General Assembly Adopts Draft Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries, Underscoring Threats of Sea-Level Rise, Loss of Marine Biodiversity, Marine Debris
Delegates Also Laud Intergovernmental Committee Drawing Up Legally Binding Agreement to End Plastic Pollution, Including in Marine Environment
Commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, delegates at the General Assembly today considered two draft resolutions that address a diverse range of challenges, including climate change, loss of marine biodiversity, and sustainable fisheries.
The Assembly adopted by consensus the draft resolution “Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments”, introduced by Norway’s delegate. By its terms, the Assembly called upon all States to apply widely the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks.
The Assembly postponed action on the draft resolution “Oceans and the law of the sea”, introduced by Singapore’s delegate.
Expressing support for the draft resolutions, Cuba’s delegate described the texts as important steps forward in application of existing instruments on oceans at the global and regional levels. In the same vein, the delegate of the Republic of Korea said the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” will have a crucial impact on marine diversity. Further, the resolution addresses various challenges, including climate change, loss of marine biodiversity and potential sources of harm, such as underwater noise and marine debris, he stressed.
Meanwhile, the delegate of the Russian Federation voiced concern over the volume and thematic scope of the draft resolutions, as well as the growing number of proposals. These drafts are running the risk of becoming unreadable, and thus useless to their target audiences — relevant national agencies. Along similar lines, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, noted that the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” should have included a factual reference to voluntary commitments made by more than 100 States. While welcoming the resolution’s progress in addressing anthropogenic underwater noise, he expressed regret that growing scientific evidence of this phenomenon’s negative impact is still contested.
Sea-level rise and climate change pose grave threats to small island developing States and low-lying communities around the world, especially in the Pacific region, speakers also stressed today. Fiji’s delegate, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, stressed that oceanic peoples depend on the ocean as the greatest source of nourishment, livelihood, identity and economic prosperity. He commended the establishment of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to draw up a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
Echoing that stance, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, expressed support for the legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. She noted that “the ocean’s natural adaptive capacity is beyond its limits, resulting in the deterioration of ecosystem structures and functions, and mass mortality events causing the loss of hundreds of species”. As slow onset events are an imminent threat to small island States, sea-level rise must be addressed now, she asserted.
Describing climate-induced sea-level rise as the greatest threat to the health of oceans, Bangladesh’s delegate welcomed the adoption of the Global Ocean Observing System 2030 Strategy. Climate-induced sea-level rise may have devastating impacts on the livelihoods of people in Bangladesh, he cautioned, adding that a one meter sea-level rise can submerge 40 per cent of the southern coastal part of his country, resulting in internal displacement, food insecurity and economic losses.
“Climate scientists have forecasted that before this century ends, our islands will be inundated — erased from the world map,” warned the representative of Maldives. Discussions of transboundary harm and international accountability based on an intersectional approach are essential, he asserted, stressing the importance of the Global Ocean Observing System in adapting to climate change.
In the same vein, the delegate of the Philippines said the fate of his country — with waters encompassing over six times the size of its land — is tied to the global ocean. Climate change continues to have an impact on the ocean, as sea-level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification broke new records in 2021, he cautioned, noting that sea-level rise in the Philippines is about two to three times that of the global average.
Numerous delegates expressed concern about the increasing number of incidents in the South China Sea, with the representative of the Philippines calling on the international community to refrain from such destabilizing activities. Similarly, Australia’s delegate warned against destabilizing actions and serious incidents in the South China Sea, maintaining that any maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the Convention.
Later in the day, Judge Albert Hoffmann, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, briefed the Assembly on noteworthy developments that have occurred in three cases, including the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean; the M/T “San Padre Pio” (No. 2) Case (Switzerland/Nigeria); and the M/T “Heroic Idun”.
Also briefing the Assembly was Michael W. Lodge, International Seabed Authority.
Following action on the draft resolution, the Assembly briefly resumed its debate on the Law of the Sea Convention, which it will conclude at a later date.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Guatemala, Canada, China, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, United States, Monaco, Egypt, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Federated States of Micronesia, Sierra Leone, New Zealand, Germany, India, Japan, Nauru, Pakistan, Iceland, Cyprus, Haiti, Palau, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Russian Federation.
The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 December, to take up the reports of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).Introduction of Draft Resolutions
MIRJAM BIERLING (Norway) introduced the draft resolution “Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments” (document A/77/L.33). Representing significant progress, it highlights the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) both in recognizing the interlinkage between food security and nutrition, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as FAO’s work on developing and disseminating practical guidance on Other Effective Area Based Conservation Measures for the fisheries sector, she said. Further, the chapter addressing the impacts of bottom fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems contains several important updates. Achieving sustainable fisheries, combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, addressing fishing overcapacity, ensuring safety at sea and decent working conditions in the fisheries sector and improving subregional and regional cooperation are all necessary means to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.
YONG-ERN NATHANIEL KHNG (Singapore), introducing the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea”, (document A/77/L.36) said this annual text is one of the most important adoptions of the year, because it reaffirms the status of the Law of the Sea Convention as the legal framework within which all oceans’ activities must be carried out. Noting various updates to the text, he highlighted its call to support capacity-building activities for mitigation and adaptation to the impact of climate change on the ocean. The resolution also takes stock of the work of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, International Seabed Authority and Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he said, emphasizing that any exploitation activities must take place with the effective protection of the marine environment in accordance with the Convention. Speaking in his national capacity, he aligned with the Alliance of Small Island States and pointed to the urgent need for the international community to step up efforts to address the impact of climate change on the ocean. It is particularly alarming that global sea levels reached their highest recorded levels in 2021, he said, adding that this poses an existential threat to small island developing States, including Singapore.
Debate on Draft Resolutions
THOMAS RAMOPOULOS, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressing concern over the declining health of the oceans, noted that 2022 marked a “super year” for oceans, as many in-person events created the “momentum” for addressing oceans’ challenges. To support negotiations on the instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the European Union launched a High Ambition Coalition in February at the One Ocean Summit in Brest. Reiterating support for protecting at least 30 per cent of the global ocean through Marine Protected Areas and other area-based conservation measures by 2030, he said that the resolution “L.36” should have included a factual reference to voluntary commitments made by more than 100 States. He expressed regret that the latest scientific data on atmospheric levels of two additional greenhouse gases are not included in the draft. He underscored the importance of maintaining the relationship between climate change and oceans reflected in the resolution by including facts. While welcoming the progress of the resolution in addressing anthropogenic underwater noise, he expressed regret that growing scientific evidence of this phenomenon’s negative impact is still contested. He supported reflection in the draft resolution of outcomes of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, but lamented that only neutral language was used to describe transhipment guidelines. He further welcomed reflection of the launch of the Stocks Agreement Project of Assistance, funded by the European Union, and expressed conviction that this project will contribute to strengthening the participation of developing countries.
ASHA CECILY CHALLENGER (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, noted that “the ocean’s natural adaptive capacity is beyond its limits, resulting in the deterioration of ecosystem structures and functions, and mass mortality events causing the loss of hundreds of species”. Small island developing States that rely on oceans for their economies suffer disproportionate socioeconomic consequences, she added. Reiterating the Alliance’s call to curb greenhouse gas emissions to limit temperature rise, she also called for greater finance for climate adaptation. As slow onset events are an imminent threat to small island States, sea-level rise must be addressed now, she said, underscoring that decreased land area due to climate change and sea-level rise do not change their legal status nor maritime zones and rights that flow from them.
She expressed concern over plastic pollution, pointing out that microplastics now found in human blood are a clear consequence of this unsustainable practice. To that end, the Alliance supports the legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, which she said must contain provisions on remediation and implementation and consider the varied capacities for tackling the issue in each State. “When considering the widespread impacts that result from decline in ocean health, it is important to keep in mind that small island developing States are disproportionately impacted, due to our inherent and intrinsic ties with the ocean,” she said, adding that it is also important to remember the historic role that we have played in conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, including through the use of traditional knowledge. She called on the international community to preserve the special circumstances of small island developing States in the context of law of the sea.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, stressed that oceanic peoples depend on the ocean as the greatest source of nourishment, livelihood, identity and economic prosperity. The ocean covers 70 per cent of the planet’s surface, absorbs 30 per cent of global CO2 emissions as well as over 90 per cent of heat from global warming and produces over 70 per cent of the earth’s oxygen. He drew attention to the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which recognizes climate change as the single greatest threat to oceanic peoples’ livelihoods, sovereignty, and existence. Warning against a climate emergency in the Pacific region, he stressed the need to ensure ocean protection and conservation. Further, he pointed to the Pacific Islands Forum landmark Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-Related Sea-level Rise and stressed the importance of concluding negotiations on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty in February 2023. He also commended establishment of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to draw up a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
Speaking in his national capacity, associating with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Pacific Islands Forum, he welcomed the well-balanced text in the omnibus “L.36” resolution, which considers specific references to small island developing States’ capacity-building and marine technology transfer. The impacts of climate change are most felt by those States that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise, through forced displacement, migration, loss of cultural identity, threat to marine biodiversity, adverse impacts on aquatic food supply chains, including tuna stocks and the devastating impact on artisanal fisheries as sources of livelihood for countless millions. For Fiji, the vital role that tuna stocks will eventually play in ensuring food security is based on the premise of good sustainability practices that must begin now, he asserted.
CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala), noting that 2022 marks the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, said it codifies international legal norms which guarantee the rule of law at sea. Since the Convention covers 70 per cent of the surface of the earth, it is a key instrument in the international order, contributing to the maintenance of peace and good relations between States by defining maritime zones, freedom of navigation and the protection of the environment. Biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is an important area in the law of the sea, she said, adding that the new instrument being negotiated must consider rights, jurisdictions and obligations of all States in an equitable manner.
