species, including the impact of the predatory lionfish. He also said he was pleased to see the text highlighting its concern over the massive influx of Sargassum seaweed into Caribbean waters and the impact it was having on aquatic resources, fisheries, shorelines, waterways and tourism.
VALÉRIE S. BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco), underscoring her Government’s advocacy for Goal 14, said that marine species such as marine mammals, sea turtles and marine birds should be taken into account in the draft resolutions. The integrity of the marine ecosystem had to be preserved, as economic and social development depended on the sustainable management of oceans and seas. Pointing to pollution and microplastics which were affecting the world’s oceans, she noted that, on specific request from Prince Albert of Monaco, plastic bags would be prohibited in the Principality in the coming days. In addition, ocean acidification adversely affected tourism and impacted food security. Emphasizing that the degradation of the marine ecosystem particularly affected small island developing States, she underlined the importance of capacity-building.
TANIERIS DIEGUEZ LAO (Cuba) noted that the Convention was a milestone of codification of international law and had been ratified by the overwhelming majority of Member States. The Cuban State possessed a solid national framework on the Law of the Sea and its Government took all measures to address crimes at sea, including trafficking of narcotics and piracy. Cuba also complied with international obligations in maritime safety and in search and rescue. Emphasizing that it was important to ensure resect for sovereign States and their territorial integrity, she expressed support for the “praiseworthy” work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. However, the continually rising sea levels threatened the integrity of small island developing States, some of which were fated to disappear if measures were not taken. Climate change was having an adverse impact on all humankind.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) said 2015’s many achievements with respect to the oceans, the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries were reflected in the draft resolutions. Those achievements would shape the development of the law of the sea for years to come. The establishment of a stand-alone goal in the 2030 Agenda regarding marine resources was a milestone as well. At the national level, Thailand had brought into force last month a royal ordinance that introduced major reforms to the country’s legal framework regarding fisheries. The time was ripe for the global community to pay more attention to the oceans and seas and their resources, which had been taken for granted for decades. With the upcoming discussion on a new international legally binding instrument, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and growing efforts to combat illegal, unreported and regulated fishing, the world was at a critical juncture, and it was important to maintain political will on the issue.
MARGO REMINISSE DEIYE (Nauru), associating herself with the Pacific Island Forum and with the Pacific Small Island Developing States, stressed that marine and coastal resources were vital to Nauru’s economy, food security and culture. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be critical in demonstrating the international community’s will to make the paradigm shift the Government of Nauru had been calling for. Overfishing was the next great threat to ocean health, she said, underlining the importance of accurate data to regional fisheries management organizations, as well as of target reference points for a long-term sustainable exploitation of stocks. More had to be done to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which had a staggering impact on the economy of island countries. She called for strengthened and concrete efforts by the international community to address the special needs of small island developing States, and emphasized the need to measure the effectiveness of global efforts to adapt to climate change.
GEIR OTTO PEDERSEN (Norway) said that all activities in the oceans must be carried out within the framework of UNCLOS. In order to realize the potential of marine resources, protect marine biodiversity and implement the Convention, cooperation needed to be developed and capacity needed to be built. Norway’s Nansen Programme aimed to reduce poverty and improve food security in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting developing countries in promoting the sustainable management of living marine resources. The Fish Stocks Agreement had proved to be an important instrument for the implementation of the Convention’s provisions relating to straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. Committed to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, both within and outside areas of national jurisdiction, he welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to develop an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the matter. Looking forward to the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee in March 2016, he expressed hope that discussions would produce a draft text of elements for a new agreement by the end of 2017.
LUIS FERNANDO OROZCO BARRERA (Colombia) pointed out that his country had one of the most diverse marine environments in the world, with coastlines both on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. That biodiversity ensured that Colombia was committed to the sustainable use of oceans, as demonstrated in its participation in different fora following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The draft resolution on oceans had been formulated based on UNCLOS, which Colombia was not a party to. Therefore, he said he could not accept its provisions, as that would imply his country had accepted the provisions of the Convention. However, he stressed that his Government was prepared to work with all nations on the challenges posed to the world’s oceans.
