The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the legal framework for all ocean issues and maritime activities.
We welcome the fact that this instrument continues to gain new parties, bringing us steadily closer to the goal of universal adherence.
Needless to say, we expect all Parties to respect the letter and spirit of the Convention in all their dealings with maritime affairs. Moreover, the Convention reflects customary international law on a number of issues.
As regards the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement is an essential contribution to the Law of the Sea. It sets out the precautionary principle and establishes the institutional framework for regional cooperation on sustainable fisheries management.
Also in relation to this instrument, we welcome the increasing number of parties, but underline the need for increased participation. An important issue in this regard is to increase awareness of the Agreement and its benefits among States. To this end, Norway is currently cooperating with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with a particular focus on capacity building in developing countries.
Let me express our satisfaction with the consensus reached in May this year at the Review Conference on the implementation of the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement. We hereby encourage States and Regional Fisheries Management Organisations/Arrangements (RFMO/As) to give due priority to the implementation of the results of the Conference.
The wide range of maritime issues presently being dealt with within the broader framework of the General Assembly illustrates the Assembly's role as the universal forum for discussing current issues regarding ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea.
It is essential that all important discussions on the broader developments of the law of the sea take place within this representative forum. In this regard, I would like to commend the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) on the excellent job it is doing to provide the General Assembly with necessary input on the topics under discussion. It is essential that DOALOS is provided with the resources it needs to carry on its important function.
A range of different activities and discharges affect the state of the marine environment. The accumulated effect on the marine ecosystems is a result of a wide range of different factors such as discharges of chemicals, contaminated sediments, harvesting of living resources, introduction of non-indigenous species and the physical destruction of habitats as well as increased emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The state of the marine environment is governed by a complex pattern of natural interplay and variation in the ecosystems, and by the effects caused by human activity. Impact on one component will have consequences in other parts of the ecosystem, even though the actual effects may often be difficult to measure. If key species that many links in the food chain depend on, are negatively affected, this can adversely affect the entire ecosystem.
The management of the oceans should by 2010 be based on the ecosystem approach in accordance with the 2002 Johannesburg Plan Of Implementation. The accumulated effect on the environment must in the long term not be greater than the structure of the ecosystems and their biological diversity can tolerate.
The Norwegian government applies the ecosystem approach to management of our oceans. We are developing integrated management plans for Norwegian maritime areas. In March this year the Government presented to the Storting an Integrated Management Plan for the Barents Sea and the areas off the Lofoten Islands.
This is an overall framework for the sustainable use of natural resources in the area. In developing the plan, we attached great importance to developing a considerable body of scientific knowledge about the area in question. The plan is intended to be dynamic, and we will regularly assess the need to update and adapt it to changing conditions.
Norway is deeply concerned about the impact on the marine environment of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We know that elevated levels of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere are rapidly changing ocean chemistry, leading to ocean acidification.
Other large-scale impacts include rising sea levels and sea surface temperatures, reduced sea ice coverage and changes in ocean circulations and salinity. Collectively, these changes will have profound impact on the structure and functioning, and hence the productivity and biodiversity, of the marine ecosystems.
Norway views the capture and geological storage of CO2 as an element in a portfolio of measures to mitigate climate change and ocean acidification.
We welcome the recent adoption of an amendment to the London Protocol (the 1996 Protocol to the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters) to allow for CO2 sequestration in sub-seabed geological formations. The amendments provide a coherent legal framework for such activities and are important for the further development of this technology.
Therefore, we also participate actively, both globally under the London Protocol, and regionally under the OSPAR Convention (The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic), in the important work on further technical guidance for the geological storage of CO2.
Our oceans also need to be protected against the introduction of species alien to their ecosystems. It is generally accepted that discharge of harmful aquatic species through ballast water is one of the largest threats to marine biological diversity.
