Press Releases

    GA/10425
    29 November 2005

    General Assembly Hears Calls for Improved Understanding, Protection of World's Marine Environment, Sustainable Fishing Practices

    NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Speakers in the General Assembly today called for improved understanding of deep sea biodiversity, protection of marine ecosystems and better control of the fishery industry, as they embarked on an annual consideration of oceans and law of the sea, as well as sustainable fisheries.

    Today's debate also featured the introduction of two related draft resolutions.  An omnibus text on oceans and the law of the sea would have the Assembly reaffirm the unified character of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the need to preserve its integrity.  States would be called on to become parties to the Convention and to the Fish Stocks Agreement, and to harmonize national legislation with the Convention.  Other issues addressed by the text included marine debris, marine pollution and piracy.

    Introducing that text, Brazil's representative said the draft recognized the role the Convention played in relation to peace and security and sustainable maritime activity.  It also reflected important achievements, including the launch of a global review process and work on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions.  It called for international cooperation on issues such as marine biodiversity and research, and in addressing problems such as excess fishing.

    Introducing the draft on sustainable fisheries, the representative of the United States said the language in the text emphasized the need to protect sensitive underwater features and vulnerable marine ecosystems from the impacts of fishing.  It called on States and regional organizations to adopt measures to regulate bottom fisheries and destructive fishing practices.  He said progress had been made in that regard, and called on States to sign the Fish Stocks Agreement before the Review Conference that would be held in May 2006.

    Like numerous speakers, Nepal's representative called for measures at the international level to ensure sustainable uses of the oceans and to conserve the biodiversity of the international seabed as the common human heritage.  He said the 2005 World Summit had recognized the concerns of landlocked developing countries, and the Convention on the Law of the Sea provided for the right of access to and from the sea.  He called on the International Seabed Authority to take measures to protect the seabed flora and fauna.

    Similarly, Palau's representative called for protecting the rich biodiversity of the sea bottom as the common heritage of all people, and said her country had called for an interim prohibition on unregulated bottom-trawling.  The ban had not been agreed on this year but the language in the fisheries resolution called for a strengthened review process that paved the way for next year.  States should cooperate with the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea of the United Nations Legal Affairs Office in its report on destructive fishing practices so a legal infrastructure could be developed to prohibit the destructive practice of deep sea bottom-trawling.

    The Pacific Islands Forum firmly supported the need to take urgent action to prevent and manage the effects of destructive fishing practices, including bottom-trawling, which adversely affected vulnerable marine ecosystems, said the representative of Papua New Guinea, speaking on the Forum's behalf.  Leaders of the Forum, seriously concerned about the problem, had agreed to develop an appropriate legal framework for consideration in 2006 and were giving thought to such a framework within their own region.  Members also remained concerned about illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which was one of the greatest threats to future sustainability of their regional marine resources and environment.

    Reporting on the activities of the International Seabed Authority, its Secretary-General said a voluntary trust fund was being considered to encourage the participation of developing country scientists in the Authority's sessions, the next of which would be in August 2006.  An endowment fund established from contractor fees was also under consideration since the lack of participation by Member States posed a difficulty.  The Authority's reach was universal since its rules and regulations were binding, but its work was hampered by the need for a 50 per cent quorum for its sessions.

    Also speaking today were the representatives of United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Fiji, Mexico, Tunisia, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, India, China, Norway, Kuwait, Australia, Iceland, Japan, Indonesia, Canada, Kenya, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Cuba, Nigeria, Monaco, Russian Federation, Uruguay and Peru.

    Representatives of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, as well as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea also spoke.

    Speaking in explanation of position before action on the draft resolutions were the delegations of China, Turkey, France and Venezuela.

    The Assembly will resume its consideration of the draft resolutions at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 November, when it is also expected to take up the situation in Afghanistan, the report of the Economic and Social Council, and follow-up to the Millennium Summit.

    Background

    The General Assembly met today to consider questions concerning oceans and the law of the sea, including fisheries; the situation in Afghanistan; the report of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.

    Before the Assembly is the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/60/63), addressed to the Assembly and to States parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  The report served as the basis for discussion at the sixth meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (New York, 6-10 June), which focused on fisheries and their contribution to sustainable development and marine debris.

    In his report, the Secretary-General presents an update on the Convention and its Implementing Agreements, on declarations and statements made by States parties to the Convention and on submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.  Also included is a special report on the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster and a section on capacity-building, along with an update on safety and security measures relative to navigation and environmental protection.  Finally, an update is included on activities of the Oceans and Coastal Areas Network, a mechanism for inter-agency coordination and cooperation.

    From all that, the Secretary-General concludes that the future of the oceans depends on enhanced scientific research into ocean processes, implementing instruments to regulate ocean activities and approaching ocean management in an integrated manner.  To counter threats posed by climate change, natural disasters, environmental degradation, depletion of fisheries, loss of biodiversity and ineffective flag State control, he recommends a number of measures to be taken.  Among those are ratification and implementation of the Convention; better flag State control of activities; address of climate change and related effects, and of fisheries depletion; sound waste management practices; biodiversity conservation; and launch of global reporting mechanisms.

    One addendum to the report covers issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (document A/60/63/Add.1).  It presents information on the scientific and technical, as well as legal and socio-economic, aspects of conservation-related matters beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  It also contains recommendations on where States could take further actions to study conditions and possible options for international cooperation and coordination.  Also included is a report on United Nations activities and those of other organizations in relation to sustainable marine activity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

    That report concludes that sustainable use of biodiversity is receiving increasing attention as an integral part of socio-economic development and, therefore, warrants the gathering of more data on such aspects as the diversity of deep sea organization and the distribution of ecosystems.  New technologies must be developed towards that end, including in relation to conducting sampling.  Intensive international cooperation will be required to meet the costs of developing those expensive technologies, and economic benefits of developments must be balanced with sustainability considerations.  Since loss of marine diversity can greatly limit socio-economic benefits for future generations, marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions must be given a more prominent role in taking marine-related measures.  The stresses created by human-impact activities must also be studied.

    A second addendum reports on developments in implementing the Convention on the Law of the Sea by the United Nations system (document A/60/63/Add.2).  It provides information on the status of the Convention and its implementing Agreements, recent developments in the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, maritime claims, capacity-building, navigation safety, maritime security and environmental protection.  An update on the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster is also included.

    The report concludes that the Informal Consultative Process had reached the end of its second three-year cycle and was due for review at the Assembly's sixtieth session.  The Global Programme of Action would celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2006 and would be reviewing efforts to protect the marine environment from land-based activities.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was implementing an impressive number of instruments related to shipping but serious problems remained unresolved, particularly in relation to labour conditions, persons in distress and piracy.  Work was continuing on waste management and ship recycling.  The response to the tsunami disaster had been rapid, with a focus on "building back better".  In fact, the key to the future was to expand capacity-building activities of developing countries to strengthen their ocean-related infrastructures and services.

    In another report, the Secretary-General provides information on the second International Workshop on the regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects (New York, 13-15 June)(document A/60/91).  The Workshop's conclusions are included in an annex for the Assembly's consideration on how to proceed with its work on "Assessment of Assessments".  Those conclusions set out the features of the "Assessment of Assessments" process and states that it should respect the sovereign rights of coastal States.  It should be essentially science-based and cover assessments of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.  The aims of the process are also set out, as are the organizational arrangements to conduct activities and financial arrangements for them.

