Statement on Agenda Item 77(a): Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and Agenda Item 77(b): Sustainable fisheries

Laura G. Ross
Senior Advisor 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 4, 2009


Mr. President, my delegation has the honor to co-sponsor the General Assembly resolution entitled “Oceans and the Law of the Sea,” A/64/L.18.  We also have the honor to introduce, on behalf of the co-sponsors, the General Assembly resolution on sustainable fisheries, A/64/L.29.

Mr. President, let me begin by expressing appreciation for the spirit of cooperation exhibited by delegations involved in crafting both resolutions this year.  It is our hope that this spirit of cooperation will also characterize our efforts to address the numerous and complex issues that lie ahead in the New Year.

The United States is very pleased with the successful outcome of this year’s review of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.  The Process is a useful forum for informing policy makers about cutting-edge oceans issues, including their relationship to sustainable development of the oceans and marine resources.  Following this year’s review of that process and agreement on improvements to it, we look forward to addressing “Capacity-building in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science” in 2010, and other critical oceans-related issues in the years beyond. 

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, this year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries once again contains important provisions to address critical issues such as better regulation of destructive fishing practices; control of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; reduction of fishing capacity; emphasis on science-based conservation and management measures; implementation of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, strengthened conservation and management of sharks; and other important matters.  However, perhaps the most notable aspect of this year’s resolution are the provisions to strengthen and enhance the regulation of bottom fishing activities and the impact of such activities on vulnerable marine ecosystems in areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

In 2006, the United States, along with many other countries, successfully sought strong provisions in the sustainable fisheries resolution to address the critical gap in oceans governance with respect to bottom fisheries.  In our view, the provisions contained in General Assembly Resolution 61/105 were a landmark step forward for sustainable bottom fisheries and protecting fragile and rare marine ecosystems from adverse impacts of fishing activities.  In the three years since its adoption, the international community has made significant and important progress in implementing the calls in Resolution 61/105.  This year’s sustainable fisheries resolution reviewed this progress in implementing those calls, and further refined recommendations to assist States and regional fisheries management organizations with implementation of those provisions.  Delegations recognized that States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements (RFMOs) have taken important and tangible steps to implement Resolution 61/105, including beginning – and in the case of the South Pacific completing – negotiations to establish two new RFMOs where they do not currently exist.  However, delegations also expressed concern that implementation has been uneven and not sufficient in all cases. Therefore, delegations crafted language to strengthen and focus action where it is urgently needed.  As a result, the United States is pleased that this year’s sustainable fisheries resolution contains a package of provisions that clearly articulates what urgent actions States and RFMOs should take to ensure full implementation of Resolution 61/105, and that it encourages enhanced cooperation among States and RFMOs in achieving that goal.  The United States will continue to work with others to advance this issue through the relevant RFMOs, and through negotiations to establish new organizations. 

Mr. President, much work remains if we are to ensure the sustainability of global fish stocks.  RFMOs continue to be the best available mechanism for regulating international fisheries.  Nonetheless, there is much room for improvement within these organizations to advance our common goals.  To this end, a number of RFMOS have embarked on systematic reviews of their performance.  These efforts must be recognized and commended.  However, the recommendations of these reviews must now be implemented to bring about much needed reform and modernization within RFMOs. Such reform must also address how States implement and enforce the rules that they adopt as members of such organizations.  The United States will be looking ahead to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement Review Conference, scheduled for May of next year, as a venue to consider this and other critical issues facing international fisheries.

Mr. President, I would like to thank all the delegations for their hard work in the development of the sustainable fisheries resolution.  The United States was once again proud to provide the coordinator for the informal consultations -- Ms. Holly Koehler -- who led the negotiations to their successful conclusion and for her work to this end, we greatly thank Ms. Koehler. 

Thank you.


PRN: 2009/307