Climate change is impacting also our marine environment.
The sea level is rising, endangering millions of people in coastal zones and small island states in particular.
The effects of climate change are most clearly visible and measurable in the polar regions.
The air temperature has been rising twice as fast here as the global average.
Polar ice caps are melting at an alarming speed.
Ecosystems are changing. Fish stocks may migrate. Species may become endangered.
In the Arctic region a main challenge will be to strike the right balance between protection of more accessible, until now pristine regions, and the orderly and sustainable management of its resources. The five Arctic coastal states have a special responsibility in this regard.
On 28 May this year, ministers and high officials from Canada, Denmark, Russia, the United States and Norway met in Ilulissat in Greenland. They pointed out that there is already an extensive international legal framework that applies to the Arctic Ocean. The Law of the Sea sets outs rights and obligations which are universal.
Applicable rules regulate the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf, the protection of the marine environment, including ice-covered areas, freedom of navigation and marine scientific research. This legal framework provides a good foundation for responsible management of the Arctic Ocean. What we now need is satisfactory implementation and compliance with the legal instruments that already exist, rather than new instruments. The key to achieving this is deeper, broader and more effective international cooperation and coordination. Most of the world’s countries have ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and all of the world’s countries should do so.
It is in the clear interest of all states that the outer limits of the continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles are accurately defined. It is important for future offshore shelf activities and has significant positive development implications. By establishing the outer limits of the continental shelves, we also define the limits of the international seabed area, which is the common heritage of mankind.
Some states have already submitted data to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf documenting the extent of their continental shelf beyond 200 miles, and a considerable number of states are well on the way to doing so. For very many states the deadline for submitting such information is in May 2009. We sincerely hope that states will comply with that deadline, and we urge them to do so.
The States Parties to the Convention recognized in June this year that some developing states face particular challenges in meeting the deadline. It was decided that it is sufficient for such states to submit preliminary information indicative of the outer limits of the continental shelf, together with a description of the status of preparation and the intended date for a full submission. By making use of internationally available data, expertise and existing funding mechanisms, all states concerned should be able to comply with the 2009 deadline.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently funding the UNEP Shelf Programme, which is coordinated by GRID-Arendal with a view to promoting capacity-building and making relevant data available to states. GRID-Arendal may be contacted in order to gain privileged access to a compilation of relevant data. The Norwegian Mission to the United Nations stands ready to facilitate any Member State’s desire to cooperate with GRID-Arendal. There is also a UN Trust Fund that can provide financial assistance to facilitate the process of making a submission to the Commission. Norway has made substantial contributions to that fund, which has proven useful and helpful for many developing countries.
In a world facing a food crisis, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines efforts to conserve and sustainably manage fish stocks, and has severe negative effects on food security.
Several international studies have found links between illegal fishing and international criminal networks. It would be irresponsible not to intensify the fight against such illegal fishing. We need a better understanding of the nature of this activity and the actors involved. Norway therefore strongly advocates further discussion and studies on the links between IUU fishing and international organised crime in relevant international forums.
In a world that struggles with food production, it is completely unacceptable that large amounts of fish go to waste, because they are simply discarded – thrown over board. The precise scale of this waste is hard to determine, as discarded fish are generally not registered or reported. Discards are therefore also a major source of error when total catches are being calculated. And it undermines our knowledge base for determining allowable catch.
In Norway’s view, it is time to develop an International Plan of Action to reduce or eliminate discards, and we will take the initiative to develop such a plan in the framework of FAO.
We are seriously concerned about piracy and armed robbery at sea, in particular off the coast of Somalia. The growing number of vessels hijacked is a continuous and serious threat to the safety and security of crew, sailors, officers, to ship-owners and other financial interests, as well as to the safe delivery of food and humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia. Norway was one of the co-sponsors of the Security Council resolutions regarding piracy off the coast of Somalia, including the one adopted two days ago, and we welcome the Council’s efforts in this matter. We also welcome efforts by organisations such as NATO and the EU and by individual states such as France. Piracy has long been regarded as an international crime. It is an anomaly that it still exists. But since this is the case we must continue to work together to improve security for international shipping.