55th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session

Preview Language:   English
07-Dec-2016 02:02:40
The General Assembly urges accounting for climate risks to sustainable fisheries, at 55th meeting of the 71st session.

Available Languages: Six Official
Six Official
Other Formats
Adopting two resolutions related to the conservation and management of the Earth’s oceans, the General Assembly today proclaimed 2 May World Tuna Day, spotlighting the vital socioeconomic importance of the widely consumed fish to peoples around the globe.

By the terms of the text, which was introduced by the representative of Palau on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, and adopted without a vote, the 193-member body committed to raise global awareness of tuna’s critical role in the food security and economic livelihoods of many countries and of the serious threats facing its long-term sustainability.

A second resolution, on sustainable fisheries, was also adopted without a vote and was introduced by the representative of Norway. By its terms, the Assembly called upon Member States to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 14 on the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and maritime resources. The Assembly also called on Member States to apply a “precautionary approach” to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks and to take into account the risks and impacts of climate change.

The Assembly postponed action on a related resolution, titled “Oceans and the Law of the Sea”, pending consideration by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). That draft was introduced by the representative of South Africa today.

“Our beloved ocean is in peril,” warned Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) at the meeting’s outset. The overexploitation of fish stocks and pollution from fertilizers, plastics and waste were threatening its resources, while climate change was exerting enormous pressure on the world’s ocean and marine ecosystems. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification and increasing deoxygenation were exacerbating those challenges, he said, underlining the Assembly’s central role in protecting the ocean and its resources.

Throughout the meeting, many delegates welcomed widespread adherence by States to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1995 Agreement for the implementation of its provisions related to fish stocks. Among other things, speakers commended the increasingly wide-ranging work of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which had celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2016, and spotlighted recent multilateral progress towards the elaboration of an international instrument protecting marine biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

In that vein, the representative of the Federated States of Micronesia, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, recalled that the first and second sessions of the Preparatory Committee on an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, established by Assembly resolution 69/292, had been held in 2016, yielding productive discussions and progress. Nevertheless, she expressed dismay that such progress could not be welcomed within the context of today’s resolutions.

Speakers expressed a range of concerns, with some island States outlining the deep ties between their peoples and the world’s waterways. “The strong social and cultural ties we have with the ocean form a part of our unique identity,” said the representative of Maldives. Rising water temperatures, coral bleaching, ocean acidification and the deterioration of the marine environment affected fisheries and tourism, Maldives’ two largest industries. Small island States recognized the value and significance of the oceans, but some, including Maldives, continued to fall victim to illegal fishing throughout its exclusive economic zones, resulting in significant economic losses.

Monaco’s representative was among those speakers expressing support for the upcoming United Nations conference in support of the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, slated for 2017. Noting that oceans and seas had to date been relatively marginal to international climate change negotiations, she said the 2015 launch of the Ocean and Climate Platform had led to the oceans being clearly reflected in the Paris Agreement.

Also addressing the Assembly today was Vladimir Golitsyn, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and Nii Allotey Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority. The former described the wide array of matters currently before the Tribunal, including several maritime delimitation cases, while the latter described the Authority’s work in such areas as formulating a framework for the exploitation of minerals.

Prior to the adoptions, a number of delegates took the floor to explain their positions. The representatives of several States who were not parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea stressed that their participation in today’s consensus must not be interpreted as acceptance of that instrument, while others expressed particular reservations to the texts.

Before the Assembly for its discussion was a report of the Secretary-General titled “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” (document A/71/74) and its addendum (document A/71/74/Add.1); a report on the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (document A/71/362); and a report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea at its seventeenth meeting (document A/71/204).

In addition, the Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General titled “Actions taken by States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements in response to paragraphs 113, 117 and 119 to 124 of General Assembly resolution 64/72 and paragraphs 121, 126, 129, 130 and 132 to 134 of General Assembly resolution 66/68 on sustainable fisheries, addressing the impacts of bottom fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks” (document A/71/351).

Delivering statements today were the representatives of Zambia (on behalf of Landlocked Developing Countries), Australia, Peru, Jamaica, Singapore, United States, Colombia, Argentina, Japan, Viet Nam, Ukraine, India, Philippines, China, Croatia, Iceland, Fiji, Paraguay, Mexico, Russian Federation, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela and Turkey, as well as the European Union.
Topical Subjects
Parent ID
Asset ID