UNICP – Crucial for States to Act Now

Date: July 2, 2007

This year’s UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICP) examined the issue of Marine Genetic Resources, with members of the DSCC in attendance. During the meeting, the DSCC made the following statement: “For the past several years, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition has highlighted the threats to deep-sea marine biodiversity from human activities, in particular high seas bottom trawling. As noted by Iceland, the language in UNGA 61/105 addresses some of those threats and we look forward to states and regional organisations acting to implement the elements contained in that resolution to protect and conserve deep-sea biodiversity from destructive fishing practices, actions which will also be reviewed, as per the resolution, by the UNGA in 2009.

As we look forward to such actions and reflect on the discussions this week on marine genetic resources, it is important to take note, in addition, to the other threats to marine biodiversity inter alia: pollution, overfishing, oil and gas exploration and exploitation, mining, underwater noise and climate change. While we can consider each of these threats independently to understand them better, their impacts on marine biodiversity are often inter-related and clearly cumulative.

Along with the emerging, very real detrimental impacts of climate change on ocean life and coastal communities, it is clear that we no longer have the luxury of time to consider issues over many years. In the ten years it could take to negotiate agreements on one issue – and all you have observed the time and energy involved for instance in discussing what do about high seas bottom trawling — the health of our oceans could become severely degraded and compromised, threatening distant water fisheries as well as the fisheries and livelihoods of coastal communities and the very existence of some small island states. It is crucial therefore, for states to act now, individually and together, to stop the destruction of marine diversity, to restore as much as possible the life in our oceans and to build the resilience of marine biodiversity to all of these threats.

We agree that UNCLOS is the proper framework for all matters related to the oceans. But UNCLOS must be viewed as a living document. When it was drafted over 30 years ago, present technological capabilities were not envisioned. Clearly, we have many environmental challenges ahead – particularly from climate change. Shall we address these each individually as they arise, or shall we face the reality that just as human activities have changed our world, so too our legal instruments must change and adapt to meet the new challenges that we have created? Political leaders came together at the WSSD and committed to the development of a global network of marine protected areas and no-take marine reserves by 2012.

Given the clear scientific consensus on the value of protected areas and, in particular, no-take areas to restoring marine life and building its resilience to change, and the fact that we are now just five years away from reaching that date, the 60 member environmental and conservation organizations of the DSCC urge all states to take action now to build that global network.” The DSCC further urges states to use the opportunity at the upcoming UNGA informal Working Group on biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, to agree on the need to address these threats – as well as any potential future threats – in an integrated manner, and to move forward swiftly towards operationalizing the articles in UNCLOS on the conservation and protection of marine biodiversity and actually establish the global network of marine protected areas and reserves to meet the 2012 target.