KOTESWARA RAO MADIMI (India), noting that oceans covered almost three quarters of the earth, said that ocean-based economies were gaining more attention from the international community. However, realizing the full potential of oceans and seas depended on carrying out activities in a sustainable manner. Oceans faced huge challenges, such as the deterioration of the marine environment, biodiversity loss, climate change, illegal fishing practices and piracy. The conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction was one area of engagement by the international community. In that regard, he welcomed the decision to develop an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on that issue.
KAREN TAN (Singapore), describing her country as “a small island developing State with big dreams for the oceans”, called on all States to become party to UNCLOS. That Convention was the overarching framework for governance of the world’s oceans and seas, and that needed to be fully appreciated ahead of the next phase of discussions on the development of a legally binding instrument. With regard to the work of the International Seabed Authority, it was critical to have a regulatory framework consistent with international law, including UNCLOS. Such regulations should ensure that the exploitation of maritime resources was conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. Going forward, 2016 would mark the tenth anniversary of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia and the establishment of an information sharing centre in Singapore, which had become an important mechanism for keeping shipping in Asia safe. She said she looked forward to the high-level conference in Fiji in June 2017 on Sustainable Development Goal 14, the effective implementation of which would require political will.
MARÍA MJÖLL JÓNSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said that, for a State like Iceland, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and heavily dependent on the sustainable use of living marine resources, maintaining healthy oceans and marine ecosystems was a constant priority. 2016 would be an exceptionally busy year, with a review of the Fish Stocks Agreement, a review of actions taken by States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements regarding bottom fishing, as decided in paragraph 162 of resolution 69/109. The decision in General Assembly resolution 69/292 on the development of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction was notable. However, its scope should not include fisheries.
MARK SIMONOFF (United States), a co-sponsor of the resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea, and on sustainable fisheries, said that the debate provided an opportunity for the international community to further commit to the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. His country had hosted the first Our Ocean Conference in 2014, drawing global attention to the urgent need to promote the health of the ocean and to address key ocean issues, including sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification. Building on the momentum of the Our Ocean conferences, he said he was pleased to work with all partners to advance a number of critical issues in the oceans resolution, in particular marine debris. The resolution on fisheries had strengthened the call to ensure sustainability and to articulate the responsibilities of Member States. The text also contained important commitments to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, including a call for further ratifications to bring into force the global Port State Measures Agreement.
KAITARO NONOMURA (Japan) stated that advancing the rule of law at sea was of vital importance, and reiterated his country’s support to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in that regard. He also expressed appreciation for the role of the International Seabed Authority in establishing maritime legal order, adding that Japan intended to continue engaging constructively in adopting a rational Exploitation Code, with a good balance between “exploitations” and “environment” elements. He voiced appreciation at the efforts by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to expedite its consideration of the numerous submissions by extending the length of its sessions. Finally, addressing the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia, he called for a multilayered approach that included medium- and long-term measures for stability in the country. Japan had been deploying destroyers and patrol aircrafts in the region since 2009, and had financially contributed to maritime law enforcement capacity-building.
LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), a co-sponsor of the resolution on sustainable fisheries, said the international community needed to reverse the adverse economic, social and environmental impacts on marine-based habitats that could result from land-based and coastal development activities. The Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities was very instructive in that regard. She also noted that the Philippines had initiated the arbitration process under Annex VII of the Convention on the Law of the Sea to clarify its rights within its exclusive economic zone, thus helping to ensure peace, security and the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. More so, the arbitration would be instructive for other States. However, artificial island building sought to change the status quo and undermined regional stability. Such activities had also inflicted massive environmental damage on one of the most diverse marine environments in the world. The Tribunal had entered into deliberations and the fate of Philippines, the region and UNCLOS itself rested in its hands.