KEVIN TIMOTHY MEAD (Canada) said that marine and coastal biodiversity issues are integral to the new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework currently being negotiated in Montreal. Canada’s recently launched Indo-Pacific Strategy will include the establishment of a Shared Ocean Fund to support national efforts to implement domestic fisheries and oceans legislation, international treaties and associated regulatory frameworks. It will also expand Canada’s capabilities under the Dark Vessel Detection programme to bolster the detection and interception of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he said. Domestically, Canada is developing a Blue Economy Strategy, which will support the transformation of its ocean sectors to a sustainable blue economy in which restored ocean health supports Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities. The fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress, to be held in Vancouver in February 2023, will be another milestone in global efforts to protect at least 30 per cent of Earth’s land and oceans by 2030. He went on to note the Convention gives coastal States the right to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered Arctic areas within the limits of their exclusive economic zones.
GENG SHUANG (China) reiterated his country’s commitment to science-based conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources, recalling its commitment to eco-based fishery management and ecologically friendly fishing practices, including scientific and technological innovation. Having put in place a comprehensive management system and improved its capacity for compliance, he noted that China is refining its systems through transhipment vessels supervision and respective regulation. Moreover, it practices zero tolerance against illegal fishing activities and continues to bolster supervision of fishing vessels. China opposes attempts to discredit other countries in the name of combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, he emphasized.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) affirmed that her country recognizes the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal framework for activities and cooperation in the marine sector worldwide. Expressing support for resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea as well as sustainable fisheries, she added that Honduras has suffered devastating hurricanes and other phenomena due to climate change. She urged the international community to redouble its efforts in counteracting further deterioration and work multilaterally to develop science and technology-based solutions to protect the heritage of future generations. Honduras, as a founding member of the Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution, prioritizes programmes to eliminate plastics in the sea and encourages all other States to follow suit, she said. Reiterating the utmost importance of a legally binding instrument based on the 1982 Convention within the boundaries of national jurisdiction, she called on States parties to redouble efforts to conclude negotiations on the treaty. Finally, she urged the international community to ensure protection for migrants and refugees on the high seas through adequate search and rescue procedures.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) underscored the importance of the Convention in maintaining peace, international law and sustainable development of oceans and seas. Describing the Convention as the fundamental milestone in the codification of international law, he said topics related to the oceans and the law of the sea should fall under the supervision of the General Assembly to guarantee consistent application. The effects of climate change on oceans represent an important risk to the economies of vulnerable countries, including least developing countries and small island developing States. In this context, it is essential that developed countries comply with their commitments to provide official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries, he said, calling for technology transfer and support in capacity-building. The two resolutions that will be adopted today are important steps forward in the application of existing instruments on oceans at the global and regional levels. Stressing the importance of bolstering international cooperation in the management of marine resources, he noted that his delegation will support both drafts submitted to the vote today.
OH YUCHAN (Republic of Korea), noting that the draft resolution “L.36” under consideration will have a crucial impact on marine diversity, science and other areas related to the oceans, highlighted its reference to a new capacity-building programme that his country sponsored. The Workshop for Legal Advisers was held last September after a long delay due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, he said, adding that such capacity-building is essential for Member States to attain knowledge needed to fully implement the Law of the Sea Convention and respond to emerging challenges. The resolution also addresses a diverse range of challenges, including climate change, loss of marine biodiversity and potential sources of harm, such as underwater noise and marine debris, he said, reaffirming his country’s commitment to promote sustainable use of the oceans.
JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico), reiterating that the Convention remains a cornerstone of global ocean governance, called on States to ratify or join the instrument. Rejecting unilateral acts contrary to the legal regime of the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and airspace above, he said it is unacceptable that, under the cover of freedom of navigation and overflight, the sovereign rights of coastal States are violated. Recognizing the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he welcomed the accession of its 20 new members. He expressed concern about the effects of climate change on oceans, noting with interest possible requests for advisory opinions of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice in this regard.
PABLO AGUSTÍN ESCOBAR ULLAURI (Ecuador) underscored the importance of resolutions on the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries for his country, a developing coastal nation. He welcomed the drafts’ focus on protecting the environment, expressing support for the legally binding instrument on plastic pollution as well as progress on the instrument of conservation and sustainable use of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction. Highlighting the threat of unregulated fishing to biodiversity and food insecurity, his delegation demands that flag States take responsibility to prevent it. At the national level, Ecuador has adopted policies on fishing management and expanded its marine preserves to 193,000 square kilometres. Finally, he stressed that language in the draft resolutions regarding capacity-building and technology transfer is limited when they are essential for developing countries to benefit from marine resources.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) recognized the importance of First Nations Australians’ connection to land and waters, emphasizing the immense contribution they can make to addressing climate change and the health of oceans. Australia does not accept maritime claims that are inconsistent with the Convention, he said, adding that general international law does not replace that instrument in any way. He reiterated Australia’s concerns about destabilizing actions and serious incidents in the South China Sea, maintaining that any maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the Convention. The conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive agreement on marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction is a key part of Australia’s commitment to protecting the marine environment, he said, adding that, as a member of the Pacific family, Australia encourages other States to support the interpretation of the Convention contained in the Pacific Islands Forum’s Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change, which recognizes that principles that underpin the Convention are relevant to sea-level rise and climate change.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh) highlighted that more than 3 billion people rely on oceans for their livelihoods and over 80 per cent of world trade is transported by sea. However, today, oceans and their ecosystems are under severe threat from a wide range of looming crises, including climate change, sea-level rise, unsustainable fishing and pollution. Climate-induced sea-level rise may have devastating impacts on the livelihoods of people in Bangladesh, he cautioned, adding that a one-meter sea-level rise can submerge 40 per cent of the southern coastal part of Bangladesh, resulting in internal displacement, food insecurity and economic losses. However, Bangladesh has undertaken several initiatives to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change on oceans. As one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention, Bangladesh updated its national legislation to bring it in conformity with the Convention. Describing climate-induced sea-level rise as the greatest threat to the health of oceans, he welcomed adoption of the Global Ocean Observing System 2030 Strategy. Regarding maritime boundary disputes of Bangladesh with its neighbours, he stressed that the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has the responsibility to process submissions by State parties through strict adherence to the provisions of the Convention. Expressing concern over the loss of migrants’ lives at land and sea, he welcomed the adoption of the Progress Declaration of the International Migration Review Forum by the General Assembly to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.
ADAM HAMID (Maldives) aligned himself with the Alliance of Small Island States, emphasizing the importance of the Global Ocean Observing System in examining and adapting to climate change as well as its collective action against marine plastic pollutants. Turning to sea-level rise, he called on the international community to address legal implications of the phenomenon, including specific consequences, internal and external migration, and the total disappearance of “low-lying” countries. “Indeed climate scientists have forecasted that before this century ends, our islands will be inundated – erased from the world map,” he lamented. Calling for immediate action based on solidarity, he pointed out that climate change is human-induced and discussions of transboundary harm and international accountability based on an intersectional approach are essential.
JOSE JUAN HERNANDEZ CHAVEZ (Chile), describing the Convention as the cornerstone of international law for marine affairs, said it is the framework for cooperation among States for conservation of the ocean, protection of marine ecosystems and sustainable use of its resources. Noting his country’s active engagement with the International Seabed Authority, he added that the legal framework for exploitation activities must be of a high standard to safeguard the rights of future generations. Expressing concern about activation of the rule in section 1, paragraph 15, of the annex to the 1994 agreement relating to implementation of the Convention, he said his country and Costa Rica are raising awareness about developments that impact vast areas of subsoil that constitute a common heritage of humankind.
Ms. MEDINA (United States) said that the seventh “Our Ocean Conference” her country co-hosted with Palau closed with more than 400 commitments and more than $16 billion to protect the oceans. In addition, the United States launched with Norway a Green Shipping Challenge at the recent Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Turning to offshore renewable energy, she said her country is a leader in offshore wind, with national goals to deploy at least 30 gigawatts by 2030 and 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2035. Being a founding member of the Global Offshore Wind Alliance, the United States has also launched the Ocean Conservation Pledge, endorsed by 16 countries. She reiterated her country’s support of the 30 per cent conservation target and expressed disappointment that Member States were unable to agree on it. Regarding deep seabed mining, she emphasized that more scientific research was needed. She expressed disappointment that her country’s proposal against the use of the precautionary approach to bottom fishing did not gain support. She also expressed deep concern over expensive and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.
FLORIAN JEAN PATRICE BOTTO (Monaco), expressing support for the two resolutions, welcomed a potential treaty on plastic pollution, which will determine whether the planet will be sustainable for future generations. Addressing growing threats to ocean biodiversity, such as pollution and illegal fishing, he stressed that the world is “on the brink of a sixth mass extinction”. Establishing a network of marine protection areas to preserve 30 per cent of oceans by 2030 must be a priority, he said, voicing regret over the voluntary initiative’s absence in the resolutions. Climate change is reversable, he said, adding that speedy entry into force of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction agreement is important to Monaco, but it is only effective implementation that will change the status quo.
ARIEL RODELAS PEÑARANDA (Philippines) said the fate of his country — with waters encompassing over six times the size of its land — is tied to the global ocean. The global ocean is in a state of emergency due to the cumulative result of unsustainable human activities and anthropogenic impacts, he warned, calling for decisive action. Voicing concern over the continued impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the ocean-based economy and communities that rely on the ocean and its resources, he said cumulative pressures on the ocean and its resources pose direct threats to the people who depend on them. Climate change continues to have an impact on the ocean, as sea-level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification broke new records in 2021, he cautioned, noting that sea-level rise in the Philippines is about two to three times that of the global average. As an archipelago, the country’s numerous low-lying coastal areas are vulnerable to sea-level rise and its effects. In this context, he welcomed updates on climate change and its impacts, including sea-level rise and extreme sea-level events. He highlighted significant strides in ocean-related processes, including progress on an international legally binding agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction. Pointing to the increasing number of incidents in the South China Sea, he called on the international community to refrain from such destabilizing activities.