    A report of the sixth meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process is contained in a letter by its co-chairs to the Assembly (document A/60/99), stating that the Process could not finalize all elements under consideration but the agreements reached in relation to marine debris and to cooperation were enclosed.  A summary of the discussions was also enclosed.  A list of other issues that could benefit from the Assembly's attention is also included.  Those cover issues such as the application of an ecosystem approach to oceans management and the development of short-, medium- and long-term mechanisms to address decline of the marine environment, as well as integrated approaches for addressing marine pollution, labour rights of those in the maritime sectors, promotion of research and capacity-building, and coastal hazard preparedness.

    By the omnibus draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/60/L.22), the Assembly, reaffirming the unified character of the 1982 Convention and the need to preserve its integrity, would call on all States that had not done so to become parties to the Convention and to the "Fish Stocks Agreement", as well as to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention.

    Moreover, the Assembly would call on donor agencies and international financial institutions to review their programmes in order to ensure the availability in all States, particularly in developing States, for the skills necessary for the full implementation of the Convention, as well as the sustainable development of the oceans and seas, bearing in mind the interests and needs of landlocked developing States.

    The Assembly would also encourage States to cooperate to address piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling and terrorist acts against shipping and other maritime interests, and to work with the IMO to promote safe and secure shipping while ensuring freedom of navigation.  It would welcome progress in regional cooperation in that regard and urge States to give urgent attention to adopting, concluding and implementing cooperation agreements at the regional level in high risk areas.

    Furthermore, the Assembly would urge States to integrate the issue of marine debris within national strategies dealing with waste management in the coastal zone, ports and maritime industries and to discourage ships from discharging marine debris at sea.  It would call on States to control, reduce and minimize marine pollution from land-based sources.  The Assembly would also call on States to improve understanding and knowledge of the deep sea, in particular of the extent and vulnerability of deep sea biodiversity and ecosystems.

    Finally, the Assembly, endorsing the conclusions of the second International Workshop on the regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects ("the regular process"), would decide to launch the start-up phase of "assessment of assessments" by establishing an Ad Hoc Steering Group in that regard.

    Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General's report on sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for implementing provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea related to conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and related instruments (document A/60/189).  In it, the Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of States fully implementing all international fishery instruments, whether legally binding or voluntary, which provide for conservation and management measures and sustainable use of marine living resources.  States are invited to cooperate in all relevant areas, including in the establishment of new regional fisheries management structures where none exist, to apply precautionary and ecosystem approaches and to collect and exchange data and statistics.

    Further, the report includes information on actions taken to address the issues of lost or abandoned gear, marine debris, destructive fishing practices and regulation of bottom fisheries.  A brief report on the status and activities of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement Assistance Fund is also included.  The report concludes that legal instruments providing for responsible fisheries need to be implemented if stated goals are to be met.  Responsible fisheries need a strong commitment to apply the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fishing activities.  They also need strengthened regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, as well as more effective implementation of legal obligations by flag States.

    By a related draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (document A/60/L.23), the General Assembly would call on all States that have not done so to become parties to the Convention -- which sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out -- while mindful of the relationship between the Convention and the Fish Stocks Agreement.  It would further call on all States to apply, in accordance with international law, the "precautionary" and "ecosystem" approach to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks, including straddling fish stocks and high migratory fish stocks.  The Assembly would also call on parties to the Agreement to harmonize their national legislation with the Agreement's provisions, and ensure that those provisions are implemented into regional fisheries management arrangements and that their vessels comply with those measures.

    Also by the text, the Assembly would call upon States not to permit their vessels to engage in fishing on the high seas or in areas under the national jurisdiction of other States unless authorized by the States concerned, and to deter the reflagging of vessels by their nationals.  It would also affirm the need to strengthen the international legal framework to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing at the regional and subregional levels by developing vessel monitoring systems and -- where consistent with international law -- monitoring trade by collecting global catch data.

    The Assembly would further call on flag and port States to prevent the operation of substandard vessels and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.  It would also request States and relevant international bodies to develop measures to enable importing States to identify fishery products caught in a manner that undermines international conservation and management measures, and further call on States to ensure that vessels flying their flag do not engage in transhipment of fish caught illegally.

    With regard to its consideration of Afghanistan, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General's report on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security and on emergency assistance for peace, normality and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan (document A/60/224).  The report states that funding was a crucial factor in the parliamentary and provincial council elections held in September, which marked the completion of the benchmarks set out in the political agenda of the 2001 Bonn Agreement.  Implementation of the institutional agenda, however, has been uneven across sectors and continues to be a challenge.  Many institutions remained weak and susceptible to corruption.

    Reform of the security sector was also uneven, with additional support of some $21 million needed to complete the strategy for disbanding illegal armed groups, the report continues.  The Afghan National Army would reach its target strength of 43,000 by September 2007, three years ahead of schedule, and the current plan calling for 62,000 Afghan National Police to be trained by the end of this year would require additional funding with 40,000 officers trained and a new police reform and mentor programme needed.

    The cultivation and trade in narcotics remains a major threat to the rule of law and democratic stability in the country.  Reform in the justice sector has been slow due to lack of capacity, poor infrastructure and communications, and the difficulty of integrating legal reform with mechanisms of traditional justice.  Insufficient resources have also hampered the development of provincial administrations responsive to the central Government.

    Economic growth in the urban centres has been significant over the past three years, the report states.  However, uncertainty in the security situation and underdevelopment in the legal and regulatory frameworks continue to discourage private sector investment.  Projected estimates indicate State revenues will average less than $400 million annually until 2008, which is less than half the amount needed for public sector salaries and operations.  Despite extensive assistance, the smooth transition from relief to recovery has been hampered by drought, internal displacement, land rights issues, urban pressures of relocating returnees and most recently, flooding.  While the Transitional Administration's disaster response mechanisms have grown increasingly effective, the security situation continues to be a paramount concern with increasing sophistication in weapons and type of attacks being carried out by anti-government elements, especially in the south and east.

    A draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/60/L.27) would have the Assembly call on the international community to support the upcoming completion of Afghanistan's political transition according to the Bonn process with the establishment of the National Assembly of Afghanistan.  The Assembly would urge the international community to support the Afghan Government's preparation of an interim national development strategy, which is to be considered at a conference in London planned for January 2006.  It would also stress the importance of providing sufficient security in the post-Bonn process, and call on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to the International Security Assistance Force, and to further develop provincial reconstruction teams in close coordination with the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

    Regarding the Economic and Social Council, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution on deferral of the smooth transition period for the graduation of Maldives from the list of least developed countries (document A/60/L.21).  The text would have the Assembly decide to defer the commencement of the three-year smooth transition period for that purpose in the case of Maldives for a period of three years, while underlining the unique nature of the decision, taken in context of the unprecedented natural disaster caused by the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

    Also before the Assembly on that item is a draft concerning public administration and development (document A/60/L.24), by which the Assembly would stress that national efforts were essential for achieving agreed upon development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and would encourage States to step up those efforts.  The international community would be encouraged to provide assistance towards that end.  All States would be requested to abide by principles of proper management of public affairs, agreeing that the United Nations should promote innovation in government through existing channels such as the United Nations Public Service Day, the United Nations Public Service Awards mechanism and the United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and finance.

    Further, the value of the Global Forum on Reinventing Government would be stressed in terms of exchanges in lessons learned.  The Assembly would take note with appreciation of the Seoul Declaration on Participatory and Transparent Governance adopted by the Sixth Global Forum in Seoul during May, and would emphasize the importance of the Seventh Global Forum to be hosted by the United Nations in 2007 on the theme of improving public administration to achieve the development goals.

    In relation to the follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, the Assembly has before it a draft on enhancing capacity-building in global public health (document A/60/L.26), by which it would urge Member States to integrate public health into national economic and social development strategies, and to increase investment in improving developing country health systems.  The Assembly would emphasize the importance of active international cooperation in the control of infectious diseases and would call for improving the global public health preparedness and response systems.  The World Health Assembly resolution adopted in May would be recognized with regard to strengthening pandemic-influenza preparedness and response, with States called on to implement the International Health Regulations adopted at the same time.

    Introduction of Drafts

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) introduced the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/60/L.22), which, he said, clearly recognized the pre-eminent role of the Convention in maintaining and strengthening international peace and security, as well as the sustainable development of the uses and activities of the oceans and seas.  The draft's provisions reflected several important achievements, including the launch of the start-up phase for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment; the review and renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans, with the recommendation to focus discussions on "ecosystem approaches and oceans" during its next meeting; and the agreement reached on participation in the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions.

    He said it was essential that the international community engage in discussions on marine biodiversity, as well as on marine scientific research.  Activities in that area were to be carried out for the benefit of mankind, taking into particular consideration the interests and needs of developing States.  He was very concerned about the topic to be focused on next year by the Informal Consultative Process, considering that the international community had been unable to agree on any definition of ecosystem approach in other multilateral forums.

    He said the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (document A/60/L.23) was inspired by the common goal of establishing appropriated conservation and management measures for making fisheries a sustainable activity.  The challenge was to implement those measures and encourage States to comply with them.  The problem of excess fishing capacity was attributable not only to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing but also to the fishery fleets of some developed States.  That should not jeopardize the efforts of developing States to engage in sustainable fishery activities, including through renovating their fishery fleets.

    DAVID BALTON ( United States) introduced the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (A/60/L.23).  He said the draft's enhanced language underscored the importance of addressing the issue of protecting certain sensitive underwater features and vulnerable marine ecosystems from the impacts of fishing.  In particular, it called upon States and regional fisheries management organizations to urgently take action to regulate bottom fisheries and the impacts of destructive fishing practices through the adoption of appropriate conservation and management measures.

    He said he was encouraged by recent progress in addressing the impacts of fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems.  The current year's fisheries resolution continued to lay the foundation for the Review Conference, scheduled for May 2006.  He strongly supported increasing membership in the Fish Stocks Agreement and hoped that all States that had not yet done so would consider becoming parties in advance of the Conference.  On the resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, he said he was pleased with progress made on an array of issues.  The resolution recognized that the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf would become increasingly significant as more States initiated the process of establishing the boundaries of their continental shelves.  He said he looked forward to further clarity with respect to information offered for the Commission's consideration.

    There was one area of concern for possible future trends, he said.  The law of the sea resolution was not the most appropriate forum in which to discuss the complex issue of transhipment of radioactive materials.  Although he recognized the importance many delegations attached to that issue, it was such a technical and difficult one that, to be given fair consideration, it must be raised in organizations better equipped to do so.  Those organizations were the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the IMO.  He would encourage all Member States particularly interested in the issue to join those organizations.

    BEN BRADSHAW, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said a key theme in the work of the Assembly was improving oceans and fisheries governance, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  The Union attached particular importance to two governance issues:  combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and addressing the conservation of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

    Regarding the first issue, he said the Union placed particular emphasis on the need of major markets for fish and fish products to take measures to eliminate the commerce on which illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing fleets rely, and to enhance assistance to developing States to develop control and management capacities.  Flag States must exercise effective control over ships flying their flag.  The crucial issue of the "genuine link" between States and their flagged vessels, something which went much wider than illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing alone, needed to be addressed.

    Another concern to be addressed was the impact of fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems, he said.  As well as tackling immediate sectoral threats, additional, integrated measures might need to be taken by the international community, including the establishment of marine protected areas.  Next February's meeting of the United Nations working group on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was an opportunity to engage with all key stakeholders about the way forward.  Stressing the importance of the principle of freedom of navigation, including the right of innocent passage and transit passage through straits used for international navigation, he said port States should exercise their right with regard to access to their ports in a manner that was non-discriminatory and consistent with the Convention on the Law of the Sea and international law.

    On the issue of security and safety at sea, he said the two 2005 Protocols amending the Conventions for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms enhanced anti-terrorism efforts, and urged States to ensure their effective implementation.  He attached great importance to resolving the discrepancy between the observer status of the European Community and its competences with respect to issues discussed in previous meetings of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans, noting that the Community was a contracting party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Fish Stocks Agreement.

    STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his delegation was encouraged by the progress towards universal ratification of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and welcomed the overall progress made by the three institutions created by that instrument over the past year.  He noted that the reports before the Assembly had placed special emphasis on the importance of marine scientific research, an area of concern that had been brought into sharp relief by last December's Indian Ocean tsunami.  They also highlighted other issues CARICOM believed important, including the links between marine resources and sustainable development, and the many developments relating to the safety of navigation, welfare of seafarers and the protection of the marine environment, as well as capacity-building activities.

    Despite their small size, CARICOM States continued to make significant contributions to global marine scientific research.  However, there remained a need to ensure that stable financial and technical resources were made available to sustain those efforts.  He stressed his delegation's particular interest in the protection of the Caribbean Sea, particularly regarding the transportation of nuclear waste materials through Caribbean waters.  The CARICOM had consistently opposed such transhipment and would urge the parties concerned to refrain from using the Sea as a shipment route.

    Addressing the matter on a wider scale was equally important, he said, urging all States to continue efforts to ensure the implementation of the Action Plan for the Safety of Transport of Radioactive Material.  He also expressed concern at the continued incidents of piracy, armed robbery and smuggling at sea, particularly the increased level of violence associated with those crimes.  He urged all States to take such threats to maritime security seriously and to continue to collaborate with all parties, including the shipping industry and coastal communities to address those concerns.  He also stressed the importance of ensuring wider cooperation on interdiction and other security matters in Caribbean waters.  Such cooperation should cover all illegal activities and stretch beyond drug trafficking and the spread of weapons of mass destruction to include small arms, which were a danger to regional stability.  Creative methods should also be found to assist CARICOM States in their interdiction efforts, particularly in the acquisition of equipment and vessels.

    Turning to preservation of the Caribbean marine environment, he highlighted the regional steps that had been taken to advance work in focus areas, such as coral reef management, sustainable tourism and environmental education.  And while the recently-launched CARICOM Regional Fishing Mechanism had already shown positive results, illegal and unregulated fishing remained a major concern.  Finally, he requested that the International Hydrographic Organization intensify its capacity-building efforts in developing countries, particularly for help in producing electronic nautical charts that could be used to provide data on fisheries activities and matters related to the delimitation of maritime borders.

    On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, MATHILDA TAKAKU ( Papua New Guinea) said that issues of oceans, fisheries and law of the sea were of great importance to the Forum, which was firmly committed to the proper conservation and management of the oceans.  The Forum's members launched the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Framework for Integrated Strategic Action at the Mauritius International Meeting in January, and it looked forward to providing regular updates on national implementation towards better, integrated oceans management in the region.  The annual debate and resolutions on oceans and law of the sea were part of the ongoing strengthening of "oceans governance", in which the unique Pacific perspective must be incorporated.