JOSÉ LUIS FERNANDEZ VALONI (Argentina) said the Convention’s provisions constituted a delicate balance of States’ rights and obligations that needed to be preserved when addressing new challenges regarding the law of the sea, including the 2030 Agenda. It was understood that follow-up to the Agenda would take place on the basis of existing structures. Voicing disagreement with a Second Committee (Economic and Financial) draft resolution regarding a high-level conference on the matter, he said his country would participate in negotiating the conference’s modalities to ensure that it not overlap with other competent forums. With regard to “wildlife trafficking”, such trade, including by sea, required compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as well as the cooperation of States. Extending the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf had also given rise to a crucial need to provide health coverage to its members. Attempts by regional fisheries management organizations to legitimize, through Assembly resolutions, measures beyond their scope of application, was a matter of concern; so, too, were efforts to legitimize the actions of groups of States with regard to the biological diversity of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction in the absence of a universally agreed legal framework.
FATHIMATH LIUSA (Maldives) said sustaining the “wealth of oceans and seas” was vital for her country, as traditional cultural practices and livelihoods were intimately linked with oceans. The Maldives had undertaken several initiatives to preserve its sustainable tourism industry. Domestic policy ensured strict environmental assessments that preceded any construction, encouraging the use of renewable energy and environmentally friendly materials. However, it was the responsibility of all States to address environmental management and combat climate change. On fisheries, she noted that the fishing industry could not compete with illegal fishing and overfishing practices in the world. Despite such setbacks, the Maldives was working hard to achieve ecologically sustainable economic growth. Expressing concerns about the impacts of climate change, including coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and vulnerability of ocean ecosystems, she said that the Maldives and other small island developing States were eagerly waiting for a legally binding climate agreement with ambitious targets.
OLEKSIY SHAPOVAL (Ukraine), underscoring his country’s commitment to UNCLOS, which was the “constitution of the oceans”, said he hoped that the universal ratification of the Convention would be achieved soon. Recalling General Assembly resolution 68/262, titled “Territorial Integrity of Ukraine”, he noted that the Russian Federation continued to violate the sovereign rights of his country. Such violations included the illegal exercise of regulatory jurisdiction and actual seizure and illegal use of Ukrainian gas and oil fields located in the Black Sea. He recalled his Government’s decision to close down all seaports in Crimea and limit navigation within its jurisdiction. However, he noted that more than 200 different vessels and non-commercial ships flying the Russian flag had illegally entered the closed seaports and navigated without authorization. On countering maritime piracy, he underscored the need to address its root causes and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such acts. Fully supporting the International Maritime Organization’s recommendations on preventing and suppressing piracy and armed robbery against ships, he urged coastal States to further cooperate with all relevant partners to protect the welfare of seafarers who were victims of pirates.
PHAM QUANG HIEU (Viet Nam) said that, as a State party to the Convention, Viet Nam had always adhered to its provisions. He also welcomed the efforts of all States in maintaining peace, security and cooperation for development in the East Sea and in ensuring the effective implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea 2002. All parties concerned should redouble their efforts to move the consultation process of the Code of Conduct to its next phase. Observing that there was still a gap between political commitment and action which was causing tension in the region, he called on all parties concerned to abide by their commitments and refrain from any activities that would change the status quo, militarize the East Sea and escalate disputes.
BASHAR ABDULAH E R S ALMOWAIZRI (Kuwait) said development was based on the use of natural resources, including the seas. International navigation made up a large share of international trade despite acts of piracy and terrorism on the seas that threatened international shipping. Condemning all acts piracy, he said that Kuwait had acceded to the Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1986 and had ratified all its implementation documents. He encouraged other States to accede to the Convention, as that would ensure a better respect for international law. He also called on all Member States to make joint efforts to utilize marine resources while making use of technology.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation), while welcoming the outcome of the Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment that had concluded in 2015, said that discussions on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity outside national jurisdiction were being closely followed; his delegation would participate in the preparatory committee. However, initiatives leading to restrictions of maritime activities in the absence of a reliable scientific and international legal process were not supported. The implementation of the above-mentioned resolution should not harm the regional fisheries management organizations and existing international treaties, especially UNCLOS and the Fish Stock Agreement. Turning to the statement made earlier by the delegate of Ukraine, he said the former had used the Assembly to express unfounded allegations against the Russian Federation. The Crimean peninsula had nothing to do with the current agenda item. Russian authorities were fulfilling marine law in territories under their jurisdiction.