AHMED ABDELAZIZ AHMED ELGHARIB (Egypt), recalling that his country was among the first to sign and ratify the Convention in 1982 onwards, said that Egypt has reached agreements with neighbouring countries to define its maritime borders. The most recent of these was setting up an exclusive economic zone, an agreement reached with Greece in August 2020. The omnibus resolution “L.36” on the oceans plays an essential role in governance of oceans and seas, he said, calling for more concise drafting of the text in future years. This is essential for facilitating implementation and dialogue with the various stakeholders, he said, stressing that the Convention is a living document, which is able to tackle a broad range of challenges.
MOHAMMAD GHORBANPOUR NAJAFABADI (Iran), noting that the Convention is not the only legal framework governing activities in oceans and seas, said that negotiations on the related resolutions should consider the position of non-parties to the Convention and encompass their concerns. He underscored that any constructive engagement of Iran during negotiations and in joining consensus should not be construed as a change in its legal position in relation to the Convention. Turning to the preservation of marine life, he said his country is determined to address maritime pollution and environmental harm in the Persian Gulf caused by vessels. He recalled the initiative based on dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect proposed by Iran at the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly regarding tensions among littoral States of the Persian Gulf, underscoring the importance of regional cooperation. Iran considers unmanned surface vessels — “sail drones” — that are deployed for spying and other “hostile or unfriendly purposes” on the high seas and in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman a threat to safety and security of maritime navigation and coastal States, he emphasized. Iran will take all the necessary measures to prevent or eliminate these threats.
Mr. ALKATHEERI (United Arab Emirates) said that preservation of the ocean is critical not only for coastal states, but for the international community for trade and economic development. Adding that any threat to the freedom of navigation in international waters is a threat to food and energy worldwide, he decried attacks against carriers in international waters and corridors. He highlighted his delegation’s role in the Security Council to combat these criminal practices, including piracy and armed robbery, as well as its contributions to the Anti-Piracy Task Force. Voicing support for a binding instrument from the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction negotiations, he said his delegation will spare no efforts when hosting the 2023 climate change conference.
KENNETH WELLES (Federated States of Micronesia) stressed that deep seabed mining in the international seabed area should not occur until the precautionary principle, ecosystem approach and the polluter pays principle have been implemented. In the international seabed area, no such implementation can take place in the absence of the finalization of a comprehensive set of exploitation regulations by the International Seabed Authority. His country has some of the largest fishing grounds in the Pacific, covering an area of 1.1 million square miles, and one of the most productive tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific. Its maritime zones are exposed to the threats of transnational crimes and illegal activities, he cautioned, calling for support in capacity-building efforts towards law enforcement in the areas of maritime surveillance and combating terrorist financing and drug trafficking. Regarding nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific and its people, he voiced concern about the decision to discharge the Advanced Liquid Processing System treated water, that had suffered nuclear contamination, into the ocean starting from 2023. The impacts of this decision are both transboundary and intergenerational in nature, he asserted.
AMARA SHEIKH MOHAMMED SOWA (Sierra Leone), noting the broad participation in the Convention, said it brings benefits to all States parties, including African coastal, small island developing and landlocked countries. He also voiced appreciation for the efforts of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Seabed Authority. During the tragic transatlantic slave trade, the millions of Africans who died during slaving voyages, in the middle passage, came to rest on the Atlantic seabed, he pointed out. Therefore, the Atlantic seabed has historical and contemporary cultural significance, and the International Seabed Authority has a duty to protect objects of an archaeological and historical nature found in the area, he stressed.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) highlighted significant progress made this year towards a new agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Stressing the need to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment from the harmful effects of any activities in the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction, she called for a conditional moratorium on deep-sea mining in the area until regulations can be agreed that ensure the effective protection of the marine environment. Despite progress, uneven implementation of bottom fishing commitments remains an issue, she cautioned, encouraging States to overcome barriers to implementation of the 2022 sustainable fisheries resolution. Sea-level rise and climate change pose grave threats to small island developing States and low-lying communities around the world, especially in the Pacific region. In this context, she reiterated her country’s commitment to ensuring that the maritime rights that many States rely on are preserved.
MICHAEL HASENAU (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that as a host State to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, his country welcomes the omnibus resolution highlighting the contribution of the Tribunal to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means. He expressed concern by the assertion of maritime claims in the South China Sea and emphasized the rights of other States in the region to access their natural resources in their exclusive economic zones. He also called on States to respect the freedoms of navigation and overflight in the high seas and all other lawful uses of the oceans and seas. Lamenting that the 2022 omnibus resolution did not reflect the respective developments in a more positive way, he reiterated Germany’s commitment to the Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction process. Current knowledge and available science is insufficient to approve deep seabed mining, he stressed, calling for a precautionary pause to prevent any rash decisions at the expense of the marine environment.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) pointed to the country’s role in multilateral efforts to manage the ocean, recalling several agreements to which his country is party to, including the Convention and Fish Stocks Agreement. India believes that ocean-based activities should be regulated through the Convention, he added, detailing efforts to strengthen maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean region through its “Security and Growth for All in the Region” initiative. He highlighted further cooperation with its maritime neighbours in Africa and with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Encouraging increased awareness and knowledge-sharing, especially with small island States to develop sustainable ocean-based economies, he underscored India’s commitment to respond to humanitarian emergencies by launching the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure with other countries.