    She said that participation in the whole menu of United Nations negotiations presented an ongoing challenge for smaller States, however.  Fortunately, the Assembly had addressed the problem of scheduling clashes in concrete terms this year.  She supported the limited timeframe to four weeks for consultations next year, and encouraged Member States to ensure that the time allocation was efficiently and effectively used.  She also encouraged them to consider innovative ways to ensure that the resolutions remained concise and salient expressions of current oceans concerns.  The establishment of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, which would meet again in February 2006, had her support as well.  Hopefully, that meeting would help identify the ways in which the international community could work together to improve conservation and management of the biodiversity of the oceans.

    The Forum also firmly supported the need to take urgent action to prevent and manage the effects of destructive fishing practices, she said.  That included bottom-trawling, which adversely affected vulnerable marine ecosystems.  Last year, Forum leaders noted the call for a moratorium on deep sea bottom-trawling and for the creation of a legal framework to manage that fishing method to protect biodiversity in the high seas.  The leaders, seriously concerned about the problem, had agreed to develop an appropriate legal framework for consideration in 2006 and were giving thought to such a framework within their own region.  Members also remained concerned about illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, which was one of the greatest threats to future sustainability of their regional marine resources and environment, about which more must be done.

    SAINIVALATI NAVOTI ( Fiji) said the future of the planet depended on an intimate understanding of oceans processes and their interaction.  His country had understood the importance of interactions between fishing activities and ecosystems, including the adverse effects of removing large quantities of species, and had reduced the number of tuna fishing licenses, despite the fact that export of tuna constituted 94 per cent of all fish exports.  It was looking into the feasibility of restricting the use of long liners and purse-seiners, and to enhance game-fishing as a more viable option.  It was disheartening to note that coral reefs, invaluable human treasures that had provided wave-resistant structures and resources for fisheries and tourism, were under serious threat due to over-fishing, development and climate change.  There was a need to mainstream sustainable coral reef management into national development strategies.

    He said marine reserves, conservation, sustainable development and reduction of fishing licenses could not be enforced without the cooperation of neighbours, including a change in attitude "among unscrupulous businessmen who think nothing of the damages sustained by the sea but focus solely on profit".  International cooperation was essential for the successful implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and continued global, regional and subregional partnerships would ensure that marine resources were preserved.  However, for many small island developing States, implementation of the Convention continued to be impeded by financial constraints and lack of capacity.  Reiterating his concern of insufficient scientific information about the destructive impacts of deep sea fishing practices, he noted a proposal by Palau for a moratorium on deep sea bottom-trawling and for the creation of a legal framework to manage that method of fishing.

    LEON FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ ZAHAR ( Mexico) said that while there had been some progress in protecting the world's oceans and seas, the marine environment was still deteriorating because States were not cooperating on implementation of the international framework regime set out in the UNCLOS.  A broad "ecosystem" approach was required in the area of oceans management, and there should also be a more cohesive framework for punishing those who continued to damage fragile marine ecosystems.

    He stressed the importance of assistance to developing countries for capacity-building, particularly in the development and use of electronic maps, which could be helpful for seabed monitoring and broader information and data collection.  Such capacity-building could also help those countries boost their deep-sea fishing capabilities.

    Calling attention to the importance of monitoring the transhipment of nuclear wastes through global waters, as well as the destruction of deep seabeds and protected marine areas, he said that the scale and great variety of the subject matter covered by the draft resolutions being considered today was a testament to the international community's commitment to ensuring the protection of seas and oceans.  At the same time, maintaining or protecting marine environments depended on whether the international community used them in a sustainable manner, and recognized that the problems of the world's oceans were interrelated.  In that regard, the UNCLOS continued to be the legal framework under which all such activities were gathered.

    SABRI CHAABANI ( Tunisia) said the next year would be an important one for oceans and the law of the sea, particularly with the launch of a process to create a global international legal framework governing biological resources in sea areas beyond national jurisdiction.  There was a growing awareness of the importance of oceans and seas for land-based ecosystems.  They ensured food security in developing countries, as well as economic prosperity and well-being for future generations.  The Assembly should ensure the sustained use of fisheries by guiding and coordinating programmes set in place by specialized institutions.

    He said his country was especially interested in the moratorium on deep sea bottom-trawling.  However, fisheries beyond national jurisdictions, in such closed bodies of water as the Mediterranean should be controlled by regional organizations.  Tunisia was a developing coastal country, which had adopted laws creating exclusive economic zones in line with United Nations conventions.  As necessary, it would establish outer limits for the zones through joint work with neighbouring States.  While understanding the reconsideration of aspects of the regime, including adaptation to economic and political realities, developing countries wished to preserve the spirit of the Convention.

    SHIN KAK-SOO (Republic of Korea) said that the world's oceans and seas were invaluable to the welfare of humanity, providing living and non-living marine resources and vital means of transportation.  Unfortunately, however, maritime security was a serious concern for many seafaring States.  Piracy and armed robbery at sea required particular vigilance at the subregional, regional and global levels, such as the 16-country cooperative that had been established to eradicate those scourges from South Asian waters.  It was also important to boost scientific and technical cooperation and assistance to help all countries develop marine-science capacities and promote better data collection and research.

    He said that in order to achieve the conservation, management, and sustainable use of living marine resources, States must also cooperate to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  The international community should quickly set relevant priorities.  The Republic of Korea's own efforts to manage and preserve its waters included a plan that prevented the operation of sub-standard vessels and provided the country with a remedy for illegal fishing by allowing it to exercise effective control to prevent illegal fishing.  The Republic was also working to prevent and reduce pollution of its waters by seafaring vessels and land-based sources.  Regarding last year's Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the international community should engage in capacity-building cooperation to help developing countries strengthen relevant infrastructures.

    ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said her country was concerned about the negative impacts of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and looked forward to discussing issues relating to conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction at the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group in February 2006.

    For its part, her country was in the process of establishing a regional fisheries management organization in the Tasman Sea area adjacent to New Zealand's waters.  With the support of Australia and Chile, New Zealand would also host, in February 2006, the first intergovernmental meeting to discuss the establishment of a regional fisheries management organization in the South Pacific to regulate those species not covered by existing management organizations.  Meanwhile, the country would continue to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum -- whose leaders met most recently in October 2005 -- to tackle issues such as the management of deep sea bottom-trawling and to ensure better protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in general.

    NIRUPAM SEN (India), noting the considerable progress made by all subsidiary institutions under the Convention, said that, over the past year, the international community had focused on issues of navigation, conservation and management of living marine resources and of biological diversity of the sea bed in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  The need for devising new approaches within the confines of the Convention to promote international cooperation and benefit sharing in the areas beyond national jurisdiction could not be over-emphasized.  Participation of developing countries in those endeavours greatly depended on the scientific information available to them, and transfer of knowledge was therefore needed.