LI YONGSHENG (China) said that, while he welcomed oceans and seas incorporated as a goal in the 2030 Agenda, political will would be required to fulfil that goal. Noting the increasingly important role of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, he said that a decision in April 2015 with regard to case number 21 gave rise to some concern, as many countries, including China, believed there was an insufficient legal basis for the Tribunal to exercise the advisory competence of the full bench. It was hoped that, in the future, the Tribunal would give full consideration to the concerns of all sides and use caution when exercising its advisory competence. An international agreement on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was currently the most important legislative matter with regard to the law of the sea. The needs of all countries, particularly developing countries, to reasonably use marine biological resources should be fully accommodated and existing legal frameworks should not be jeopardized. Sustainable development of the oceans and seas could not be achieved without a just international maritime order, with all countries complying with international law. All countries and international judicial organs should respect the right of States to independently choose the means of peaceful dispute settlement, and no one should exceed their authority in interpreting or applying the rules of international law.
NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said that 2015 had been critical in the evolution of the Authority on a number of matters, including a 12- to 18-month time frame to complete the exploitation regulations for polymetallic nodules in what is referred to as “the Area”. As well, the body had made an unprecedented decision to undertake a review of the way in which the legal regime for the Area had operated. The Authority had been entrusted with the implementation of the “common heritage of mankind”, which applied to mineral resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. That represented a major innovation not only in the law of the sea, but also in international law in general, creating a “revolutionary vision” towards sustainable development of mineral resources and the sharing of benefits by all States, including land-locked and geographically disadvantaged States.
The Authority had signed new contracts in 2015 and had adopted new procedures and criteria for the extension of contracts for exploitation, he continued, adding that he welcomed draft resolution “L.22”, which recognized efforts of the Authority to develop a standardized taxonomy and nomenclature for the fauna associated with polymetallic nodules. That matter would be debated shortly in Ghent, Belgium, and would be placed on the 2016 agenda of the Legal and Technical Commission. He also highlighted the importance of providing reporting standards for exploration results and resource classification, particularly in light of the increasing commercial interest in the resources of the Area and in the assessment of activities of Contractors.
There was a need for environmental management plans for regions and areas where there were currently exploration contracts, he said, welcoming the clear commitment shown by Member States to build upon the work done by the Authority for the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. In that regard, discussions were under way to convene a workshop on a review of the implementation of that management plan, and on lessons learned that could be applied in a plan for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and other geographic areas. It was essential for all members of the Authority to contribute to the realization of the common heritage of mankind, which concerned not only the present, but also future generations. The legacy would depend on the contributions of all members of the Authority.
VLADIMIR GOLITSYN, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said the Tribunal’s judicial activity had continued to increase in 2015 and it had delivered its first advisory opinion in April in a case concerning illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Offering an overview of cases before the Tribunal, he said a Special Chamber had formed in April 2015 to deal with the dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the Atlantic Ocean. In August, the Tribunal had issued an order prescribing provisional measures in respect of the dispute between Italy and India concerning a case in which two Indian fishermen had been killed, the so-called Enrica Lexie incident.
