158. We recognize that oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth?s ecosystem and are critical to sustaining it, and that international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources. We stress the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and of their resources for sustainable development, including through their contributions to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods and decent work, while at the same time protecting biodiversity and the marine environment and addressing the impacts of climate change. We therefore commit to protect, and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for present and future generations, and to effectively apply an ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach in the management, in accordance with international law, of activities having an impact on the marine environment, to deliver on all three dimensions of sustainable development.
159. We recognize the importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to advancing sustainable development and its near universal adoption by States, and in this regard we urge all its parties to fully implement their obligations under the Convention.
160. We recognize the importance of building the capacity of developing countries to be able to benefit from the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their resources and, in this regard, we emphasize the need for cooperation in marine scientific research to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, as well as for the transfer of technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology.
161. We support the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, established under the General Assembly, and look forward to the completion of its first global integrated assessment of the state of the marine environment by 2014 and its subsequent consideration by the Assembly. We encourage consideration by States of the assessment findings at appropriate levels.
162. We recognize the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. We note the ongoing work under the General Assembly of an 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. Building on the work of the ad hoc working group and before the end of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly we commit to address, on an urgent basis, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
163. We note with concern that the health of oceans and marine biodiversity are negatively affected by marine pollution, including marine debris, especially plastic, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and nitrogen-based compounds, from a number of marine and land-based sources, including shipping and land run-off. We commit to take action to reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems, including through the effective implementation of relevant conventions adopted in the framework of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the follow-up of the relevant initiatives such as the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, as well as the adoption of coordinated strategies to this end. We further commit to take action to, by 2025, based on collected scientific data, achieve significant reductions in marine debris to prevent harm to the coastal and marine environment.
164. We note the significant threat that alien invasive species pose to marine ecosystems and resources and commit to implement measures to prevent the introduction, and manage the adverse environmental impacts, of alien invasive species, including, as appropriate, those adopted in the framework of IMO.
165. We note that sea-level rise and coastal erosion are serious threats for many coastal regions and islands, particularly in developing countries, and in this regard we call on the international community to enhance its efforts to address these challenges.
166. We call for support to initiatives that address ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems and resources. In this regard, we reiterate the need to work collectively to prevent further ocean acidification, as well as enhance the resilience of marine ecosystems and of the communities whose livelihoods depend on them, and to support marine scientific research, monitoring and observation of ocean acidification and particularly vulnerable ecosystems, including through enhanced international cooperation in this regard.
167. We stress our concern about the potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization. In this regard, we recall the decisions related to ocean fertilization adopted by the relevant intergovernmental bodies, and resolve to continue addressing with utmost caution ocean fertilization, consistent with the precautionary approach.
168. We commit to intensify our efforts to meet the 2015 target as agreed to in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to maintain or restore stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield on an urgent basis. In this regard we further commit to urgently take the measures necessary to maintain or restore all stocks at least to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield, with the aim of achieving these goals in the shortest time feasible, as determined by their biological characteristics. To achieve this we commit to urgently develop and implement science-based management plans, including by reducing or suspending fishing catch and effort commensurate with the status of the stock. We further commit to enhance action to manage bycatch, discards and other adverse ecosystem impacts from fisheries, including by eliminating destructive fishing practices. We also commit to enhance actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts, including through the effective use of impact assessments. Such actions, including those through competent organizations, should be undertaken consistent with international law, the applicable international instruments and relevant General Assembly resolutions and FAO guidelines.
169. We urge States parties to the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks to fully implement that Agreement and to give, in accordance with part VII of the Agreement, full recognition to the special requirements of developing States. Furthermore, we call upon all States to implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the FAO international plans of action and technical guidelines.
170. We acknowledge that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing deprive many countries of a crucial natural resource and remain a persistent threat to their sustainable development. We recommit to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as advanced in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, and to prevent and combat these practices, including through the following: developing and implementing national and regional action plans in accordance with the FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing; implementing, in accordance with international law, effective and coordinated measures by coastal States, flag States, port States, chartering nations and the States of nationality of the beneficial owners and others who support or engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by identifying vessels engaged in such fishing and by depriving offenders of the benefits accruing from it; as well as cooperating with developing countries to systematically identify needs and build capacity, including support for monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement systems.
171. We call upon States that have signed the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing to expedite procedures for its ratification with a view to its early entry into force.
172. We recognize the need for transparency and accountability in fisheries management by regional fisheries management organizations. We recognize the efforts already made by those regional fisheries management organizations that have undertaken independent performance reviews, and call on all regional fisheries management organizations to regularly undertake such reviews and make the results publicly available. We encourage implementation of the recommendations of such reviews and recommend that the comprehensiveness of those reviews be strengthened over time, as necessary.
173. We reaffirm our commitment in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overcapacity, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries, and we reiterate our commitment to conclude multilateral disciplines on fisheries subsidies that will give effect to the WTO Doha Development Agenda and the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration mandates to strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiation, taking into account the importance of the sector to development priorities, poverty reduction and livelihood and food-security concerns. We encourage States to further improve the transparency and reporting of existing fisheries subsidies programmes through WTO. Given the state of fisheries resources, and without prejudicing the WTO Doha and Hong Kong ministerial mandates on fisheries subsidies or the need to conclude these negotiations, we encourage States to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and to refrain from introducing new such subsidies or from extending or enhancing existing ones.
174. We urge the identification and mainstreaming of strategies by 2014 that further assist developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and small island developing States, in developing their national capacity to conserve, sustainably manage and realize the benefits of sustainable fisheries, including through improved market access for fish products from developing countries.
175. We commit to observe the need to ensure access to fisheries and the importance of access to markets, by subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fisherfolk and women fish workers, as well as indigenous peoples and their communities, particularly in developing countries, especially small island developing States.
176. We also recognize the significant economic, social and environmental contributions of coral reefs, in particular to islands and other coastal States, as well as the significant vulnerability of coral reefs and mangroves to impacts, including from climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution. We support international cooperation with a view to conserving coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and realizing their social, economic and environmental benefits as well as facilitating technical collaboration and voluntary information-sharing.
177. We reaffirm the importance of area-based conservation measures, including marine protected areas, consistent with international law and based on best available scientific information, as a tool for conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of its components. We note decision X/2 of the tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, that by 2020 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
Decision 7/1. Oceans and seas
I. General considerations
1. The Commission emphasizes the fundamental fact that oceans and seas constitute the
major part of the planet that supports life, drive the climate and hydrological cycle, and
provide the vital resources to be used to ensure well-being for present and future generations
and economic prosperity, to eradicate poverty, to ensure food security and to conserve marine
biological diversity and its intrinsic value for maintaining the conditions that support life on
earth. The Commission also reiterates the following general considerations:
(a) The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) sets out the
overall legal framework within which all activities in this field must be considered;
(b) Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 remains the fundamental programme of action for
achieving sustainable development in respect to oceans and seas;
(c) The Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21,5 adopted by the
General Assembly at its nineteenth special session (especially its paragraph 36), identifies
the needs for urgent action in respect to oceans and seas.
2. The Commission, taking into full account the different situations of various countries,
calls upon Governments to strengthen national, regional and international action, as
appropriate, to develop integrated approaches to oceans and coastal area management, and
stresses that as in other areas, action should be taken on the basis of the principles set out in
the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
II. Major challenges at the national, regional and global levels
3. Following the 1998 International Year of the Ocean, the Commission emphasizes the
importance of international cooperation, within the framework of UNCLOS and Agenda 21,
in ensuring that the oceans and seas remain sustainable through integrated management, and
that while respecting the sovereignty, jurisdiction and sovereign rights of coastal States and
recalling their rights and obligations in relation to the protection of the marine environment,
all States can benefit from the sustainable use of the oceans and seas. The Commission further
emphasizes the threats to these objectives from overexploitation of marine living resources,
including through illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) fishing and unsustainable or
uncontrolled distant water fishing, and from pollution. In this context, the Commission
recommends that particular priority be given to:
(a) The conservation, integrated and sustainable management and sustainable use
of marine living resources, including the ecosystems of which they are a part;
(b) The prevention of pollution and degradation of the marine environment from landbased
and other activities;
(c) Better scientific understanding of the oceans and seas and their resources, of the
effects of pollution, and of the interaction of the oceans and seas with the world climate
system. This will be aimed at and facilitate proper assessment of the oceans and seas,
improving understanding of socio-economic issues, especially the effects of pollution,
developing better systems for the sustainable management and use of the resources of oceans
and seas, and comprehending and responding to such events as the El Niņo phenomenon and
mitigating their impacts;
(d) Encouraging, at the national, regional and global levels, the steps necessary for
an effective and coordinated implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS and Agenda 21,
including institutional adjustments and improved coordination mechanisms for chapter 17
of Agenda 21, to support action at the national and regional levels in developing countries
and those with economies in transition and the provision of, inter alia, financial and technical
assistance for the transfer of appropriate environmentally sound technologies. In this context,
the international community should promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, access
to and transfer of environmentally sound technologies and the corresponding know-how, in
particular to developing countries, on favourable terms, including concessional and
preferential terms, as mutually agreed, taking into account the need to protect the intellectual
property rights as well as the special needs of developing countries for the implementation
of Agenda 21.
A. Capacity-building for action at the national level
4. In support of national action to implement the provisions of chapter 17 of Agenda 21,
the Commission invites the United Nations system and Governments, both in their bilateral
relationships and in the multilateral development and financial organizations in which they
participate, to review their programmes to ensure that priority is given to initiate or further
develop, within the context of national plans, programmes for building capacities relating
to, inter alia, marine environment science, the administration of fisheries and shipping, the
control of activities likely to pollute or degrade the marine and coastal environment, and
cooperation and coordination with other States on marine environmental matters, including
development of early warning systems so as to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters,
especially those resulting from inter-annual climatic variability, such as the El Niņo
phenomenon. In this regard, it is also important that Governments, the organizations of the
United Nations system and donors coordinate their actions. For the purpose of capacitybuilding,
regional and national partnership meetings involving major groups can make a
significant contribution to these activities.
B. Capacity-building for action at the regional level
5. The Commission emphasizes the importance of cooperation, at the regional level, as
appropriate, within the relevant legal framework for the conservation and integrated and
sustainable management and use of regional seas. In this context, the Commission supports
the need to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regional seas
programme and to enhance cooperation with other regional seas and intergovernmental
organizations in order to permit the sharing of experience, in line with the recent conclusions
of the UNEP Governing Council at its twentieth session. The Commission invites
organizations of the United Nations system to work with appropriate intergovernmental and
regional organizations to facilitate the identification of appropriate technical solutions.
6. The Commission further invites the United Nations system and Governments, both in
their bilateral relationships and in the multilateral development and financial organizations
in which they participate, to review the priority given to building capacities needed to manage
regional seas organizations, intergovernmental regional fisheries organizations and
arrangements (RFOs) and regional monitoring systems.
C. International agreements
7. In order to achieve the goal of universal participation, the Commission recommends
that all States that have not done so consider becoming Parties to UNCLOS and the agreement
relating to the implementation of part XI of that Convention.
8. The Commission notes that although significant progress has been made in developing
global and regional agreements and programmes of action related to the conservation and
sustainable use of the oceans and seas, much more needs to be done to effectively implement
these agreements and programmes. To promote this, the Commission invites relevant
intergovernmental bodies to review, in accordance with their respective mandates, the status
of international agreements and programmes of action in their areas of work, as well as
obstacles to more effective implementation, and to propose possible actions that could be
taken to promote wider acceptance and implementation.
III. Areas of particular concern
A. Marine resources
1. Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
9. The Commission notes that fisheries and aquaculture, when managed sustainably, can
contribute significantly to global food security and income generation for both present and
future generations, consistent with the Rome Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the
World Food Summit of 1996. The Commission urges the international community to support
coastal and island developing States in the development of sustainable fisheries and
10. The Commission encourages all States, unless they have already done so, to consider
becoming Parties to, or, as the case may be, applying the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations (FAO) Agreement to Promote Compliance with International
Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas of 24
November 1993, the United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of
the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the
Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and HighlyMigratory Fish Stocks
of 4 August 1995, and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries of 31 October
1995, and emphasizes both the vital role of these instruments in safeguarding fish stocks and
the need to implement them effectively.
11. In support of implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries,
the Commission welcomes the recent approval by the FAO Committee on Fisheries of:
(a) The International Plan of Action for Reducing the Incidental Catch of Seabirds
in Long Line Fisheries;
(b) The International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks;
(c) The International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity.
The Commission in consequence urges the early formal adoption of these Plans of Action and
their effective implementation.
12. The Commission notes that further attempts were made in the course of its discussions
to resolve the other questions of subsidies related to fisheries but that no progress was made.
13. The Commission further emphasizes the important role of RFOs in improving, where
appropriate, the application of the principles contained in the instruments referred to in
paragraphs 10 and 11 above. In so doing, these organizations should be urged to apply sound
scientific knowledge of the fish stocks and to ensure, as appropriate, the involvement of major
14. The Commission notes the need for RFOs to be strengthened and the need to ensure
coverage by the RFO system of all fisheries which need to be managed in that way to ensure
15. To support this, the Commission invites regional fisheries organizations, including those
operating under the aegis of FAO, to provide information to FAO on progress made and on
problems faced in applying these principles and recommendations. Such information could
be included in the reports of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly.
16. The Commission urges States to implement existing FAO technical recommendations
to minimize waste, by-catch and discards. The Commission strongly supports further measures
by States, in consultation with FAO and RFOs, as appropriate, on these issues. The
Commission also invites FAO to develop an international action plan to eliminate destructive
fishing practices, and urges States to enforce existing bans on such activities.
17. The Commission also emphasizes the importance of General Assembly resolution 53/33
of 24 November 1998, in which the Assembly urges all authorities of members of the
international community to take greater enforcement responsibility to ensure full
implementation of the global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing on the
high seas. The Commission further invites States to develop additional measures to ban this
destructive fishing gear, including the confiscation and destruction of oversize nets.
18. The Commission supports the Rome Declaration adopted by the FAO Ministerial
Meeting on Fisheries (Rome, 10 and 11 March 1999), under which FAO will give priority
to its work to develop a global plan of action to deal effectivelywith any forms of IUU fishing.
This should include dealing with the problem of those States which do not fulfil their
responsibilities under international law as flag States with respect to their fishing vessels,
in particular those which do not exercise effectively their jurisdiction and control over their
vessels which may operate in a manner that contravenes or undermines the relevant rules of
international law and international conservation and management measures. It will also require
coordinated efforts by States, FAO, regional fisheries management bodies and other relevant
international agencies, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), as provided
in article IV of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Commission further
encourages IMO, in cooperation with FAO and the United Nations Secretariat, to consider
the implications in relation to fishing vessels of the work requested in paragraph 35 (a) below.
19. The Commission discussed the question of schemes for improving the information
available to consumers of fish but was unable to reach a consensus.
20. The Commission encourages States to develop environmentally sound and sustainable
aquaculture in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and as called
for in the Plan of Action of theWorld Food Summit. The Commission further calls upon FAO
and Governments, in consultation with major groups, to achieve environmentally sound and
sustainable aquaculture, ensuring that appropriate evaluations and assessments are
2. Other marine living resources
21. The Commission endorses the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) call to action,
its renewed call to action and its framework for action, and urges implementation of
complementary actions by States, intergovernmental organizations and other bodies (in
particular the Convention on Biological Diversity), non-governmental organizations and the
private sector. The Commission also asks the United Nations system to provide information
on progress in implementing ICRI objectives at the conclusion of the period of the current
framework for action in 2003.
22. The Commission encourages States to establish and manage marine protected areas,
along with other appropriate management tools, consistent with the provisions of UNCLOS
and on a basis consistent with the programme of work under the Convention on Biological
Diversity and its JakartaMandate in order to ensure the conservation of biological diversity
and the sustainable management and use of oceans.
23. The Commission calls upon RFOs and regional seas organizations to cooperate in more
effective integration of sustainable fisheries management and environmental conservation
24. The Commission notes the importance of protecting ecosystems and the need for further
study of approaches in this context.