    Expressing serious concern over the escalation of piracy, including the hijacking of a World Food Programme (WFP) ship carrying aid for Somalia, he said the international community must find ways and means to end that menace.  Another matter of serious concern was the increase of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities, as was fishing-overcapacity.  Any action that would help in reversing the trend of over-fishing would help in the reduction of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and would guarantee the enforcement of the rights of developing coastal States.  Another way of eliminating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing was eliminating subsidies that contributed to that practice.  Also, developing countries needed assistance in capacity-building and in developing skills to manage the oceans for their economic development.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that the United Nations was the most appropriate and authoritative forum for dealing with issues on oceans and the law of the sea, and the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process set up by the General Assembly had served as an important forum for States, including non-parties to the Convention, to discuss and coordinate their positions.  China supported the extension of that Process for another three years, and also stood ready to contribute to the establishment of a process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including its socio-economic aspects.  With regard to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, China welcomed the establishment of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group and would actively take part in it.

    He pointed to the need for balance between the practice of "first come, first serve" and the need to ensure the right of all countries, particular developing countries, to share fishery resources.  In order to enhance the capacity of developing countries in marine conservation and management, developed countries should facilitate the transfer of marine technologies to developing countries under reasonable conditions.  Also, international organizations should help developing countries carry out their regional and multilateral responsibilities by securing appropriate international funding for marine research and development and personnel training.  For its part, China was willing to share its experiences in marine capacity-building with other developing countries.  Indeed, it was important to build the capacity of developing countries in nautical charts production, ship building, protection of marine environment, marine science research and development, law enforcement at sea and combating maritime crimes.

    MONA JUUL ( Norway) said the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement was an essential contribution to the law of the sea.  When the international community reviewed it in May, it must keep in mind that the Agreement should be regarded as an infant in the context of international law, and that it was too soon to discuss amendments to it.  The Review Conference would also provide an opportunity to take a closer look at what was keeping States from joining the Agreement.

    She said that national and regional efforts in the sustainable management of living resources within maritime zones were not served as long as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing existed.  Such fishing was the single most serious threat to the world's marine resources.  The responsibility for curbing it unquestionably rested with each and every State involved with fishing or fish trading.  Unfortunately, some States allowed vessels to fly their flags without ensuring that their fishing practices were legal and sound.  A substantial strengthening of targeted port State control measures was crucial in order to effectively combat such fishing.

    She said that despite the focus on the high seas, the main problems were still to be found within national zones.  Therefore, the main focus should be on strengthening national and regional environmental and resource management.  States had jurisdiction to regulate activities by their subordinates on the high seas, which came down to a question of political will.  The focus should be on identifying practical measures to deal with specific problems, utilizing existing instruments and mechanisms to their fullest extent.  Negotiating new instruments would be time-consuming and difficult, and it would take away valuable resources and focus.

    FALAH AL-MUTAIRI ( Kuwait) joined those speakers who had urged States that had not yet done so to join the Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as those who had praised the work of the three main bodies created under that important instrument.  He also called on States to enhance their capacity-building initiatives, particularly technical cooperation, to help developing countries deal with all aspects of integrated management of their seas and oceans.  He also urged the international community to redouble its effort to fight pollution and to implement the Action Plan of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, which had specifically called on all States to step up their efforts to protect biodiversity and fragile marine environments.  He said Kuwait was working with all the countries of the Gulf on regional plans to protect common waters.  It was also working with the IAEA in that regard.

    ROBERT RAY ( Australia) said that in coming years, the international community should continue to focus on ensuring effective oceans governance through implementation of the Convention and related instruments.  It must also continue its work in identifying any gaps in the regime for high seas governance.  He expressed his concern about the numerous scheduling clashes between informal meetings for preparing Assembly resolutions and other essential meetings this year.  Those clashes had made effective participation in the informal preparatory process extremely difficult.  He also urged all members to shorten resolutions in the future by avoiding repeating the same things year after year.

    He said threats to maritime security could not be ignored, and called for effective counter-measures at the international, regional and bilateral levels.  Regional organizations played an important role in the management of responsible and ecologically sustainable fishing, especially in areas where no management regime currently existed.  The focus should not be limited simply to the issue of bottom-trawling.  The efficacy of measures would depend in part on the willingness of flag States to properly regulate and control the activities of their nationals.  States had an obligation to either join relevant regional fisheries management organizations where they were entitled to do so, or to otherwise refrain from fishing in areas regulated by such organizations.

    He added that treating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as a single problem had perhaps outlived its usefulness.  After all, such fishing was not one problem but three, each of which required separate international responses.  Those responses must hone in on flag States' responsibility over their vessels when fishing on the high seas, or in the exclusive economic zones of other States.

    HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland) highlighted the important work being undertaken by the mechanisms that had been created under the Convention, and stressed the paramount importance of the Fish Stocks Agreement, which had considerably strengthened the framework for the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks by regional fisheries management organizations.  Overall, he stressed that the Assembly's discussions on matters related to oceans and law of the sea should focus on specific issues of global import and not on matters that fell within the purview of the sovereign rights of States or the responsibility of relevant regional organizations.  Indeed, the Assembly should focus on matters related to pollution, while local and regional groups should focus on conservation and suitable use of marine resources.

    With those examples in mind, Iceland could not accept opening the door for global micro-management of fisheries, which were subject to sovereign rights of States or were operated under the responsibility of regional fisheries management organizations.  His delegation was pleased that the relevant draft before the Assembly this year recognized that sovereign right.   Iceland, like many other coastal States, had been applying area restrictions and closures as one of its fisheries management tools for years, and Icelandic authorities continued to work on protecting vulnerable marine ecosystems within its national jurisdiction.

    He went on to say that Iceland had actively encouraged an open discussion on marine pollution, particularly from land-based sources, long-recognized as one of the most serious and extensive threats to the health of marine ecosystems.  To that end, the implementation of the Global Programme of Action to Protect the Marine Environment from Land-based Sources had fallen short of expectations, with only a few countries having adopted such plans.   Iceland would strongly urge all States that had not done so to develop relevant plans, based on sound scientific advice.

    TOSHIRO OZAWA ( Japan) said that his country, a seafaring nation with a vast exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, was the largest contributor to the organs established under the Convention.  From 6 to 7 March 2006, it would host, in cooperation with the United Nations University, the Symposium on Scientific and Technical Aspects on the establishment of the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.  Noting that there were more than 300 incidents of piracy around the world last year, half of them concentrated in Asia, he welcomed the adoption in Tokyo last November of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, for which Japan had taken the initiative.

    He said the preservation of the marine environment was extremely important for Japan, particularly the issue of marine debris.  That issue should be tackled at various levels.  At the regional level, Japan was considering the utilization of the framework of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan. His country was also seriously concerned about illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries activities and over-capacity issues that were becoming more serious in spite of efforts made to promote sustainable use of living marine resources.  Discussions of the issues should be based on scientific evidence provided by competent organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and regional fisheries management organizations.  Regarding the omnibus resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, he expressed dissatisfaction that paragraph 46, dealing with the transport of radioactive materials, did not reflect the spirit or substance of the series of thorough discussions conducted by the IAEA and relevant organizations.

    SANGA PANGABEAN ( Indonesia) noted that marine resources extended beyond fisheries, oil and gas to include economically valuable benefits such as genetic or biological resources.  Already, issues related to the problem of benefit-sharing had emerged. Indonesia viewed the 1982 Convention as the main international instrument to address such issues.  The Fish Stocks Agreement was also important to Indonesia, in light of the importance of fisheries to its economy, as was the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Seabed Authority, for their research in ocean-related benefits-sharing.

