Sumario: EU Presidency Statement - Working Group on Marine Biodiversity (13 February 2006: New York)
Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group of the United Nations General Assembly to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction; Statement on behalf of the European Union by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Hafner, Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, New York
I am speaking on behalf of the European Union.
The EU welcomes the establishment of this working group, which potentially can play an important role in securing our shared objectives of conserving effectively biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). We welcome a full and frank discussion of the issues, but we also think it timely to move to agreement on necessary actions. The EU, therefore, calls for this meeting to develop concrete conclusions and recommendations for action by the international community. Inter alia this will enable the 61st Session of the General Assembly to address effectively issues relating to biodiversity in ABNJ, identifying any shortcomings in the current regime and agreeing on action under this year's Oceans and Fisheries Resolutions.
The EU underlines that in the framework of a holistic and integrated approach to ocean governance the effective protection of biodiversity will only be achieved if measures taken in areas beyond and within national jurisdiction are coherent, compatible and without prejudice to the rights and obligations of coastal states under international law.
The subject of this Ad Hoc Open ended Working Group is the issue of conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Such a discussion is needed since substantial threats to marine biodiversity exist today, and will further increase in the future. Areas beyond national jurisdiction contain sensitive and biodiversity rich ecosystems such as seamounts and cold water corals. As well as demonstrating high levels of endemism, these ecosystems appear to be important also for key migratory species, such as turtles, birds and mammals.
There is a continuous need for the international community to address this issue in view of the growing pressures on these ecosystems and mounting evidence of actual destruction. Impacts currently are largely known from fisheries but new technologies and interests are growing from other sectors. Ecosystems in the oceans are interconnected and there is an urgent necessity to consider ways to integrate and improve the management of all activities that affect or risk adversely affecting the marine biodiversity, in particular those of seamounts, cold water corals, hydrothermal vents and other vulnerable eco systems.
Such an urgent need to protect the marine biodiversity has been expressed in the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report.
Today there are several international instruments concerning the protection of the marine environment that contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
The mandates of existing bodies and fora are consistent with the basic legal framework which is provided by UNCLOS. The CBD can be seen as having a particular and complimentary role in contributing to international action on the protection of sensitive ecosystems in ABNJ, including the assessment of scientific information and through the establishment of marine protected areas. This role, which could also be played by other bodies, would usefully focus on establishing scientific, precautionary and ecosystem based arguments, including through the development of ecological criteria, and the establishment of a register of representative networks of MPAs. Parties to the CBD, under its marine and coastal work programme, are committed to the establishment by 2012 of "a global network of marine protected areas, building upon national and regional systems".
Several organizations or international mechanisms of universal or regional and sub-regional nature are competent to regulate different types of human activity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (such as fishing, navigation and mining for instance). They also have certain competences in the field of the protection of marine biodiversity and take measures for this purpose such as the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the FAO, IMO, IOC, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations or Arrangements, OSPAR and the Barcelona Convention.
However, these existing mechanisms provide only sectoral governance structures as they address only specific activities, specific species or specific geographical areas. There are currently no clear mechanisms or set of policy approaches in place to foster co-operation and co-ordination of biodiversity conservation activities across ABNJ in a way that can effectively tackle the problem of conserving certain sensitive marine ecosystems.
We believe the international community should urgently consider ways to integrate and improve the management of all activities that affect or risk adversely affecting the marine biodiversity of seamounts, cold water corals, hydrothermal vents and other vulnerable eco systems. In applying the precautionary approach, the absence of further detailed scientific information on certain parts of the oceans should not be a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures. Also, the international community should assess and address the gaps in scientific knowledge, management and ocean governance necessary to protect biodiversity and to ensure the sustainability of fisheries. The EU also recognises that there are issues relating to genetic resources and marine scientific research which need to be addressed.
The measures in ABNJ have to be based on the best available scientific information and the precautionary principle. According to an integrated and ecosystem approach, protective measures taken within national jurisdiction and in areas beyond national jurisdiction will need to be coherent and compatible in order to be effective.
For the EU it is important to differentiate between the medium term track and the short term track.
In the short term, urgent action as referred to in Paragraphs 66 to 69 of Resolution 59/25 to address destructive practices and to protect marine biodiversity and particularly vulnerable ecosystems must be taken. The EU remains fully supportive of the initiatives undertaken in this field by the UN General Assembly, the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and other bodies. The EU also considers that the conservation powers of existing RFMOs should be strengthened urgently where current management powers are inadequate and is committed to carrying forward the Review established under paragraph 71 of Resolution 59/25. The EU believes that States must be ready to take full account of the outcome of this exercise. The EU and its Member States have already taken actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and are committed to pursue their efforts at all levels, international, communitarian and national.
As far as medium term measures are concerned, the EU reiterates its call for the development of an Implementation Agreement consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which will provide for the conservation and management of marine biological diversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, including the establishment and regulation, on an integrated and precautionary basis, of marine protected areas where there is a scientific case for establishing these areas.
In the view of the EU the following preliminary listing of elements should be considered with the view of adopting an Implementation Agreement: