Statement by Gregory Nickels, Public Delegate, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 74(a): Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and Agenda Item 74(b): Sustainable fisheries

Gregory Nickels, Public Delegate, US Mission to the UN
New York, NY
December 7, 2010


Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

My delegation has the honor to co-sponsor the General Assembly resolution entitled “Oceans and the Law of the Sea,” A/65/L.20. We also have the honor to introduce, on behalf of the co-sponsors, the General Assembly resolution on sustainable fisheries, A/65/L.21.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

The oceans, our coasts, and the Great Lakes provide jobs, food, energy resources, ecological services, recreation, and tourism opportunities, and play critical roles in our Nation's transportation, economy, and trade, as well as the global mobility of our Armed Forces and the maintenance of international peace and security.

This year, President Obama issued an executive order establishing a national policy to ensure the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhance the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies, preserve our maritime heritage, support sustainable uses and access, provide for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change and ocean acidification, and coordinate with our national security and foreign policy interests.

This order also provides for the development of coastal and marine spatial plans that build upon and improve existing Federal, State, tribal, local, and regional decision-making and planning processes. These regional plans will enable a more integrated, comprehensive, ecosystem-based, flexible, and proactive approach to planning and managing sustainable multiple uses across sectors and improve the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. One of the national goals of such planning is to enhance interagency, intergovernmental, and international communication and collaboration.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

The United States believes that this year's resolution on oceans and the law of the sea provides a constructive framework for progress in the coming years on a wide spectrum of marine-related issues.

The oceans resolution incorporates important ideas generated during the 2010 Informal Consultative Process on capacity building, the 2010 meeting of the Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, and the 2010 meeting of the Working Group on the Regular Process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.

The Informal Consultative Process is a very useful forum for discussing cutting-edge oceans issues, including those related to sustainable development of the oceans and their resources. We are pleased that the mandate of this process was extended for two years and look forward to addressing implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development in 2011, and marine renewable energies in 2012.

We thank Ambassador Henrique Valle of Brazil for his coordination of the oceans resolution and we thank Director Serguei Tarassenko and the staff of the Division of Oceans and the Law of the Sea for their expertise and support.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

This year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries once again contains important provisions to address critical issues such as combating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing through strengthened control by States operating open registries over all fishing vessels flying their flag; reducing global fishing capacity for tunas; addressing the impacts of climate change on the sustainability of fish stocks; strengthening conservation and management of sharks and the collection of data on species caught as bycatch; and implementation of the recommendations from Resumed Review Conference for the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, among other important matters. The United States is also pleased that the resolution contains a renewed emphasis on implementing and enforcing the moratorium on large scale high-seas drift nets and the critical need for science-based conservation and management measures, including protecting and conserving fish stocks during critical life stages.

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 which conducted systematic reviews of their performance are beginning to assess and implement the recommendations from those reviews. These efforts by RFMOs to improve implementation of their mandates must be recognized and commended. Such reform must also address how States implement and enforce the rules that they adopt as members of such organizations and how effective States are at carrying out their responsibilities as flag States.

Mr. President, I would like to thank all the delegations for their hard work in the development of the sustainable fisheries resolution. This year delegates critically examined the length of the resolution and explored avenues for how it could be streamlined. Although it was not possible to restructure the resolution this year, delegates did recognize the need to modernize the resolution in a manner to optimize its utility and importance and have agreed to consider this issue again next year. The United States was once again proud to provide the coordinator for the informal consultations – Ms. Holly Koehler – who led the negotiations to their satisfactory conclusion, and for her work to this end, we greatly thank Ms. Koehler.

Mr. President, I would like to conclude by expressing appreciation for delegations’ cooperation 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.

Thank you.


PRN: 2010/316