The Norwegian Government has decided to ask for the Storting’s approval to accede to the International Convention for the Control and Management for Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments. Subject to parliamentary approval, Norway will be among the first larger flag States to join the Convention. We urge also other States to consider ratifying this important Convention.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) is one of the most serious threats currently facing marine fish stocks. Fighting this phenomenon is of the highest priority to Norway. Developing countries in particular are hurt by IUU fishing, since they loose state revenue while their coastal communities are weakened, sometimes on a long term basis.
Implementation of a port State control regime, combined with enhanced compliance with flag State duties, are important tools to eliminate IUU fishing. These steps are essential towards curbing IUU fishing, and to ensure compliance by the States concerned.
On Norwegian initiative, and in close cooperation with other member States, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) recently adopted a new Scheme of Control and Enforcement, which includes a comprehensive and binding agreement on Port State Control (PSC) for all fish stemming from catches in the North East Atlantic.
This Scheme is necessary in our region, and we encourage other RFMO/As to take similar measures. However, our final goal is to establish a global, binding agreement on port State control. We value the support this idea received at the Review Conference on the implementation of the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement in May this year, and here in the General Assembly this fall. We hope that the FAO in March next year will initiate a process for the negotiation of such an agreement.
The main problems concerning conservation and sustainable management of marine resources are found within national zones. The greatest challenge is to ensure sustainable management of living marine resources within areas under national jurisdiction.
These facts must not be blurred by the present extensive focus on issues related to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity on the high seas. However, there are substantial challenges related to biodiversity also in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and this issue has Norway’s full attention.
Also in these waters we must implement the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle to the management of human activities. We need to ensure conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This includes achieving a more integrated approach to establishing and managing marine protected areas.
Destructive fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, is the most immediate and serious threat to marine biodiversity that urgently needs to be addressed effectively.
Based on what we know at this stage, we believe that most, if not all, threats to marine biodiversity within and beyond areas of national jurisdiction today, can be met by implementing practical and effective measures within the existing legal framework and existing instruments.
We have the tools available, but at the end of the day, we are dependant on the political will to use them and comply with them. In this regard, we are encouraged by the active participation in the General Assembly's thorough review related to destructive fishing practices this fall. Even if we hoped and worked for consensus on even tougher measures against destructive fishing practices, we think the agreed measures provide important guidance on how to deal with these challenges at this stage.
We now expect the RFMO/As to take seriously their responsibility to protect vulnerable habitats within their regulatory areas and implement necessary measures to prevent further habitat degradation. And not least, we expect flag States that allow their vessels to conduct bottom trawling in unregulated high seas areas to prevent further harm to vulnerable areas.
The challenges related to sustainable use and conservation of biological resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction were also discussed in-depth here in New York in February this year during the meeting of the ad-hoc Working Group established especially to facilitate such discussions.
We are glad that there is a consensus to continue the work of that group at a meeting in 2008, under the auspices of the General Assembly within the framework of the Convention.
The Secretary General’s latest report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (A/61/63) refers to a large number of actual and attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery, the same number as last year. It is reported that the level of violence has escalated, and that the threat to seafarers’ lives remains very high. This threat to seafarers and the shipping industry is of great concern to my government.
We would, however, commend those governments that have taken an active interest in developing cooperation to curb this problem, and would in this regard like to highlight the recent entry into force of the 2004 Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) deserves praise for its efforts, and we encourage the organisation to continue its engagement in this field.
In closing, Madame President,
let me draw your attention to an issue to which we attach the greatest importance. It follows from the Law of the Sea Convention that coastal States’ legal definition of the continental shelf automatically stretches out to 200 nautical miles.
States with submarine natural prolongations of the land territory beyond 200 miles must submit documentation to this effect to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The documentation must be approved by the Commission before the coastal State can establish the final outer limits of the continental shelf, and the submission deadline for many states is 2009.
For some developing States presenting the necessary documentation is a particularly challenging task. In this regard, the General Assembly has established the UN trust fund to assist developing countries in documenting the outer limits of their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles. Norway recently contributed an additional USD 1 million to this fund, and we would like to see increased activity financed through this fund.