    In addition to the management of marine resources, other challenges relating to the seas included how to deal with persistent threats to commercial vessels by pirates and armed robbers.  He noted the link made in some reports between terrorism and sea robbers. However, although Indonesia took the war against terrorism seriously, it also believed that the international community should respect the sovereignty of littoral States when dealing with safety on the straits, and should acknowledge that the primary responsibility to ensure maritime security lay with those States.  For their part, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore had intensified their cooperation regarding the security of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore through the Tripartite Technical Experts Group on Safety Navigation, reaching an agreement in August 2005 to collaborate more closely with the international community on the issue.  In another dialogue in September 2005, involving major shipping industries, it was recommended that the IMO facilitate a project of the Marine Electronic Highway for those sea lanes.

    LORI RIDGEWAY ( Canada) said the need for concerted and coherent action to live up to commitments for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans had never before been so pressing.  Many commitments remained elusive due to the lack of capacity, tools and agreement on future steps, which risked appearing as a lack of international resolve to move forward decisively.  There could be no success without international cooperation, and the world must make better use of legally-binding, as well as voluntary tools dealing with fisheries and ocean management.  Action to prevent overfishing started at home.  A coalition of support for national, regional and global change was needed to ensure that domestic overdependence and overcapacity did not create unreasonable pressures that could threaten international cooperation.

    She said the challenge for fisheries governance was not just to fix the problems of the fishery but to ensure that it became a reliable part of the foundation for integrated protection, use and governance of oceans.  Canada's Oceans Action Plans recognized that some marine environments needed special protection and management.  The country had announced plans for a federal network of marine protected areas and would soon host a workshop of international experts to discuss criteria for defining ecologically and biologically significant areas.  Many mechanisms of the domestic and international oceans agenda were nothing more than the sum of the political will and capacities of States players.  Canada was committed to helping in that endeavour.

    NJUGUNA NGUNJIRI ( Kenya) said the lack of, or limited, capacity in many developing countries was a serious impediment to the implementation of the UNCLOS and its related agreements.  Initiatives from the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea had continued to play a lead role in capacity-building initiatives, and should be sustained through increased voluntary contributions to the Trust Funds established under the Convention.  In particular, there was a need for further strengthen regional and subregional scientific research capacities in developing countries.  The frequent occurrence of piracy, including along the Eastern African coast, was an indication of the need for greater focus on high-risk regions, especially in areas where national Governments lacked the capacity effectively to patrol their territorial waters.  Developing coastal States also needed support in enhancing control measures to combat maritime drug trafficking.

    He said that, in order to protect the marine environment from pollution and physical degradation, his country had established national marine parks and reserves.  It had also amended its Merchants' Shipping Act to reduce marine pollution from transport activities and dumping.  Kenya welcomed progress in establishing a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and urged the membership of the Ad Hoc Steering Group to oversee the "Assessment of Assessments" and take into account the need for balanced geographical representation.  Kenya also called for enhanced international cooperation in ensuring sustainable exploitation of fishery resources through the enforcement of measures to prevent destructive fishing practices.  There was an urgent need for capacity-building, including the transfer of marine technology, to help developing States meet their obligations and exercise their rights in order to realize tangible benefits from fisheries resources.

    CHARMAINE MONTEIRO ( Palau) said the vitally rich biodiversity of the sea bottom was the common heritage of all people and must be protected by all Member States.  Palau had, therefore, called for an interim prohibition on unregulated bottom-trawling, as there was currently no effective mechanism for ensuring the sustainability of marine living resources in the high seas.  While an interim ban had not been agreed to during negotiation this year, there was language in the draft resolution calling for a strengthened and more definite review process.

    She said the critical factor now was to ensure that the review process was thorough and would prepare for next year's negotiations.  Palau had noted with concern, however, that while the review took place, the seamounts continued to be vulnerable to destructive fishing practices.  She invited States parties to respond in a detailed manner to the information requested of them by the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs, so that its report on destructive fishing practices could be as useful and comprehensive as possible.  Palau would continue to raise the issue of a prohibition on deep sea bottom-trawling at all international fora until the legal infrastructure was in place to deal with the destructive practice.

    VICTOR KRYZHANIVSKY (Ukraine) said his country, bordering a sea poor in living resources and suffering from the depletion of fish stocks of its exclusive economic zone, placed special emphasis on the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities.  Better international cooperation was needed for the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks and a crucial role in that regard belonged to relevant regional organizations.  Regional fisheries should enhance their cooperation with a larger number of States, in particular with high sea fishing States and geographically disadvantaged States.  His country advocated the obligatory presence of scientific observers on all marine vessels and in all fields of commercial fishing within the sphere of activities of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization and the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

    Considering the problem of stock management, he emphasized the need for stricter measures to limit the level of exploitation of most stocks, as there was at present no universal approach to determine biological criteria of admissible level of stock exploitation.  He said there was a need for effective coordination in integrated ocean management to facilitate sustainable fisheries, enhance maritime safety, and protect the marine environment from pollution.  It was important that the International Seabed Authority, while examining the reports submitted by contractors, continued the elaboration of rules, regulations and procedures to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment and conservation of natural resources.

    RAM BABU DHAKAL ( Nepal) said his delegation had taken note of the reference in paragraph 15 of the Secretary-General's report concerning access to and from the sea by landlocked developing countries and freedom of transit.  He urged the international community to take necessary measures for the sustainable uses of the oceans, and for conservation and management of biodiversity of the international seabed as the common heritage of mankind.  He was concerned that growing deterioration and overexploitation of the marine environment would have a negative effect on global efforts to prevent environmental degradation and promote sustainable development.  He underlined the need to prevent and eliminate pollution of the marine environment from ships and land-based activities.  He encouraged the International Seabed Authority to undertake necessary measures to protect the flora and fauna of the seabed.  There was also a need to regulate prospecting and exploration of polymetallic sulphides and cobalt rich crusts.

    Despite accomplishments over the years in institutionalizing international cooperation in the field of the law of the sea, small developing, landlocked and least developed countries faced disadvantages due to lack of awareness, limited capacity and geographical handicaps for optimal realization of the benefits from the world's oceans and seas.  It was encouraging that article 125 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea provided for the right of access of landlocked countries to and from the sea and freedom of transit through the territories of transit countries by all means of transport.  The 2005 World Summit unequivocally recognized the special difficulties and concerns of landlocked developing countries in their efforts to integrate their economies into the multilateral trading system.  Measures were needed to further strengthen, collaborative efforts to address transit transport issues, among others, on improving the physical infrastructure and non-physical aspects of transit transport systems, developing joint ventures and strengthening institutions and human resources.

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY ( Bangladesh) said that with some 140 million people living within a relatively small, 145,570 km territory with scarce resources, Bangladesh looked to the sea to supplement its needs.  As a coastal country with seafaring traditions, it had joined the UNCLOS in 2001 and looked forward to its fast-approaching universalization, with as many as 148 States parties.  While man had left his footprints on the moon during the past generation, there was a vast gap in knowledge about the depths of the world's seas and oceans, and about their resources.  Indeed, along with a huge variety of living organisms -- which could become major sources of food -- it was estimated that the seabed contained perhaps 300 chemical elements, many of which could prove worthy of exploration or exploitation for the benefit of mankind.  The UNCLOS, therefore, provided the necessary guidance in those regards, as well as on the use of all ocean space, including navigation and over-flight.

