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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2009

United Nations General Assembly, 64th session: Item 70(a) and (b) Oceans and the Law of Oceans and the Law of the Sea and Sustainable Fisheries

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Jim McClay, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 4 December 2009

Given its history, its location and its extensive coastline, New Zealand has a strong interest in the ocean and its resources. The ocean has always played an important part in the economic, social and cultural life of our country.

We are also very conscious of the very great significance of the oceans to our near neighbours, Australia and the small island States of the Pacific, with whom we work very closely, both in this Organisation and in the region, particularly in the Pacific Islands Forum and, in the fisheries context, in the Forum Fisheries Agency and in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

We have long recognised the increasing threats to the long-term health of our oceans, and share the common objective of sustainably harnessing the value of the marine resources in our region and ensuring their conservation.  

The Pacific Ocean is a globally important and precious ecosystem, with a high concentration of vulnerable marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, deep water corals, hydrothermal vents and underwater seamounts.  It is also an area of rich fishery resources which are crucial to the livelihood of Pacific nations.

For all these reasons, we attach great importance to the annual resolutions on Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans and Law of the Sea that are considered by this Assembly.

This year, the informal consultations on the sustainable fisheries resolution focussed on the review of the implementation of the bottom fishing provisions in Resolution 61/105. We were pleased to participate in that review and welcomed the open discussions among participating countries about the extent to which that Resolution has been implemented in various parts of the world, including the Pacific.   

The review confirmed that significant efforts have been made by regional fisheries management organisations and arrangements, and by states participating in negotiations to establish RFMOs to give effect to the Resolution.   But it is also very clear that there is some distance to go before it can be said that the Resolution has been implemented fully - or even adequately.  We remind this assembly that the clear import of Resolution 61/105 was that, if the steps called for in paragraphs 83, 85 and 86 were not carried out within the timeframes specified, then bottom fishing should not proceed.

For these reasons, we support the reaffirmation, in this year’s resolution, of the key elements of Resolution 61/105; and welcome the emphasis placed on taking action consistent with the Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries developed by the FAO.  We also support the decision to hold a further review in 2011 on the implementation of the bottom fishing provisions of Resolution 61/105 and the action that will have been taken on this year’s resolution.

We are pleased that this year’s resolution also welcomes the adoption of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries in the South Pacific Ocean.  Together with our cosponsors, Australia and Chile, New Zealand put a major effort into the negotiations which led to the adoption of this Convention establishing a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation.   

The Convention provides for the conservation and management of the non-highly migratory fishery resources of the high seas of the South Pacific.  It builds on the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, and completes the essential international framework for managing the high seas fishery resources of the South Pacific, complementing the three agreements dealing with the highly migratory species of the Pacific: the Convention establishing the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Convention establishing the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.  We look forward to the entry into force of this Convention, and to working with others in this important new organisation.

We also take this opportunity to acknowledge the recent ratification of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement by Tuvalu and Indonesia; and encourage others to become party to this Agreement. 

Mr President: 

New Zealand values the primacy of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea as the constitutional framework for human interaction with the world’s oceans and seas. The increasing number of States Parties to the Convention illustrates its relevance, maturity and growing universality.

New Zealand has been fortunate to be among the first countries to make submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and was, in effect, one of the first to have its submissions fully considered and to receive recommendations from the Commission; and because of the large number of submissions that have now been lodged with the Commission, we know that others face much longer waiting times.

We are very aware of the considerable workload now faced by the Commission, and are concerned at the implications for the timely consideration of submissions. It is important that these be considered within a timeframe that ensures that relevant expertise will still be available to submitting States; and express our support for the work of the informal working group on this issue. 

An issue of great importance to New Zealand is the impact, on the marine environment, of pollution, physical degradation and climate change.  New Zealand urges the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen to deliver an effective and successful global response to climate change. 

We welcome efforts, in the context of the Oceans and Law of the Sea Resolution, to address emerging issues, such as ocean acidification, and to reiterate that ocean fertilisation activities – other than for legitimate scientific research - should not be allowed under the current circumstances.

New Zealand welcomes the fact that next year’s topic for the UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea will be capacity-building in oceans affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science. We look forward to this UNICOPOLIS11 being an inclusive and cooperative meeting, where the views of all are considered.

Adequately resourcing the monitoring and assessment of coastal waters and EEZs remains a challenge for many countries. Efforts that improve our collective ability to assess, analyse and integrate information on the marine environment at the global level must continue. We hope the modalities for the implementation of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment can be progressed before UNGA65.

And we look forward to the reconvening, in 2009, of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. We trust the meeting will serve as a means for States to pursue further their collective work on a balanced range of issues related to this subject.

Mr President:

Together with its near neighbours in the Pacific, New Zealand shares a common heritage and tradition – not to say a strong economic, social, cultural and environmental interest in strong interest - in the ocean that surrounds us, and in its resources; much of which manifests itself in the Convention on the Law of the Sea and other instruments, in regional and other organisations, and in resolutions of the type considered by this Assembly.   We value international cooperation and agreement on these critical issues.  They will have our continuing support.

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