I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) members represented at the United Nations.
The members of the Pacific Islands Forum share a strong and unifying interest in the ocean and its resources. We have long recognised the increasing threats to the health of our oceans, and share the common objective of harnessing the value of the marine resources in our region, and ensuring as joint custodians their conservation and sustainable use.
For these reasons, Pacific Islands Forum members attach great importance to the annual resolutions on Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans and Law of the Sea that are considered by this Assembly.
One of the key issues for this year’s informal consultations on the sustainable fisheries resolution was to record the progress made at the resumed United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement Review Conference in May 2010. Long-term sustainability of our regional fish resources is a crucial priority to the Pacific Islands Forum Membership. Our cultures, our health, our economies, our development – all are dependant on the proper conservation and management of our shared fish stocks.
For that reason, Pacific Islands Forum countries were intimately involved in the negotiations leading to the adoption of United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. We take this opportunity to welcome the recent ratification of the Agreement by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and encourage others to become party to this Agreement.
The Pacific Islands Forum members were also pleased to participate in the 2006 Review Conference and the 2010 resumed Review Conference.
We welcome the successful adoption by consensus of the outcome of the resumed Review Conference, ably chaired by Ambassador David Bolton of the United States. Parties to the Agreement, as well as non-Parties, participated in the resumed Review Conference, including in the negotiation of the outcome document which was adopted by consensus.
The result of the resumed review conference is a fair compromise that garnered consensus approval, and not one which only reflected the weakest formulation, as the United Nations has often been accused of doing. The recommendations we agreed are something that we, as a body, can be proud of. It is a concrete step forward and proof that the United Nations can be trusted to protect our oceans.
However, we were disappointed that, in a number of areas, it was not possible to carry the strong language agreed by consensus at the resumed Review Conference into the sustainable fisheries resolution.
One such example is the conservation and management of sharks. The outcome of the resumed review conference, adopted by consensus, included language requiring that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached or through different means that are equally effective and enforceable.
All positions were considered during the review conference negotiations. Some countries advocated for a complete moratorium on shark finning, while others, including some non-parties, voiced their reluctance to include language on shark finning. The concerns of fishing nations as well as coastal states were methodically addressed. Distant water fishing nations showed their flexibility by listening to our viewpoints. The language on sharks adopted at the resumed Review Conference, including on best available scientific information, enforcement and effectiveness, reflects the depth of our productive cooperation. We are therefore concerned that it could not be included in the sustainable fisheries resolution. We were pleased, however, to obtain strengthened language in the resolution on the regulation of the incidental catch of sharks.
We are pleased that this year’s fisheries resolution welcomes the recent signatures and ratification of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean and encourages further signatures and ratifications with a view to its early entry into force.
This Convention, establishing a South Pacific RFMO, builds on the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and completes the international framework for managing the high seas fishery resources of the South Pacific. We look forward to the early entry into force of this Convention and to working with others in this important new Organisation.
We also welcome the inclusion of several new paragraphs on large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, to improve implementation of the 1991 global moratorium on using drift-nets on the high seas. Pacific Island Forum members helped pave the way for this moratorium, including through the 1989 Convention for the Prohibition of Fishing with Long Driftnets in the South Pacific.
Our group 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. In this regard, we welcome Malawi’s recent accession to the Convention.
We are pleased that, this year, both Palau and Tonga were able to make initial presentations of their submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, as were the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in respect of their joint submission.
We also take this opportunity to highlight the importance of the UN Trust Fund for facilitating the preparation of submissions to the Commission.
Pacific Islands Forum countries are aware of the very 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. In this regard we support the continuing work of the informal working group on this issue.
Pacific Island regional waters cover over ten percent of the Earth’s surface, and much of this rich marine area falls within the national jurisdiction of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The stewardship of this resource is, however, often compromised by geographic isolation, small populations and lack of technical expertise. The various references to capacity building within these resolutions are, therefore, appropriate and reflect the outcomes of the resumed Fish Stocks Review Conference and the Mauritius Strategy review.
Improving inter-agency coordination on key issues of interest to SIDS can help increase access to information and resources. In this regard, we welcome the invitation in the oceans resolution to relevant parts of the United Nations system and interested States to coordinate with regional and national marine scientific and technological centers in SIDS, as appropriate, to ensure the more effective achievement of their objectives in accordance with relevant United Nations SIDS development programmes and strategies.
We are also pleased that the oceans resolution notes with appreciation the several hundreds of millions of dollars in funding recently set aside by the Global Environment Facility for projects related to oceans and marine biodiversity. We are hopeful that this funding will have a catalytic effect on our ability to address the multiple stresses on our oceans and their resources.