3. Marine non-living resources
25. The Commission urges support, upon the request of the State concerned, for national
efforts to gain greater access to resource information and to develop appropriate policies to
facilitate the exploration and exploitation, with the State?s consent and in a manner consistent
6 A/51/116, annex II.
7 A/51/116, annex I, appendix II.
with the sustainability of marine living resources, of non-living marine resources within its
exclusive economic zones, or to the outer limits of the continental shelf, wherever applicable.
B. Land-based activities
26. The Commission expresses its grave concern at the slow rate of progress in many
aspects of the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the
Marine Environment from Land-based Activities.6 In this context, the Commission welcomes
the recent decision of the UNEP Governing Council on the implementation of the Programme
ofAction, especially the call for the Executive Director of UNEP to complete expeditiously
the establishment of the Hague coordination office. The Commission emphasizes the
importance of this implementation for the prevention of the pollution and degradation of the
27. In line with the 1995Washington Declaration on Protection of the Marine Environment
from Land-based Activities,7 the Commission urges the following:
(a) That Governments, organizations of the United Nations system and donors
cooperate to build capacities and mobilize resources for the development and implementation
of national action programmes, in particular for developing countries and those with
economies in transition. Partnership meetings, as described in paragraph 4 above, can make
a contribution here;
(b) That national and international institutions and the private sector, bilateral donors
and multilateral funding agencies accord priority to projects within national and regional
programmes to implement the Programme ofAction, and encourage the Global Environment
Facility (GEF) to support these projects;
(c) Completion of the establishment of the clearing house mechanism to provide
decision makers in all States with direct access to relevant information, practical experience
and scientific and technical expertise, and to facilitate effective scientific, technical and
financial cooperation as well as capacity-building and the transfer of environmentally sound
technology in the context described in paragraph 3 (d) above;
(d) Implementation of the Global Programme of Action by Governments and
international organizations, as appropriate, will contribute to the strengthening of the UNEP
regional seas programme, as called for in paragraph 5 above.
28. The Commission reiterates the appeal to the governing bodies of the relevant United
Nations agencies and programmes to review their role in and contribution to the
implementation of the Global Programme of Action within their respective mandates, as
recommended by the General Assembly in its resolution 51/189. The Commission further
invites those organizations to provide information on progress in this regard which could,
inter alia, be included in the reports of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly.
29. The Commission also stresses:
(a) The benefits of preparing the necessary national and local programmes within
a framework of integrated coastal area management;
(b) The value of further work by relevant international organizations, in conjunction
with relevant regional seas organizations, in promoting such management;
(c) The importance of supporting initiatives at the regional level to develop
agreements, arrangements or programmes of action on the protection of the marine
environment from land-based activities.
30. The Commission welcomes the agreement by the recent UNEP Governing Council to
explore the feasibility for UNEP to convene by 2000 a global conference to address sewage
as a major land-based source of pollution affecting human and ecosystem health. In this
context, the Commission encourages the establishment of links between this conference and
both the first intergovernmental review of the Programme of Action, planned for 2001, and
related intergovernmental conferences on the sustainable management of freshwater and
31. The Commission welcomes the activities in progress under the aegis of UNEP to
develop an international agreement on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and in this respect
underlines the need to provide adequate expertise and resources for reducing their reliance
on POPs, in the context mentioned in paragraph 3 (d) above, to developing countries,
including through the development and production of viable and environmentally safe
alternatives. The Commission encourages further international work on the reduction of
discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances.
C. Marine science
32. The Commission emphasizes that scientific understanding of the marine environment,
including marine living resources and the effects of pollution, is fundamental to sound
decision-making. Among other aspects of the global environment, this applies to the
interaction between atmospheric and oceanic systems such as experience with the 1997?1998
El Niņo phenomenon. The Commission therefore:
(a) Regrets the lack of follow-up to its decision 4/15, reiterates those
recommendations and welcomes the intention of IMO, working in partnership with other
sponsoring organizations, to improve the effectiveness and inclusiveness of the Joint Group
of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), and
encourages them to undertake the actions recommended by the Commission in its decision
4/15. The Commission further recommends exploring the possibility of establishing a means
for GESAMP to interact with scientific representatives of Governments and major groups;
(b) Invites the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to consider how the support
available for building scientific capacities needed for interdisciplinary, sustainable and
effective management of the marine environment in developing countries, particularly in the
least developed countries and small island developing States, could be extended and focused
more effectively. Recalling Commission decision 6/3 concerning the need for enhanced
science communication processes, the Commission encourages a contribution from the
forthcoming UNESCO World Science Congress on this question;
(c) Stresses the value both of the collection of reliable oceanographic data through
such systems as the Global Ocean Observing System, including the Global Coral Reef
Monitoring Network, and of periodic comprehensive scientific assessments of international
waters, such as the Global International Waters Assessment, including assessments of the
impact of physical and chemical changes on the health, distribution and productivity of living
33. To improve the scientific knowledge of fish stocks, the Commission invites RFOs,
within the framework of their competences, to cooperate with each other and consider
strengthening catch surveillance, where applicable, as well as mechanisms for catch
evaluation, using scientific peer review systems to improve the scientific quality of fish stock
assessments, exchanging information on assessment techniques with each other and generally
enhancing transparency. The Commission invites FAO to assist and support this process. The
Commission also invites FAO to strengthen its global monitoring of fish stocks by increased
coverage, more consistent methodologies and frequent updating of information, in close
cooperation with States and RFOs, as appropriate.
34. The Commission notes the impact throughout the world of the El Niņo Southern
Oscillation (ENSO), an example of the linkage between oceans and the atmosphere, and its
environmental, social and economic consequences, particularly for developing countries. The
Commission welcomes the intergovernmental expert meeting held at Guayaquil, Ecuador,
in November 1998, the intergovernmental meeting to be held at Lima in September 1999,
and the meeting on desertification and the El Niņo phenomenon to be held at La Serena, Chile,
in October 1999. The Commission:
(a) Requests the Secretary-General to gather information on all aspects of the impact
of ENSO, through national reports on the implementation of Agenda 21, and to provide this
information to the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on ENSO in order to contribute
to the development of an internationally concerted and comprehensive strategy towards the
assessment, prevention, mitigation and rehabilitation of the damage caused by ENSO,
including that to coral reefs;
(b) Decides to consider at its eighth session the impacts of ENSO as part of its
examination of the integrated planning and management of land resources;
(c) Registers the importance of including the ENSO issue in the next quinquennial
comprehensive review of Agenda 21, and requests the Secretary-General to provide a
comprehensive report on which decisions on including the ENSO issue could be based;
(d) Invites all intergovernmental agencies concerned with aspects of the oceans to
consider, within their respective mandates, whether their programmes of work make sufficient
allowance for considerations of the potential impact of increased climate variability, and to
review through the various coordination arrangements what more needs to be done to ensure
adequate understanding of the prediction and coastal and marine impacts of such phenomena
as the El Niņo phenomenon.
D. Othermarine activities
35. The Commission:
(a) Invites IMO as a matter of urgency to develop measures, in binding form where
IMO members consider it appropriate, to ensure that ships of all flag States meet international
rules and standards so as to give full and complete effect to UNCLOS, especially article 91
(Nationality of ships), as well as provisions of other relevant conventions. In this context,
the Commission emphasizes the importance of further development of effective port State
(b) Urges that the export of wastes and other matter for the purpose of dumping at
sea be stopped; the Commission further recommends that States be encouraged to become
Parties to and implement the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine
Pollution by Dumping ofWastes and Other Matter of 1972;
(c) Repeats its goal in paragraph 29 of its decision 4/15 for States that have not yet
done so to become Parties to and implement the Basel Convention on the Control of
Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989);
(d) Discussed further the question of the right of States to prohibit the transboundary
movement of hazardous and radioactive wastes and materials within their jurisdictions
consistent with international law. It noted that some delegations urged the continuation of
efforts to ensure that transboundarymovements of such materials be undertaken in a safe and
secure manner, and that these delegations indicated support for the call for States that have
not done so to become Parties to and implement the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent
Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management and to consider
making the Irradiated Nuclear Fuel (INF) Code a mandatory instrument. However, the
Commission was not able to reach a consensus on these proposals;
(e) Recommends that the international community be encouraged to cooperate fully
in the various efforts in accordance with relevant international agreements, such as the
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), to
assist in the prevention of the spread of harmful aquatic organisms through ships ballast water;
(f) Recommends that the programme for the development within the framework of
IMO of controls on harmful anti-fouling paints used on ships be carried out in accordance
with the timetable foreseen, underlining the need to provide adequate expertise and resources
to developing countries in the context mentioned in paragraph 3 (d) above;
(g) Welcomes the activities in the International Seabed Authority on a draft mining
code, including the aspect of marine environmental protection;
(h) Notes that the scrapping of ships presents an issue of concern with regard to the
pollution of the environment, and therefore calls on IMO to look into this issue and encourages
States to ensure that responsible care is applied with regard to the disposal of decommissioned
ships, taking into account the need to provide adequate expertise and resources to developing
countries in the context mentioned in paragraph 3 (d) above;
(i) Recommends that States consider ratifying, accepting or approving annex VI to
the MARPOL Convention on the control of air pollution from shipping;
(j) Recommends that in order to reduce the environmental risks and potential damages
associated with maritime transport, in particular when transiting areas are environmentally
sensitive, States fully implement the IMO regulation for the prevention of collisions at sea.
36. The Commission, taking into account its decision 4/15 and noting the outcome of the
international expert meeting on environmental practices in offshore oil and gas activities,
sponsored by Brazil and the Netherlands and held at Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in 1997,
(a) That the primary focus of action on the environmental aspects of offshore oil and
gas operations continue to be at the national, subregional and regional levels;
(b) In support of such action, there is a need to share information on the development
and application of satisfactory environmental management systems, aimed at achieving
national, subregional and regional environmental goals;
(c) To promote the sharing of that information, to raise awareness and to provide early
warning of off-shore oil and gas activities and projects posing potential threats to the marine
environment, further initiatives should be undertaken, involving Governments, international
organizations, operators and major groups.
E. International coordination and cooperation
37. The Commission urges relevant institutions, whether national, regional or global, to
enhance collaboration with each other, taking into account their respective mandates, with
a view to promoting coordinated approaches, avoiding duplication of effort, enhancing
effective functioning of existing organizations, and ensuring better access to information and
broadening its dissemination.
38. The Commission also notes that oceans and seas present a special case as regards the
need for international coordination and cooperation. The Commission is therefore convinced
that, building on existing arrangements, a more integrated approach is required to all legal,
economic, social and environmental aspects of the oceans and seas, both at intergovernmental
and inter-agency levels. To achieve this goal, the Commission:
(a) Invites the Secretary-General to undertake measures aimed at ensuring more
effective collaboration between relevant parts of the United Nations Secretariat in order to
ensure better coordination of United Nations work on oceans and seas;
(b) Further requests the Secretary-General to complement his annual reports to the
General Assembly with suggestions on initiatives that could be undertaken in order to improve
coordination and achieve better integration, and to submit these reports well in advance of
the debate in the Assembly;
(c) Invites the Secretary-General, working in cooperation with the executive heads
of relevant organizations of the United Nations system, to undertake measures aimed at
improving the effectiveness of the work of the ACC Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal
Areas, including through making the work of the Subcommittee more transparent and
responsive to member States, for example by organizing regular briefings on Subcommittee
(d) Recommends that the General Assembly, bearing in mind the importance of
utilizing the existing framework to the maximum extent possible, consider ways and means
of enhancing the effectiveness of its annual debate on oceans and the law of the sea.
39. In order to promote improved cooperation and coordination on oceans and seas, in
particular in the context of paragraph 38 (d) above, the Commission recommends that the
General Assembly establish an open-ended informal consultative process, or other processes
which it may decide, under the aegis of the General Assembly, with the sole function of
facilitating the effective and constructive consideration of matters within the General
Assembly?s existing mandate (contained in General Assembly resolution 49/28 of 1994), on
the basis set out below.
40. Because of the complex and interrelated nature of the oceans, oceans and seas present
a special case as regards the need for international coordination and cooperation:
1. The General Assembly is the appropriate body to provide the coordination that
is needed to ensure that an integrated approach is taken to all aspects of oceans
issues, at both the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels.
2. This exercise should be carried out in full accordance with UNCLOS, taking into
account the agreements reached at the United Nations Conference on Environment
and Development (UNCED), particularly chapter 17 ofAgenda 21. It should also
take into account the inputs provided by the Commission on Sustainable
Development and other United Nations bodies.
3. To accomplish this goal, the General Assembly needs to give more time for the
consideration and the discussion of the Secretary-General?s report on oceans and
the law of the sea and for the preparation for the debate on this item in the plenary.
4. The creation of new institutions should be avoided. The General Assembly should
work to strengthen the existing structures and mandates within the United Nations
system. This exercise should not lead to the duplication and overlapping of current
negotiations and particular debates taking place in specialized forums.
5. The role of the General Assembly is to promote coordination of policies and
programmes. It is not intended that the General Assembly should pursue legal
or juridical coordination among the different legal instruments. In fulfilling its
coordination function, the Assembly should bear in mind the differing
characteristics and needs of the different regions of the world.
6. Participation in this exercise byMember States and observers should be as broad
7. This exercise should be carried out within the annual budgetary resources of the
41. The informal consultative process referred to above or other processes which the
General Assemblymay decide would deliberate on the basis of the Secretary-General?s report
on oceans and the law of the sea. Its role would be to promote a comprehensive discussion
of that report and to identify particular emerging issues that would need to be considered by
the General Assembly. A general focus should be on identifying areas where coordination
and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels should be enhanced. The
informal consultative process would provide elements for the consideration of the General
Assembly and for possible inclusion in the Assembly?s resolutions under the item ?Oceans
and the law of the sea?.
42. The informal consultative process should also take into account the recommendations
made by the Commission on Sustainable Development to the General Assembly (through the
Economic and Social Council).
43. The informal consultative process would take place each year for a week, and would
promote the participation of the different governmental agencies involved in oceans and
marine issues. It would be most important to ensure appropriate input from representatives
ofmajor groups, and it is suggested that this may be best achieved by organizing discussion
44. The General Assembly should consider the optimum timing for the informal consultative
process, taking into account, inter alia, the desirability of facilitating the attendance of experts
from capitals and the needs of small delegations.
45. The General Assembly would review the effectiveness and utility of the process no later
than four years after its establishment.
Co-Chairmen?s summary of discussions on oceans and seas held by the Intersessional
Ad Hoc Working Group on Oceans and Seas and on the Sustainable
Development of Small Island Developing States, at its meeting from 1 to
5 March 1999
1. The debate on oceans and seas was based on the report of the Secretary-General on
oceans and seas8 in the context of chapter 17 of Agenda 21. The United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea provided the overall legal framework, while Agenda 21 provided the
policy framework of the discussions under this theme. The 1998 International Year of the
Oceans helped to raise international awareness of the issues.
2. Many delegations pointed out that the seventh session of the Commission should build
upon the results and goals so far achieved. It was noted that particular attention should be
paid to Commission decision 4/15 and paragraph 36 of the Programme for the Further
Implementation of Agenda 21, adopted by the General Assembly at its nineteenth special
3. The main starting points of the discussions included the recognition of the right of
countries to manage and exploit sustainably their marine resources and of the need to enhance
their capacities in this regard, as well as of the need to conserve actively marine ecosystem
functions, species and habitats. Many delegations noted that marine resources constitute a
critical source of food security as well as the livelihood for many coastal and island developing
States. Sustainable management of oceans and seas, as well as of adjacent coastal areas, has
important economic and social implications, particularly related to the issue of poverty
4. Many delegations from developing and developed countries and countries with
economies in transition shared information on their policies, strategies and activities in their
countries in protecting and managing oceans and their living resources. Recent meetings that
provided useful contributions or have direct relevance to the debate were mentioned, including
an international expert meeting on environmental practices in offshore oil and gas activities,
co-sponsored byBrazil and the Netherlands and held at Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in 1997;
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation oceans conference held in Hawaii in October 1998;
an intergovernmental meeting of experts on El Niņo held at Guayaquil, Ecuador, in November
1998; an international tropical marine ecosystems management symposium held at Townsville,
Australia, in November 1998; a conference on cooperation for the development and protection
of the coastal and marine environment in sub-Saharan Africa, sponsored by the Advisory
Committee on Protection of the Sea, UNEP and the South African Government, held at Cape
Town in December 1998; and the Second London Oceans Workshop, sponsored by Brazil
and the United Kingdom in December 1998. Also mentioned were the work of the Independent
World Commission on Oceans and the fourth session of the ongoing multilateral high-level
consultations on highly migratory fish stocks in the Central and Western Pacific, held in
Hawaii in February 1999.