When taking its decision, he went on to say, the Tribunal had reaffirmed its view, as already expressed in previous cases, that “considerations of humanity must apply in the law of the sea as they do in other areas of international law.” States were increasingly bringing cases concerning their disputes to the Tribunal and that body’s jurisprudence clearly demonstrated its potential. The Tribunal was active in disseminating knowledge about the mechanisms for dispute settlement established by the Convention, including by organizing regional workshops in different parts of the world. The coming year, 2016, marked the twentieth anniversary of the Tribunal, which had been officially inaugurated on 18 October 1996.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Assembly deferred action on the draft resolution on the Law of the Sea (A/70/L.22) until the Fifth Committee had determined programme budget implications.
The General Assembly then adopted the resolution on sustainable fisheries (A/70/L.19) without a vote.
The representative of Argentina, in explanation of position, said that none of the recommendations in draft resolution “L.19” could be interpreted to mean that the Fish Stock Agreement was binding on those States who had not expressly indicated their consent to fulfil obligations under that Agreement. The recommendations of the Review Conference on that Agreement, referred to in the draft text, could not be considered to be applicable, even as mere recommendations, to States that were not parties to the Agreement. That was particularly relevant with regard to States — such as Argentina — who had disassociated themselves from those recommendations. Therefore, he said that his country disassociated itself from the consensus on paragraphs containing such references. In addition, the draft resolution just adopted could not be interpreted in a manner contrary to the sovereign right of coastal States over their continental shelf under international law. He reiterated that the growing divergences relating to the contents of the resolution on sustainable fisheries seriously compromised the possibility of future consensus within the General Assembly.
The representative of Venezuela said UNCLOS should not be the sole legal framework governing activities in the oceans and seas. There were other international instruments which, together with UNCLOS, constituted the law of the sea. He voiced objection to the Convention being invoked in customary law. The Convention did not have universal participation, as it had only 162 States parties. In the interest of consensus, he said he had supported the adoption of the resolution but had reservations regarding its provisions, adding that Venezuela was not a party to UNCLOS and the Fish Stock Agreement; their norms were not applicable to his country.
The representative of Turkey said that, while fully committed to the sustainable use of biomarine resources, his country would dissociate itself from references made in that resolution to instruments to which Turkey was not a party.
The representative of Colombia said that, although the resolution made a valuable contribution, it was formulated on the basis of UNCLOS, to which Colombia was not a party. The present resolution and his country’s participation in the process of adoption could not be interpreted in any way as to see Colombia as bound by the provisions of the Convention. Colombia’s coastal resources would play a key role in the future of sustainable fisheries.
Rights of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Philippines said that the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration had decided it had jurisdiction to hear the case. China would be legally bound to comply with the decision. The core of the dispute was China’s claim of sovereignty over 95 per cent of the South China Sea, which had no basis in international law. The world could not allow a country, no matter how powerful, to claim an entire sea as its own. Under the current situation, the Philippines was not able to fish in its traditional fishing grounds.
The representative of China, responding to his counterpart, said he regretted that the Philippines delegate had abused the United Nations forum to put forward “so-called arbitration” in the South China Sea. The Philippines’ unilateral arbitration of the issue was a “political provocation under the cloak of law” which attempted to negate China’s territorial sovereignty. The Chinese Foreign Ministry had issued a document stating that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction. China was committed to resolving disputes with the Philippines through negotiations and consultations. The Philippines had violated China’s rights as a State party to UNCLOS and eroded the authority of that convention. He called on all parties to preserve the Convention’s integrity.
The representative of the Philippines said the Assembly was a forum for the peaceful settlement of disputes. Therefore, she was within her rights to raise the arbitration issue. The Tribunal had jurisdiction and China was obliged to implement its decisions. China had always invoked historic rights, but their nine-dash line claim was not historic. China had not clarified the nature of its historic right or the meaning of its own nine-dash line. There was no overlapping territory between the Philippines and China and there was no exclusive economic zone.
The representative of China challenged the idea of no overlapping maritime area between the two countries. Under article 288 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Tribunal had no jurisdiction. It had no jurisdiction because resolving the dispute would lead to the division of many islands and certain submerged features. The Tribunal had no jurisdiction over claims regarding certain rocks, as that was a sovereignty issue not related to UNCLOS.