    He warned that there was a large-scale imbalance in access to and benefit from the estimated $7 trillion in resources reaped from ocean- and sea-related activities each year, adding that the overall enjoyment of marine resources must promote and protect the interest of all.  Enhanced scientific research was critical for sustainable exploration of marine resources.   Bangladesh was disappointed that the participation of scientists from the developing world in that area was becoming increasingly meagre, effectively reducing the possibility of those countries participating actively in marine-resource exploration and exploitation.   Bangladesh, like many other developing countries, could benefit from technical cooperation with other States parties and relevant institutions in the areas of capacity-building, technology transfer and the development of expertise in areas covered by the UNCLOS.

    NGUYEN DUY CHIEN ( Viet Nam) described his country's continuing efforts in improving the legal framework regulating marine issues.  At the regional level, his country had actively participated in negotiating and adopting the Tokyo Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.  The ministerial meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) held in July in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic, had reaffirmed the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  Viet Nam was committed to implement its provisions, and called upon other signatories to fully implement it and to commit to resolve the dispute in the South China Sea through peaceful means.

    He said that in implementing the Convention on the Law of the Sea, developing countries encountered multiple difficulties due to the lack of technical, administrative and financial capacity.  Continued efforts were needed to assist developing countries in enhancing capacity-building and human resource development, and in getting access to advanced information and technology, including on experiences in ocean exploitation.  In that context, he welcomed the valuable contributions made by all donors to various trust funds of which developing countries were beneficiaries.  He also expressed appreciation for the Division for Ocean Affairs and the law of the Sea in organizing specific training courses and programmes for developing countries.

    AMINU BASHIR WALI ( Nigeria) said the steadfast, efficient and effective application of the provisions of the Convention was central to the continued survival of all life on earth.  Oceans and seas were endangered by factors such as climate change, natural disasters, environmental degradation, depletion of fisheries, loss of biodiversity and ineffective flag State control.  Fisheries management should promote the maintenance of the quality, diversity and availability of fishery resources for present and future generations in the context of food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development.  Fisheries management should take into account the economic, social and cultural needs of fisheries-dependent communities.  The constraints placed on small-scale fisheries in many parts of the world were of critical concern.

    Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfishing remained a primary challenge.  He was concerned at overexploitation, excessive fleet sizes, re-flagging of ships to escape controls, excessive by-catch, lack of enforcement of conservation measures, unreliable databases and lack of cooperation between States.  Those problems resulted from the lack of cooperation among Member States in forging a universal legal regime for the conservation and management of fisheries.  They had been compounded by the inability of regional fisheries management organizations, particularly those in developing countries, to effectively monitor the fishing vessels of non-contracting parties.  One should not shy away from measures that would facilitate the protection of marine natural resources from pollution or from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, he said.

    JUANA ELENA RAMOS RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba) said her country placed special emphasis on the necessity to reinforce international cooperation among all actors involved in the management of oceans and seas, including the exchange of knowledge and the building of capacity, which were vital aspects for developing countries.  Given its geography, Cuba was especially concerned and, despite the serious economic difficulties confronting it, had implemented and continued to implement national strategies for sustainable development and protection of the marine environment.

    The Convention established a universally recognized judicial framework for all activities relating to oceans and seas, she said.  For that reason, Cuba wished to call attention to the policies and initiatives of some States that contravened the Convention, for example in the case of the Security Initiative against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  In applying that initiative, generally accepted norms regarding the interception of ships and the judicial regimen regarding different maritime territory were being ignored.

    She said that any commercial activity related to biological diversity situated in areas outside national jurisdiction should be regulated by the Convention's principles, which permitted scientific marine research to be carried out for peaceful means and for the benefit of humankind.  Cuba looked forward with interest to the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group.  All subjects related to its mandate should be studied in detail, including those having to do with the common heritage of mankind and the effective distribution of benefits, and the declaration of principles regulating seabeds and the sea floor outside the limits of national jurisdiction.

    ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said that over the next two years, the initial maritime environment assessment mechanism established by world leaders at the Johannesburg Summit would be launched.  That instrument would be critical as the international community ramped up its efforts to implement and monitor global frameworks for environmental conservation, rehabilitation and sustainability.  Because of its geographical location, Monaco had been alarmed by the disturbing reports of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on marine pollution and the subtle spread of non-biodegradable debris.

    Monaco was also becoming increasingly troubled by rising noise pollution in the maritime environment -- a newer phenomenon -- responsible for changes in the behaviour of seafaring mammals, which could lead to their deaths.  While that field was not covered under any existing international law, scientific research had confirmed the importance of the matter, she said, calling for closer attention from the wider international community.  She also called for a strengthening of the conservation and management of fishing resources.

    DMITRY LOBACH ( Russian Federation) said the Convention was an important instrument for dealing effectively with multilateral activities on the high seas.  Indeed, in the years since it had entered into force, several unique agreements had been reached on how to improve the international legal regime and multilateral coordination in maritime affairs, including maintaining peace and security on the seas.  As such, Russia called upon States that had not done so to become party to the Convention.

    He said his country welcomed the outcome of the conferences pursuant to the Convention, such as that of the International Seabed Authority.  But the Russian Federation also believed that it was not appropriate to task a body with work beyond that of protecting biological resources.  In the case of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, work should be limited strictly to its mandate as stated in the 1982 Convention.  Regarding the annual meeting of Convention parties, Russia welcomed the decision to continue the informal consultative process over the next three years while preserving the existing mandate, which made possible a broad exchange of views with regard to the law of sea and the bringing in of specialists, practitioners and academics.  Hopefully, UNESCO and the UNEP would be successful in guiding the process.

    SUSANA RIVERO ( Uruguay) said there was an urgent need to promote the conservation of fragile maritime resources and ecosystems.  Uruguay believed that capacity-building for the management of fisheries was necessary, particularly in the areas of scientific research and technology transfer.  She also called for a broad-based strengthening of regional fisheries management organizations centred on specific national and local frameworks and priorities.  She joined other speakers who had warned of the looming threats posed by noise pollution, as well as the spread of traditional debris and other man-made garbage.  She called for an end to bottom-trawling, "phantom fishing" and all other activities that harmed seabeds or regional fisheries.

    YELLA ZANELLI ( Peru) expressed concerned over the maritime transportation of radioactive materials, and recognized the role of the IAEA in creating a plan of action for dealing with the safety of such activity.  She expressed hope that the States involved would continue their dialogue on that issue.

    In terms of the trade in fisheries products, she said it was necessary to eliminate barriers to trade faced by developing countries, and that they be given access to world markets in an indiscriminatory manner.  Furthermore, to help poor countries achieve food security, financial support was needed to train farmers in crop fishing and to facilitate technology transfer.  Indeed, Peru recognized the work already done by the FAO in this area, and would like to encourage Member States and financial institutions to support those efforts.  On the upcoming review of the Fish Stocks Agreement, the importance of universal participation should be emphasized, including that of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.  Meanwhile, the desire of some Member States to extend the duration of the Informal Consultative Process on the law of the sea to four weeks should not coincide with the General Assembly's work in other areas, and such extensions should be reduced.

    LEE KIMBALL, observer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said that conserving natural resources and ecosystems, particularly in the marine realm, was fundamental to underpin world food security and to ensure progress towards broad-based poverty alleviation.  Today, even as coastal zones faced severe challenges, the negative impacts of human activities were expanding throughout the world's oceans.  With that in mind, she called for collective action in affected areas that fell outside national jurisdictions to ensure effective conservation and management, not only to support species and habitat recovery but also to maintain biodiversity for the benefit of all.

