Norway warmly welcomes this opportunity to discuss the broad issues related to biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The issue of conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources is indeed an important and topical one. There are substantial challenges related to biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and the threats to ecosystems and species in these areas definitely deserve our full attention. We firmly believe that the United Nations will play an important role in our fight to reduce or neutralise these threats through an integrated eco-system based and precautionary approach. The focus on the threats to biodiversity on the high seas should, however, not mislead us to believe that the greatest challenges related to conservation and sustainable management of marine resources are to be found in the areas beyond national jurisdiction. The main problems are still to be found within the national zones. In our discussions on conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity on the high seas and in the Area, we must not forget that one of our greatest challenges is to encourage and enable States to ensure sustainable management of living marine resources within areas under national jurisdiction.
Scientific information and data on marine biodiversity on the high seas have increased over the recent years. We thank the Secretary-General, DOALOS and all others who contributed to the report prepared for this meeting, which gives a detailed account of existing information on marine biodiversity and threats facing this biodiversity. However, and as the report itself makes clear, it is evident that our knowledge is insufficient, and we agree that there is a need for further research programmes and studies relating to deep-sea organisms, habitats and ecosystems. Current and potential threats must be identified as well as their underlying causes in order to implement suitable and effective counter-measures. One important step in this context would be to systematise existing information on the different habitats, human activities that threaten them and how these activities can be regulated. Such a survey will ensure that all parties base their discussion on the same facts and will contribute to a constructive and better informed dialog. It would also form a good basis for considerations related to the possible need for new instruments or mechanisms. Another crucial step is to encourage and facilitate research and technology sharing and co-operation among States, international organisations and research institutions. Co-operation and co-ordination are key elements in our efforts to enhance our knowledge on marine biodiversity. It is our considered opinion that scientist from developing countries to a larger extent should be enabled to participate in research programmes and that developing countries should gain greater access to existing scientific information and data.
There are obvious and huge challenges related to marine environment and resources on the high seas. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries and destructive fishing practices are well-documented threats to biodiversity on the high seas that have devastating effects on the marine environment. These are immediate and serious threats that urgently need to be addressed effectively. Certain fishing practices, such as bottom trawling in vulnerable areas, are destroying bottom habitats, such as cold water coral reefs and seamounts. Measures to prohibit such practices should be adopted swiftly as called for in resolution 59/25. This is an example of a threat to the marine biological diversity where practical measures can be implemented quickly within the existing framework of UNCLOS, The Fish Stocks Agreement of 1995 and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and Arrangements (RFMO/As). The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) decided in 2004 to establish five marine protected areas where such practices are prohibited. This is a practical and effective approach to the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We believe that most, if not all, threats to marine biodiversity within and beyond areas of national jurisdiction can be met by implementing practical measures within the existing legal framework. We have tools available, but it all boils down to the political will to use them, including the will through capacity building and other measures to enable developing states to fully implement their rights and obligations under the Law of the Sea.
The Ad Hoc Group has been invited to debate several important and complex issues concerning conservation and sustainable management of marine biodiversity on the High Seas and in the Area. We look forward to this week of discussions that we are confident will contribute to establishing a common understanding of the challenges before us and hopefully also guidance on how to move forward in the most efficient manner.