|Oceans and the Law of the Sea|
|Friday, 04 December 2009 18:51|
Statement by Ambassador Palitha Kohona
In relation to Agenda Item 76 (b) on Sustainable Fisheries, the Convention on the Law of the Sea provides for the protection, and preservation of the marine environment. The issue of fisheries management has assumed much importance. Today, the regulation of the exploitation and preservation of the living resources of the high seas or the areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction are governed through the 1995 Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement and other international, regional or sub-regional arrangements. Fishing activities have the most significant impacts on marine biodiversity in areas within and beyond national jurisdiction. We are conscious of over fishing of stocks, habitat degradation from destructive fishing practices and the incidental capture of non target species, including endangered species. My delegation welcomes the steps taken by the UN and the various Agencies such as FAO, IWC, FFA regarding these aspects and encourages these Agencies to develop further strategies towards this end. Fish do not recognize national jurisdictions. As a nation that is surrounded by the sea and substantially dependent on the ocean, we would like to see fisheries beyond the limits of national jurisdiction better controlled through cooperative means. In the Indian Ocean, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission is active. However, there is a need for a regional fisheries management organization or arrangement with wider powers and the capacity to effectively regulate all high seas fisheries and conservation of stocks in this vast expanse of oceans.
While we endorse the adoption of international agreements, guidelines and practices for better regulation of bottom fisheries, we are conscious of the need to accommodate the difficulties developing countries may face, especially, due to the lack of capacity, in enforcing such measures. Accordingly, we are pleased that the negotiation led to the adoption of operative paragraph 121 of Resolution A/64/L.29 which
Recognizes the special circumstances and requirements of developing States and the specific challenges they may face ……. and gives full consideration to the section of the guidelines on “Special Requirements of Developing Countries”
Oceans are indivisible ecosystems where national boundaries are products of political expediency. Thus, while jurisdiction over resources gives the need of developing States with respect to the sustainable development of maritime space within national jurisdiction an urgent and distinctive dimension, their needs in maritime space beyond national jurisdiction are to be viewed in an integrated manner. Sri Lanka, therefore, welcomes the inclusive study to be supplemented to include the needs of the developing States and of potential assistance available to them with respect to the whole ecosystems of oceans, as envisaged in the draft Resolution.
States were required to submit their claims to the Continental Shelf beyond 200 nautical miles by 13 May 2009 and many States at great expense and use of technical expertise made these submissions within the stipulated deadline. Sri Lanka was one of them. However, the workload of the Commission and the slow progress of the Commission in dealing with the submissions have evoked great concern. It is estimated that some claims already lodged will be examined as late as 2040. In fact, we are pleased to have participated in efforts to find practical solutions. We look forward to positive results and appropriate measures being adopted by the 20th Meeting of the States Parties to the Law of the Sea Convention in 2010 and by the 65th Session of the General Assembly.
Many key climate indicators already help improve the patterns of natural variability within which our societies and economies have developed and thrived. Ocean warming appears to be approximately 50% greater than what had been predicted. New estimates suggest that sea-level rise by 2100 could be more than one metre or more. Impacts of ocean acidification on some major marine calcifiers already appear to be detectable and some coastal waters have become corrosive to the shells of some bottom dwelling organisms. The oceans may be losing the ability to absorb carbon. With unabated levels of greenhouse gas emissions, many trends in climate are likely to accelerate leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.
The adverse effects of climate change on the marine environment and marine biodiversity are matters of serious concern and have to be addressed with a sense of urgency. It has become necessary to enhance research activities to better understand the effects of climate change on the marine environment and marine biodiversity and develop ways and means of adaptation. Research on ocean acidification has to be pursued to address levels of ocean acidity and the negative impact of such acidity on vulnerable marine eco-systems, particularly coral reefs. It is necessary, therefore, to recognize the importance of improved understanding of the impact of climate change on the oceans and to adopt and formulate mitigatory strategies to overcome them.
In addition to the incidence of Piracy which is a threat to maritime security is the threat posed by the transportation of large consignments of sophisticated equipment and lethal cargo to provide logistical support to terrorist groups. In recent years, Sri Lanka experienced the most unprecedented and dangerous forms of maritime terrorism. Our Navy successfully confronted and interdicted the movement of virtual floating warehouses of arms and ammunition which posed a grave threat to the security and stability of our country and to our region. At the global level, this phenomenon calls for a revision of existing laws pertaining to boarding and search of vessels in the high seas. We need a comprehensive legal framework to address all aspects of safety and security of maritime navigation, going beyond the current concerns on Weapons of Mass Destruction. This would make a distinct contribution to securing global peace and security. Sri Lanka strongly supports the operative paragraphs 68 – 83 of the Resolution addressing the issues of piracy and armed robbery at sea.
Finally, Mr. President I would like to express our gratitude to the Legal Counsel of the UN for her undertaking to follow the assurance given by her predecessor that the award of the Hamilton Shirley Amarasinghe Fellowship on the Law of the Sea would be continued with the next award in 2010. The Fellowship has gained much prestige as it honours a prominent Sri Lankan who guided the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from its very inception and was the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Seabed and Ocean Floor.