    She stressed that improving high seas fisheries management and conservation was most critical to ensure ecosystem and precautionary approaches based on the best available scientific information, and to end all forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  She also called for the identification of priority sites for special protection and management measures, over both short and long terms, where necessary, and in line with the outcome of the Johannesburg target for representative marine protected area networks by 2012.  There was also a need to strengthen methods for scientific data collection, research and assessment, especially in deep sea areas to provide baseline resource information on marine species, habitats and ecological relationships.

    Looking ahead, she said the Union wished to see States take substantial efforts to stop unregulated and inadequately regulated high seas fishing, especially destructive practices like bottom-trawling.  Also, while the Union would continue to support a performance review of regional fisheries management organizations, at some point, a global mechanism would be needed to promote consistent application of best practices and to reflect the position of the international community as a whole.  On the upcoming Review Conference of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, she looked forward to commitments towards the establishment of a time frame for formally applying relevant provisions of the Agreement, as well as the elaboration and endorsement of technical guidance to flesh out the Agreement's "precautionary approach" for new and exploratory fisheries.

    SATYA NANDAN, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said his organization had held its eleventh session in Kingston, Jamaica, since his report to the Assembly last year.  During that session, a work plan had been approved for Germany to explore polymetallic nodules in the northeast Pacific Ocean, after it complied with all requirements and spent over $30 million in researching and prospecting the deep seabed.  The application was the first to be submitted since the 1982 Convention had gone into effect.

    Also at that session, progress had been made by the Authority's Council on draft regulations on prospecting and exploration for polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts, which contained more provisions for protecting the marine environment than the draft regulations on polymetallic nodules.  The Council had requested more detailed analysis on the matter and a revised text for the Authority's next session to address technical issues that had been raised.

    The Authority was engaged in promoting scientific research in the deep ocean, he continued, and it encouraged collaboration with international scientists.  The establishment of a voluntary trust fund was being considered to encourage the participation of developing country scientists.  Training could be conducted at sea or in advanced laboratories, and preference would be given to scientists associated with developing country institutions so as to disseminate the knowledge.  The trust fund and the programme for training would be considered at the Authority's next session, along with details on establishing an endowment fund from contractor fees to the Authority.  The income from that fund could supplement two voluntary trust funds.

    Finally, he said the lack of participation by Member States in the Authority's annual sessions posed a difficulty.  While the Authority's work was universal in that its rules and regulations were binding, its work was hampered by the procedural requirement of a 50 per cent quorum that had lately not been achieved.  All States should make an effort to participate in the next session in August.  Also, the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea was a successful and invaluable forum for exchange of views on emerging issues.  It had also helped to focus the Assembly's attention on central issues and had re-established the Assembly's central role in matters relating to the law of the sea and ocean affairs.  Its mandate should be extended by at least a further three years.

    RÜDIGER WOLFRUM, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, reported on the developments with respect to the Tribunal that had taken place since the Assembly's last meeting on the item.  Since the commencement of its activities in 1996, 13 cases had been brought before the Tribunal, the majority of them confined to instances where the Tribunal's jurisdiction was compulsory.  The jurisdictional powers of the Tribunal had not yet been exhausted, as it was based not only on the Convention but could also be founded on any international agreement related to the purposes of the Convention, which specifically conferred jurisdiction on the Tribunal.  Such international agreements were useful developments, and he encouraged States to consider making use of the possibility of including similar provisions in future agreements concerning the law of the sea.

    He said parties might also, at any time, conclude a special agreement to submit a dispute to the Tribunal or to an ad hoc special chamber of the Tribunal.  The composition of an ad hoc special chamber would be determined by the Tribunal with the approval of the parties, who would have control over its composition.  The potential offered by such "arbitration within the Tribunal" had not yet been fully realized.

    The Seabed Disputes Chamber was not only competent to deal with disputes regarding activities in the international seabed area but was also empowered to give advisory opinions.  That advisory jurisdiction, although non-binding, could assist the Assembly or the Council of the International Seabed Authority in overcoming any differences in legal opinions, which might arise when performing their activities.  Future international agreements, possibly between States or between States and international organizations, could provide for recourse to the Tribunal's advisory procedures.

    In other developments, the Tribunal was planning to hold, during the course of the next year, conferences in different areas of the world to present its work.  Also, as of 31 October 2005, there was an unpaid balance of assessed contributions to the overall budget of the Tribunal amounting to 2,413,728 euros.  Next month, the Registrar would send notes verbales to the States parties concerned to remind them of their outstanding contributions.

    Action on Drafts

    The Assembly then turned to the two relevant draft resolutions -- on oceans and law of the sea (A/60/L.22), and on sustainable fisheries (A/60/L.23).

    Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, ZHANG YISHAN ( China) said his Government looked forward to next year's review conference on the Fish Stocks Agreement, which would be an opportunity for the wider international community to review global efforts to address matters, such as straddling fish stocks and other marine conservation and rehabilitation issues, and to make recommendations.  China saw that meeting as a global gathering, not a review conference for States parties.  Broad participation by all concerned parties was critical to the success of the conference and the Agreement itself.

    Non-States parties should also enjoy equal footing during the preparatory meeting ahead of that conference, he continued.  Therefore, China was troubled by language in the draft, which noted that non-States parties would be unable to vote during the preparatory meeting.  The lack of equal participation would, among other things, undermine trust within the international community.  Therefore, he would not join consensus on the text.

    ÇAĞATAY ERCIYES ( Turkey) said his delegation would vote against the draft on oceans and law of the sea, as it contained some of the same elements, which had prevented Turkey from approving the Convention.  Turkey supported international efforts to establish a regime for seas and oceans based on the principle of equity and which could be acceptable to all States.  However, Turkey believed that the Convention did not make adequate provision of special geographical situations and, as a consequence, did not establish a balance between conflicting interests.

    Further, he said, the Convention made no provision for registering reservations to specific clauses.  Those were "serious shortcomings" and Turkey could not support a draft, which called on States to become party to the Convention and base their national legislation on its provisions.  Turkey would, however, support the draft on sustainable fisheries, but, on similar grounds to its opposition to the previous text, dissociate itself from particular paragraphs and language that would call for the harmonization of national laws with the tenets of the Convention.

    FRÉDÉRIC JOURNÈS ( France) said his country would not be co-sponsoring the current resolution on the law of the sea because of its too-narrow focus on the maritime transport of radioactive material.  France believed that stronger wording should have been chosen, making mention of the transport of hazardous materials in general, including that of hydrocarbons.  Indeed, France was a frequent victim of accidents involving hydrocarbon shipments.

    He added that the maritime transport of radioactive material already met with strict standards of safety, set by the IAEA and the IOM, and that the safety record was excellent, with no accidents having yet occurred.  As a coastal State, France was indeed concerned, and believed that countries should engage in a technical dialogue on that subject to enhance mutual trust.

    IMERIA NÚÑEZ DE ODREMÁN ( Venezuela) said that her country had chosen not to be party to the Convention -- nor would it subscribe to the norms that evolved from that Convention, except those laws that were already part of Venezuelan law -- until it was adopted by all Member States.  At present, the provisions of the Convention were not applicable to many States who were not yet party to it, making the Convention less than valid.

    The meeting was suspended at 6:15 p.m. and would resume tomorrow at 10 a.m.

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