SHUNSUKE NAGANO (Japan) stressed the importance of maintaining and promoting the maritime order, reiterating the significance of the “Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea”, advocated in 2014 by Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan. He said States should clarify their claims based on international law without using force or coercion. He strongly opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in any region and spoke against using maritime claims, militarization of reclaimed features and coercive activities. Japan will nominate Ambassador Hidehisa Horinouchi as a candidate for the election of judges of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, he added. He reiterated his country’s determination to continue discussions to make the Convention universal, functional and balanced between “conservation” and “sustainable use”.
MARGO REMINISSE DEIYE (Nauru) aligning with the Alliance of Small Island States and the Pacific Islands Forum said her country highly depends on marine resources for food security and economic development. She called for a legally binding instrument under Convention on the use of marine biological diversity to establish cross-sectoral marine protected areas, maintain global ocean health, recognize the special relationship of small islands to the ocean and outline rules for fair and equitable benefits sharing. Highlighting the International Seabed Authority’s work, she welcomed approaches to development of normative environmental threshold values, calling on its States members to finalize and adopt a regime for responsible collection of seafloor minerals, while ensuring environmental protection. Further, she hailed the agreement brokered with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on fisheries.
SERGEI A. LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation), calling for strict compliance with the Convention, highlighted positive assessment of work conducted by the bodies established by the Convention. He drew attention to the valuable input of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in implementing article 76 of the Convention. Similarly, the International Seabed Authority has maintained the pace of considering items on its agenda, even during the COVID‑19 pandemic. He stressed the importance of in-depth scientific studies on the marine environment, which will broaden knowledge about processes in the ocean that impact humankind. However, he voiced concern over the volume and thematic scope of the draft resolutions as well as the growing number of proposals. These drafts are running the risk of becoming unreadable, and thus useless to their target audiences — relevant national agencies. Therefore, the international community should work together to consider measures that can be implemented to streamline the content of the resolutions and negotiation processes.
RABIA IJAZ (Pakistan) said the ocean — covering 70 per cent of the earth’s surface — provides more than half the oxygen needed for life on the planet, the main source of food for over a billion people and employment for almost 40 million individuals. Unfortunately, oceans are facing global emergencies, with sea levels rising, coastal erosion worsening, marine pollution increasing and marine biodiversity rapidly declining. Improving governance of oceans and strengthening legal frameworks are essential to preserving international peace and security and the blue economy, he stressed. Moreover, a robust regime for exploitation, including rules on equitable benefit-sharing, should be developed before mining can commence anywhere in the “Area”. The Indian Ocean offers promising potential for mutual cooperation. However, geostrategic competition and the pursuit of military dominance by some States could gravely jeopardize that potential, he said, warning that any military conflict in South Asia could endanger stability in a region critical for global peace and security. Further, he voiced concern over the politicization of issues related to the South China Sea.
ANNA PÁLA SVERRISDÓTTIR (Iceland), noting that adoption of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies by the WTO was an important step towards eliminating fisheries subsidies, encouraged States to join the Agreement. Noting that in Iceland gender stereotypes remain a challenge in the “interaction with the ocean”, she said decisions and profits are more likely to be made by men. Recalling that small island developing States and vulnerable low-lying coastal communities should not carry the burden of a situation they had not contributed to, she welcomed the addition of language on the importance of “blue food” to the resolution “L.33”. The importance of blue food systems is reflected in Iceland's international development policy, she added.
HARIS CHRYSOSTOMOU (Cyprus), aligning with the European Union, reaffirmed the Convention as the legal framework for ocean governance, security and sustainable development. He underscored that the sovereignty of States, regardless of size, must be respected and that no mighty country should create a “fait accompli” from excessive maritime claims. Cyprus regards the Convention as customary international law and that it binds States to its rules, parties or not. Urging peaceful resolutions to all maritime disputes based on good faith in line with the Convention, he stressed that all ocean and sea-related problems, including climate-change-induced sea-level rise, should also be addressed through the Convention.
WISNIQUE PANIER (Haiti), associating himself with the Alliance of Small Island States, praised the “global ocean constitution” for setting forth not just rules for navigation between States but also covering issues such as the peaceful use of the seas and the preservation of the marine environment. His country is one of the first States parties to the Convention, he said, while pointing out that Haiti did not wait for the adoption of this international legal instrument to delimit its maritime boundaries. “We did this in 1894, setting our maritime boundary six nautical miles from our shore,” he said, adding that this was entrenched in the Convention 100 years later. The overwhelming majority of Haiti’s people live along the coast, he said, pointing to his Government’s efforts to spur the development of the maritime sector. Drawing attention to the threat posed by rising sea levels, he said that oceans are a source of priceless benefit, and protecting them is essential for the well-being of humanity.
