68th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly 70th Session

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08-Dec-2015 03:01:54
General Assembly, stressing the importance of healthy oceans and seas for both coastal and landlocked states, adopts a resolution on sustainable fisheries without vote at 68th and 69th plenaries.

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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.
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