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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2011

United Nations General Assembly - Agenda item 76 - Oceans and the law of the sea

Statement on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum by H.E. Jim McLay, Permanent Representative, Tuesday 11 December 2011

Mr President:

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the members of the Pacific Islands Forum who are represented at the United Nations.

As a group connected by the Pacific Ocean, we have a collective depth of understanding of oceans issues, and a strong shared interest in ensuring that those issues receive due and proper consideration by the international community.  We therefore welcome conclusion of the annual resolutions on Oceans and Law of the Sea, and on Sustainable Fisheries, and wish to highlight particular aspects of importance to our region.

At the most recent meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland, New Zealand, leaders reiterated the critical importance of ensuring the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean.  They noted the region’s unique dependency on that Ocean as the basis for their livelihoods, food security and economic development.  Forum Leaders called for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to recognise the significant global value and contribution of the Pacific Ocean to sustainable development, acknowledging the stewardship of Pacific Island Countries.

We are therefore pleased that the Oceans and Law of the Sea resolution encourages states to see Rio+20 as an opportunity to further consider measures to implement internationally agreed goals and commitments for the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources. Indeed, we would have welcomed even stronger references to the importance of Rio+20 for the oceans.

Mr President:

The Pacific Islands Forum urges the international community to work towards integrated oceans management, using the Pacific Oceanscape as a model. We must achieve relevant international goals to contribute to the health and vitality of the ocean environment, including the global network of marine protected areas agreed at Rio+10.  The recognition of the Pacific Oceanscape contained in the Oceans Resolution is welcome, as this framework provides the ongoing basis for our region’s ocean management.

Forum Leaders also highlighted threats to the ocean environment, including from ocean acidification, pollution, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  The paragraphs of the Oceans Resolution that address these issues are very important.

In that regard, we also note that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors recently approved a “Marine benchmark study on the possible impact of the Fukushima radioactive releases in the Asia-Pacific Region”.  Its report is expected in 2015.

Mr President:

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders are concerned about the damaging effect of IUU fishing on the sustainability of fish stocks and on the economic returns to coastal States, particularly Small Island Developing States.  We are pleased that this year’s Sustainable Fisheries resolution recognises the effect of IUU fishing on Small Island Developing States.  Pacific States are working to enhance cooperation on monitoring, surveillance and enforcement activities.  These activities play an integral role in combating IUU fishing in the region.

To ensure that Rio+20 includes strong outcomes on the conservation and sustainable management of marine ecosystems and resources outcomes that reflect the needs of the Pacific region, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders called for the maximisation of returns to Pacific states from the conservation and sustainable management of their ocean resources.

Our Oceanscape framework puts a high priority on finalising the maritime boundaries in the Pacific.  All Pacific states are therefore strong supporters of the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and wish to see it adequately resourced so that its work can be concluded in a timely manner. 

Mr President:

In 2011, for the first time, the UN Secretary General took part in the Pacific Islands Forum.  At their meeting, Forum leaders and the Secretary-General stressed the critical importance of the sustainable development, management and conservation of the region’s oceans, coastal and fisheries resources as a source of livelihoods and income for communities, industries and governments.  They further stressed the need for Pacific Small Islands Developing States to enjoy a greater share of the benefits derived from those resources.  They called for such issues, often referred to as the ‘Blue Economy’, to figure prominently at next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Oceans and sustainable fisheries issues are fundamental to the wellbeing of the Pacific region and, on behalf of the members of the Pacific Islands Forum represented here in New York, I call on United Nations Member States to work with us to ensure the survival of our oceans and their living resources for future generations.top of page

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT