DSCC Intervention Statement at the United Nations

Date: February 2, 2010

Members of the DSCC attending the ad hoc informal working group on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, which opened at the United Nations yesterday (1st February 2010), made the following intervention:

United Nations Ad Hoc Open-Ended Informal Working Group
to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction

New York, February 1-5, 2010

Opening Intervention by DSCC

Thank you co-chairs.

Good afternoon delegates. This intervention is made on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), which is a coalition of over 60 NGOs concerned about the protection of biodiversity in the deep seas.

We won’t re-state the threats that the oceans face; they have been addressed by the Secretary-General’s report, the Deputy Secretary-General and delegates before us. I would just note that since we first met in 2006, overfishing has increased and climate change and ocean acidification have emerged as major new threats to the world’s oceans.

Co-chairs, we must modernize existing international arrangements and mechanisms to manage and conserve biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), including to fill gaps in existing international instruments. In this UN-designated International Year of Biodiversity, the DSCC urges States participating in the UNWG to make concrete recommendations to the 65th UN General Assembly, including recommending that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). These include:

  1. Adopt shared principles for managing and conserving biodiversity in ABNJ:

    The DSCC urges the UNWG to recommend adoption by the UNGA of a set of principles to guide management and control of all human uses and activities and to conserve biological diversity in ABNJ.

  2. Agree on a mandate to require prior environmental assessments for human activities which may cause a significant adverse impact on biodiversity in ABNJ:

    A UNGA resolution
    should call on States and relevant organizations to assess whether individual activities would have significant adverse effects on marine biodiversity in ABNJ, and ensure that if it is assessed that these activities would have significant adverse effects, that they are managed to prevent such impacts, or not authorized to proceed. We support the comments made by Palau on this matter.
  3. Establish a procedure to identify ecologically significant areas, and a process aimed at establishing marine protected areas, including marine reserves, and ecologically coherent networks of MPAs in ABNJ, building on existing regional and sectoral mechanisms and bodies.

    MPAs, including marine reserves, help build marine ecosystem resilience and flexibility in the face of existing and emerging threats. The UNWG should recommend that the UNGA call upon appropriate international organizations, in cooperation with RFMOs and regional seas organizations where they exist, to identify and protect areas meeting the CBD Ecologically or Biologically Significant Area criteria as a first step towards developing representative networks of MPAs, that the UNGA initiate a process to enable the formal designation of comprehensive, adequate and representative networks of MPAs.

  4. Advance discussions on the conservation and equitable benefit sharing of marine genetic resources in ABNJ through a dedicated, time-bound process.

    Marine genetic resources offer benefits to present and future generations and should be preserved. The DSCC recommends that a time-bound process be established to address MGRs and, in the meantime, practical steps are agreed to better identify where samples of marine genetic resources have been obtained and what has subsequently been done to them and by whom.

  5. Fully implement the provisions of UN GA resolution 61/105, paragraphs 83-87, as further called for under 2009 UN GA resolution 64/72, on deep-sea fishing in ABNJ

    These resolutions can provide real protection to marine biodiversity in ABNJ and

  6. Establish a process such as a diplomatic conference for addressing governance gaps in ABNJ.

    Progress needs to be made to close governance gaps, to facilitate the implementation of MPAs and EIAs in the high seas and to establish a universal framework for new, emerging and intensifying uses and activities in ABNJ.A diplomatic conference should be held with a mandate to address and negotiate modern conservation and management principles for existing and new and emerging activities in ABNJ, mechanisms for environmental impact assessments and establishing marine protected areas in ABNJ, and effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms and necessary institutional arrangements. Options should include an implementing agreement(s) under the Law of the Sea Convention. We welcome suggestions made by South Africa and others in this regard. Options could include a free standing agreement which draws upon, and is consistent with, the Law of the Sea Convention and the Biodiversity Convention. The Port State Agreement is one example of a free standing agreement that was recently negotiated.

    Finally, a process is also needed to adopt explicit rules and criteria that determine what is required of a responsible State for nationals and flags and what penalties and sanctions may apply to irresponsible States.

We will address these as we move through the week. We are encouraged by the support for MPAs and EIAs and the constructive approaches shown by Australia, the European Union, New Zealand, the United States and others to date. A working group to prepare for a diplomatic conference could be held as soon as possible, or at least by 2011.

In terms of institutional arrangements, it is time to take the negotiations for the Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans resolutions out of the closed rooms and into the 21st century. A joint meeting of the Law of the Sea and Fisheries groups, held in plenary, could address issues of common concern such as marine biodiversity and human impacts. It could also serve as an interim reporting and global mechanism, while a new legal framework is being negotiated. For instance, it could discuss a list of areas to be nominated as MPAs, and States conducting EIAs, and RFMOs, could report their findings to it.

We look forward to welcoming delegates at our Side Event on Wednesday at 1:15 in Rm. 5 in the Temporary North Lawn Building. Leading scientists will give presentations on the mapping of VMEs, high seas areas closed to bottom fishing, biogeographic classifications and options for conservation of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions. We also welcome delegates at an evening cocktail event also on Wednesday, at 6 pm, at the delegates dining room in the main building, when we will present a short version of the End of the Line video on fishing. Its author, Charles Clover, will introduce the film.

Thank you.