II. Major challenges at the national, regional and
5. Main priority issues raised by the Working Group related to the following: (a) the
conservation and management of marine living resources, including sustainable fisheries;
(b) the prevention of the pollution and degradation of the marine environment from land-based
activities; (c) the scientific understanding of the way in which the oceans and seas interact
with the world climate system; and (d) enhancing international cooperation and coordination.
A. Capacity-building for action at the national and regional levels
6. Many delegations noted that capacity-building was central to all actions to deal with
issues related to oceans and seas. They emphasized the need to build capacities at both the
national and regional levels to deliver actions in an integrated and holistic manner. Improving
scientific assessments of oceans was essential in this regard, building on the work and
experience of scientists from all countries and relevant organizations.
7. Many delegations stressed the need for financial resources and technology transfer in
achieving goals agreed in chapter 17 of Agenda 21.
8. Many delegations stressed the importance of taking practical steps at the regional level,
and thus the need for enhancing regional collaboration on the marine environment, particularly
through the UNEP regional seas programme and the corresponding agreements in other
regions to integrate marine environment policies among States. The need to revitalize the
regional seas programme was emphasized in this regard. A mention was also made that
regional fisheries management organizations and regional seas environmental protection
organizations should be called on to cooperate in the development of integrated fisheries
management and environmental protection, conservation and management, based on an
ecosystem approach. Some delegations emphasized the creation or strengthening of networks
at the regional level to exchange and disseminate scientific information related to oceans.
B. International agreements
9. Several delegations called for urgent ratification and full implementation of such
international agreements as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United
Nations fish stocks agreement and the FAO compliance agreement, the Convention on the
Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter and its 1996
Protocol, and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
(MARPOL 73/78). Also underlined was the importance of implementing the FAO
international plans of action for the management of fishing capacity, shark fisheries, and
incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries, and applying the FAO code of conduct for
responsible fisheries. These were recommended to be fully taken into account in formulating
and adopting national action plans.
III. Areas of concern
A. Marine living resources
10. Many delegations noted that different fishing patterns have different impacts on the
world?s regional fish stocks (examples given included commercial practices versus
subsistence fishing in developing countries, and long distance fisheries versus coastal
fisheries). The growing problem was mentioned, for example, of illegal, unreported and
unregulated fishing, particularly by vessels, often flying flags of convenience, that encroach
on the fisheries resources of coastal and island developing States as well as of the high seas.
Many delegations identified the urgent need to eradicate such practices, which often lead to
a significant loss of revenue and resources of those countries and affect small-scale
subsistence fisheries. They called for the enhancement of the surveillance and control
capacities of coastal and island developing States. Assistance was also needed for those
countries to control distant fishing fleets operating under access agreements. The need for
support for further work on the technical aspects of this issue was mentioned in this regard.
Some delegations noted that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices might be
best dealt with in appropriate regional fisheries management bodies.
11. Many delegations mentioned the urgent need for measures and actions to reduce and
eliminate wasteful fishing practices. In this regard, they called for the bringing into force and
the implementation of the FAO compliance agreement and the international plans of action
for the management of fishing capacity, shark fisheries, and incidental catch of seabirds in
longline fisheries, adopted by the FAO Committee on Fisheries in February 1999, and intended
to bring fishing capacity worldwide to an optimum level and to conserve and manage shark
fisheries and seabird populations. In addition, some delegations urged the adoption of bycatch
reduction plans at the national, regional and global levels to minimize bycatch, and to the
extent that bycatch cannot be avoided, to minimize bycatch mortality. Such plans should
include restrictions on indiscriminate or harmful fishing gear and practices that contribute
to elevated bycatch or marine habitat degradation.
12. Many delegations linked calls to reduce global fishing capacity with the evaluation of
possible negative impact of subsidies, and the reduction and progressive elimination of
subsidies and other economic and fiscal incentives that in their view directly or indirectly
promote overcapitalization.Many other delegations felt that this was particularly applicable
to industrialized fleets. A view was expressed, however, that in a situation where there is a
system for licensing fishing vessels and the number of vessels is controlled, there were no
grounds for the claim that subsidies constituted a cause of excessive fishing.
13. Some delegations touched on the need for consumers to be better informed, including
through market incentives, such as eco-labelling of fish and fish products. Other delegations
cautioned that in ongoing discussions regarding eco-labelling, potential negative impacts of
these measures on market access should be properly taken into account. Other delegations
suggested that this matter should be left to be dealt with at the national level.Many delegations
stated that the concept of eco-labelling and related issues are still under consideration at the
Committee on Trade and Environment of the World Trade Organization; in any case, such
measures should not constitute barriers to trade. Some other delegations referred to the work
of FAO in this respect.
