Statement by Mary B. DeRosa, Public Delegate, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, at a General Assembly Plenary Session on the "Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and Sustainable Fisheries"

Mary B. DeRosa, Public Delegate
New York, NY
December 6, 2011


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/66/L.21.  We also have the honor to introduce, on behalf of the co-sponsors, the General Assembly resolution on sustainable fisheries, A/66/L.22.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

Healthy oceans and coasts and their resources are necessary for global prosperity.  Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture play an essential role in ensuring global food security and a green economy.  Ocean acidification and changes in sea level endanger the survival of individual marine species and entire marine ecosystems, increasing the vulnerability of coastal communities.  Effective oceans conservation and management must be integrated, ecosystem-based, and science-based.  Due to the global and connected nature of the oceans, the need for international collaboration and transparency is clear.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

The United States believes that this year’s resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries together provide a constructive framework for progress on a wide spectrum of marine-related issues, including at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The oceans resolution brings to the world’s attention a host of pressing oceans issues, including:

  • maritime safety and security, such as efforts to address piracy, the safety of  seafarers, and the protection of submarine cables;
  • marine science, such as the need to pursue research relating to ocean acidification and the need to protect ocean data buoys; and
  • marine environment and marine resources, such as the importance of an integrated, ecosystem-based, and science-based approach to ocean conservation and management.

In addition, negotiations for this year’s oceans resolution included discussion of a number of new and emerging issues.  We appreciate the openness with which delegations approached these issues and hope that continuing dialogue will allow us to find common ground.

Finally, we are pleased to see the oceans resolution call for a number of activities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of opening for signature of the Law of the Sea Convention.  We look forward to celebrating this important milestone.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

This year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries once again addresses critical issues such as effective monitoring and control of transshipment in order to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, potential effects of genetically engineered aquatic fish species on wild fish stocks, the important connections between the economies and livelihoods of small island developing States and healthy fisheries.  This resolution also recognizes for the first time the need to collect data on marine mammal bycatch in fisheries and provisions for strengthening mitigation measures of such bycatch.

Mr. President, although more work is needed to manage shared fish stocks with greater certainty for their long-term sustainability, regional fisheries management organizations, “RFMOs,” remain the best mechanisms for cooperatively regulating international fisheries.  A number of RFMOs have conducted systematic reviews of their performance and are now in the process of assessing and implementing the recommendations from those reviews.  These reforms include the adoption of steps to improve States’ implementation, enforcement and compliance with the rules they adopt as members of such organizations, including meeting their responsibilities as flag States.

Mr. President, in 2004, delegates began debating how to protect critical marine habitats and vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices, given the critical role these habitats play in the marine environment and the immense importance of the biodiversity they contain.  As a result, the General Assembly agreed to a number of ground-breaking commitments to achieve this goal.  The United States has been pleased with the significant strides made by many States and RFMOs in responding to the calls from the General Assembly to take action to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and regulate bottom fisheries.

This year, delegates reviewed State and RFMO implementation of the bottom fishing provisions contained in previous UNGA resolutions, in particular from 2006 and 2009.  In September, the Secretary-General convened a Workshop, which was called for by the General Assembly in 2009, that reviewed progress in implementation and was attended by a wide array of experts and stakeholders.  The United States would like to thank DOALOS for coordinating and planning the event and Ms. Alice Revell (of New Zealand) for moderating the Workshop and producing an outstanding and well-balanced report of its proceedings.  The discussions at the Workshop and the moderator’s summary report contributed significantly to our understanding of the status of implementation of the provisions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices.  While the review of these provisions identified areas of considerable progress, it also highlighted the need for additional work to promote full and effective implementation.

As a result, this year’s sustainable fisheries resolution calls for creating processes and incentives for further implementation.  Specifically, the resolution invites the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to further assist States and RFMOs in their efforts to manage effectively the impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems by providing further technical direction with regards to implementation of the FAO Guidelines for the Management of Deep-Sea Fisheries in the High Seas.  The resolution also calls upon States and RFMOs to conduct further research in identifying vulnerable marine ecosystems such as through seabed mapping, to take cumulative impacts into account in conducting assessments; to make all assessments publicly available; and to establish mechanisms to promote compliance.  The resolution also invites the Food and Agriculture Organization to convene a meeting of scientists to examine assessments in order to establish best practices and standards for implementation.  These new calls will, in our view, considerably assist States and RFMOs in pursuing a more balanced approach to  implementing UN General Assembly commitments fully and effectively to protect the world’s vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

The United States would like to thank Director Serguei Tarassenko and the staff of the Division of Oceans and the Law of the Sea for their expertise and support on both resolutions.  We would also like to thank Ambassador Henrique Valle of Brazil for his Coordination of the oceans resolution.

The United States has been particularly proud to provide the Coordinator for the sustainable fisheries resolution – Ms. Holly Koehler – whose expertise and guidance has led these negotiations to their satisfactory conclusion for the past eight years, including this year.  We would like to take the time to recognize and thank Ms. Koehler for her hard work and dedication to this end.  The United States believes these negotiations and the annual fisheries resolutions produced through these informal consultations are of great value to the international fisheries community.  It has been an honor to provide a Coordinator of such caliber to lead this important process and we look forward to our continued participation in this resolution under the leadership of the new Coordinator, Ms. Alice Revell of New Zealand, who has our highest confidence.

Finally, I would like to conclude by expressing appreciation for delegations’ hard work and cooperation in crafting both resolutions and in conducting this year’s review of the bottom fishing provisions in the fisheries resolution.  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: 2011/297