ILANA VICTORYA SEID (Palau), associating herself with the Alliance of Small Island States and Pacific Island Forum, recalled that her country co-hosted with the United States the seventh “Our Ocean Conference” and raised over $16 million in commitments for oceans. Pointing out that Palau’s marine life and wildlife is under threat, she urged States to resolve the issue of plastic pollution globally. Recognizing that no sustainable solution is possible without incorporating management and rules in the high seas, she urged all parties to conclude the text of the treaty on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Underscoring the importance of sustaining resources in high seas that are still intact, she said that Palau is a champion of the moratorium on deep sea mining. She, thus, encouraged States to enact a reform of the International Seabed Authority and international regulations before allowing any States to contract for deep sea mining projects.
GUSTAVO ADOLFO RAMÍREZ BACA (Costa Rica) said the Convention is a crucial treaty, which provides the legal framework to help regulate activities in the world’s seas, which cover 70 per cent of the planet’s surface. The Convention provides legal security for maritime relations, and its standards and procedures offer States a mechanism for solving disputes. Its use by most countries to establish their maritime borders indicates the international community’s strong support. ”UNCLOS is one of the best examples of how multilateralism leads to international law, which in turn can be a source of international peace, stability, security and prosperity,” he said, calling the Convention “visionary”. He pointed to the good work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in developing an international, legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, with the aim of completing its work by the end of 2024.
International Tribunal for Law of Sea
JUDGE ALBERT HOFFMANN, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said that, since his last address to the Assembly in December 2021, noteworthy developments have occurred in three cases. The first is the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean. After the Special Chamber’s judgment on preliminary objections, the merits phase of the case resumed and written proceedings were conducted over the course of two rounds, with all pleadings filed within the prescribed time limits. After the 18 August 2022 order of the Special Chamber’s President, oral proceedings were opened on 17 October 2022, about two months after the Maldives filed its rejoinder. The hearing was held from 17 October to 24 October 2022, with two rounds of oral arguments. The Special Chamber withdrew to deliberate, he said, adding that the date of the judgement’s reading will be announced.
He then turned to the second case — The M/T “San Padre Pio” (No. 2) Case (Switzerland/Nigeria). In a 10 December 2021 letter, the agent of Switzerland informed the Tribunal that, as of that day, the vessel “exited the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria and entered the exclusive economic zone of Bénin”. In the same letter, the agent “request[ed] the Tribunal to record the discontinuance of the M/T ‘San Padre Pio’ (No. 2) case, in accordance with Article 105 of the Tribunal’s rules and remove the case from the Tribunal’s list of cases”. In a 24 December 2021 letter, the agent of Nigeria confirmed that “Nigeria has no objection whatsoever to the discontinuance of the case by the Tribunal as already notified by Switzerland”. Therefore, in accordance with article 105 of the Rules of the Tribunal, the Tribunal President issued a 29 December 2021 order and recorded the discontinuance, by agreement of the parties, of the proceedings and removed the case from its list of cases.
He concluded the overview of the Tribunal’s judicial work with a recent development on 10 November 2022. The Tribunal received an application, under article 292 of the Convention, for the prompt release of the M/T “Heroic Idun”, a crude carrier flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, and of its 26 crew members. He said the Tribunal treats prompt release cases as urgent proceedings. In a letter dated 14 November 2022, the agent of the Marshall Islands informed the Tribunal that “Equatorial Guinea caused the vessel and her crew to be transferred into the jurisdiction, control and custody of Nigeria on 11 November 2022”. These developments “rendered moot the Marshall Islands’ Prompt Release Application” and the agent asked the Tribunal to “take this correspondence as a formal notification of discontinuance of the proceedings in question under article 106 (1) of the Rules of the Tribunal”. Thus, in accordance with article 106, paragraph 1, the Tribunal President issued an order on 15 November 2022 to remove the case from the Tribunal’s list of cases.
Turning to the Tribunal’s capacity-building activities, he said it received a generous grant from the Republic of Korea in 2020 to fund a workshop for legal advisers, particularly from developing countries, to acquaint them with the Convention’s dispute-settlement mechanisms. While pandemic restrictions prevented the workshop from being held in 2020 or 2021, the inaugural Tribunal workshop for legal advisers was held in September of this year, with 18 participants from South-East Asian and Pacific small island developing States.
International Seabed Authority
MICHAEL LODGE, International Seabed Authority, said that it is in the interests of all members of his organization to ensure that there is clarity in the legal framework concerning exploitation of minerals. Highlighting the Strategic Plan, adopted in 2018, he also noted the Authority’s implementation of a programmatic approach to capacity development, as well as the establishment of the International Seabed Authority Partnership Fund. These decisions will enable the Authority to redouble its efforts to provide tangible and meaningful capacity building to address needs identified by developing States, he said. He also pointed to the signing of the long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union and the Sustainable Seabed Knowledge Initiative, which was launched with the financial support of the European Commission.
Action on Draft Resolutions
Adopting “L.33” by consensus, the Assembly called upon all States, directly or through regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, to apply widely, in accordance with international law and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the precautionary approach and ecosystem approaches to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks. Further terms had the Assembly call upon States to adopt the measures necessary to ensure the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of such stocks and emphasize the importance of the effective implementation of the provisions of the Compliance Agreement.
The Assembly also emphasized once again its serious concern that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing remains one of the greatest threats to fish stocks and marine ecosystems. It also urged States to take effective measures, at the national, subregional, regional and global levels to deter the activities, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, of any vessel which undermines conservation and management measures that have been adopted by subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements in accordance with international law.
Speaking after adoption, the representative of Türkiye said that her delegation joined consensus as it is fully committed to ocean conservation and attaches great importance to regional cooperation, but dissociated from references in the text on the Convention and the Agreement for its implementation relating to conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks to which her country is not party. These references should therefore not be interpreted as a change in the legal position of Türkiye on those instruments, she added.
The representative of Argentina said that his delegation joined the consensus on “L.33”. However, he noted that none of the recommendations or paragraphs in the resolution can be interpreted to mean that provisions in the New York Agreement and related instruments may be considered compulsory for States that have not stated their consent to be obligated under the Agreement. The resolution adopted includes paragraphs relevant to the implementation of the recommendations of the review conference on the Agreement, he said, reiterating that those recommendations cannot be opposed to States that are not parties to the Agreement. He affirmed that international law does not enable regional fisheries management organizations to adopt measures relative to ships whose flag States are not members of those organizations or have not explicitly consented to such measures being applicable to their flagships. None of the Assembly resolutions, including the adopted one, can be interpreted contrary to this. He recalled that the application of conservation measures, scientific research or any other activity recommended in the relevant Assembly resolutions have in force as a legal framework the international Law of the Sea. Thus, compliance with those resolutions cannot be claimed as a justification for ignoring or denying rights established in the Convention, and nothing in the resolutions can reduce the sovereign rights or jurisdictions of the coastal States, he said.
The representative of Venezuela said any reforms to fisheries and agricultural laws should include sustainable and responsible practices while respecting the ecosystem. It is important to improve the quality of life of fishermen and create a well-balanced sea for future generations. He said Venezuela is committed to apply the principles of the Agreement and joined the consensus on “L.33” although it has reservations and is not a stakeholder to the Convention.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of China said that some countries made erroneous statements about the South China Sea, stressing that the United Nations is not the place to talk about this body of water. Citing historical interests maintained over many successive Governments, he said China’s presence in the region is in line with multilateral instruments such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Sparing no effort to maintain friendly relations in the region, external forces deliberately stir up trouble through various means, including military action, which China opposes, he added. Turning to the South China Sea Arbitration case, he said legal proceedings were initiated unilaterally by the Philippines, adding that the Tribunal made a wrongful judgment, which is null and void. China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea will never be governed by the Tribunal, he said, expressing his delegation’s preference for negotiation. Further, China has never received a report on its violation of freedom of movement in the Sea. He called on the international community to condemn countries showing off their military might in the region and to respect sovereignty as well as the Convention. China and ASEAN countries work hard to make the South China Sea an area of peace, friendship and cooperation, he said, inviting countries to respect that atmosphere.
Resumed Debate on Law of Sea Convention
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said that his country will continue to conduct maritime boundary delimitation negotiations through peaceful means, noting that its experience in dispute settlement reflects trust and good faith in the Convention. On several occasions, Malaysia has sought the wisdom of the independent judicial bodies to adjudicate disputes arising from interpretation and application of the Convention, he added. As a country straddled between the strategic waterways of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, Malaysia is committed to ensuring the safety of its maritime area for navigation, maritime-bond international trade and other ocean-related economic uses. The cooperative mechanism for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has been recognized as a successful model of cooperation among littoral States. The principles of equity, common heritage of mankind and common but differentiated responsibilities should guide the way forward, he emphasized.
JOYKER NAYECK (Mauritius), aligning himself with the African Group, said his country is an island State whose history, people and economy are intricately intertwined with the seas. Mauritius signed the Convention on the day it was open for signature, he said, adding that the provisions of the Convention have the force of law in his country. Commending the work of the three bodies established under the Convention, he said they are essential for promoting a rules-based and sustainable use of the oceans. Their work is invaluable to States such as his, he said, noting that Mauritius has successfully used arbitral proceedings as well as a special chamber of the Tribunal for the delimitation of its maritime boundaries.
ALEXANDER S. PROSKURYAKOV (Russian Federation) hailed the Convention as an unprecedented document of exceptional importance, adding that compliance with the norms therein are vital for the preservation and sustainable use of the world’s oceans. The document has helped craft decisions and solutions to the thorniest problems, he noted. The Convention’s long-term success is living proof that legal solutions must be found without haste or politicization, he said, expressing scepticism that it needs to be revised. Given his statement, he underscored the importance of all parties who have not done so to accede to the Convention.