14. Many delegations mentioned that many countries need assistance in sound scientific
observation of their fish stocks. A suggestion was made for regional fisheries cooperation,
in particular through regional scientific peer review of information on the state of fish stocks
B. Land-based activities
15. There was a general agreement that some progress has been achieved with the adoption
of the Global Programme ofAction for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Landbased
Activities but that urgent attention was needed for its effective implementation at the
regional and national levels. Some delegations stressed the importance of resuscitating
UNEP?s catalytic role in the development of a clearinghouse mechanism which would promote
action at the national and regional levels.
16. Many delegations emphasized the lack of financial resources as the major obstacle in
achieving the objectives of the Programme of Action. Unless assistance was provided, in
particular to developing countries, it would be difficult for them to implement the Programme
17. Some delegations referred to the identification of steps to address sewage problems
as among the most important challenges. Also noted was the necessary link between
Commission work related to sewage aspects of freshwater and the Programme of Action.
C. Marine science and climate change
18. Several delegations referred to the El Niņo/La Niņa phenomena as having global
repercussions. Long-term strategy to tackle these phenomena was needed, in particular to
improve monitoring and prediction of climate variability, develop early warning systems at
the regional levels, and build capacity at the regional and national levels in these areas, as
well as in the prevention of natural disasters.
19. Several delegations noted that the recent El Niņo phenomena had caused extensive
damage to vulnerable populations in several countries, their natural resources and their
livestock. In this connection, many delegations referred to a series of intergovernmental
conferences on the 1997?1998 El Niņo within the International Decade for Natural Disaster
Reduction framework and in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 52/200, including
the intergovernmental meeting of experts on El Niņo held at Guayaquil, Ecuador, in November
1998. The objectives of these conferences were to improve the scientific understanding of
and the ability to predict the environmental and societal impacts of the phenomena, and to
define improved operational and institutional approaches to reducing damage from future
20. Several countries indicated the need to improve scientific understanding of the role of
oceans in modifying climatic extremes, such as El Niņo, through an extended network of
monitoring stations under the Global Ocean Observation System and other international
21. Some delegations noted that oceanographic observation was of growing importance
in assessing the degree of climate change and other developments in the global environment.
They called for the cooperation of the relevant authorities to advance such work.
D. Othermarine pollution
22. Some delegations valued the contribution made by the Noordwijk expert meeting on
environmental practices in offshore oil and gas activities, the holding of which was welcomed
by the Commission at its fourth session.
See E/CN.17/1999/9 17 and Corr.1, sect. II.B, annex.
23. A mention was made of the importance of reaching an early agreement in IMO on
hazardous substances in anti-fouling paints and the spread of harmful aquatic organisms in
ballast water, and in the International Seabed Authority on environmental standards for seabed
prospecting and, eventually, for mining. Some delegations supported further consideration
within IMO of ways to control air pollution from shipping and mandatory ship reporting
24. Many delegations emphasized the importance of reaching early agreement, under the
aegis of UNEP, on persistent organic pollutants.
25. Some delegations expressed continued support for improving the operation of GESAMP,
while noting at the same time that regional approaches were most practical for improving
access to sound scientific understanding. It was also noted that such an improved GESAMP
should provide transparency, accountability and consultation.
E. Coral reefs and marine protected areas
26. Some delegations proposed the development of a global representative system of marine
protected areas within and across national jurisdictions. A note of caution was voiced for
applying the concept of marine protected areas on the high seas without any agreement on
their sustainable use. It was recommended to focus on coastal areas and on encouraging every
State concerned to exercise its national jurisdictions. It was also emphasized that further work
in this area should be in line with the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda
21 adopted by the General Assembly at its nineteenth special session.
27. Referring to the ICRI international tropical marine ecosystems management symposium
held at Townsville, Australia, in November 1998, many delegations welcomed the renewed
call to action by ICRI, and requested the Commission to reaffirm the importance of ICRI with
a view to achieving its principal goals.
IV. International coordination and cooperation
28. There was general agreement that coordination within and among Governments as well
as among bodies within the United Nations system was vital and could be improved. The
meeting welcomed the acknowledgment in paragraph 52 of the report of the Secretary-General
on oceans and seas of the case for reviewing the working of the ACC Subcommittee on Oceans
and Coastal Areas with a view to improving its effectiveness in coordination.
29. Some delegations drew attention to the need for greater synergy and better integration
of oceans affairs within the United Nations system. It was mentioned that the annual debate
on oceans and the law of the sea needs to be more transparent, more systematic, more
responsive and better prepared. It was further mentioned that the Commission has a role to
play in relation to oceans in preparing for the next review of the implementation of Agenda
21. The involvement of non-governmental actors was also underlined by some delegations.
30. Many delegations argued for the need for improved coordination at the
intergovernmental level for achieving a holistic approach for global action on oceans. In this
regard, some delegations mentioned specific proposals, some of which were presented in
written form.9 Other proposals may emerge. Other delegations, however, cautioned against
the establishment of a new institution before the problems and gaps in existing arrangements
had been identified. They stressed instead the need for streamlining and reinforcing existing
31. Some delegations pointed out that further discussions would be needed to examine the
purpose, format, timing, duration, frequency and reallocation of available funds, consistent
with the relevant rules and regulations of the United Nations, when considering new
organizational arrangements. Some other delegations pointed out that it is essential to identify
problems in the existing international arrangements, and that if improved coordination is
desirable in certain areas, attempts should first be made to make better use of the existing
framework of relevant conventions and organizations.