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PROTECTION OF OCEANS

The Task Manager, Serge Garcia (FAO), introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Agenda Item 2, Protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources (Agenda 21, Chapter 17), as contained in E/CN.17/1996/3 and Add.1. The report suggests action regarding integrated coastal area management, marine pollution, living marine resources, critical uncertainties, and international cooperation and coordination.

Fritz Schlingemann (UNEP) introduced document E/CN.17/ISWG.I/1996/Misc.2, Institutional arrangements and implementation of the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities (LBA), which was drafted following the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt a Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities, held in Washington, D.C., from 23 October to 3 November 1995 (Washington Conference). The report assumes that implementation will be primarily at the national level with broad participation of institutions, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector, and that UNEP will play the role of overall coordinator. The report outlines a two-track plan for implementation, to commence with a series of regional technical workshops.

JAPAN called delegates' attention to the Kyoto Declaration drafted at the International Conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security, held in Kyoto from 4-9 December 1995, co-sponsored by the Japanese Government and FAO. The Kyoto Declaration: acknowledges fisheries in ensuring food security; urges respect for socio-cultural and economic differences in using marine resources; suggests harvest at multitrophic levels and multispecies management; and calls for assistance to developing countries.

The CHAIR then opened the floor for general comments. Delegates noted a number of achievements and endorsed several existing agreements and conventions, including the Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (Straddling Stocks Agreement), the Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas (Sea Compliance Agreement), and the FAO Global Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries (FAO Code of Conduct). Many stressed the need to implement existing agreements. Delegates supported further development of integrated coastal area management (ICAM) strategies and regional cooperation. Differences of opinion emerged on the question of the global decision-making process.

ITALY, on behalf of the European Union (EU), suggested that the CSD provide impetus in three areas: improving existing international institutions for decision-making; consolidating the progress made on fisheries; and implementing the Washington Conference GPA. The NETHERLANDS expanded upon this, urging States to: coordinate on ICAM; implement the GPA as a priority; develop a legally-binding instrument on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); address sea-based activities such as oil and gas drilling; recognize the importance of coastal and marine biodiversity; and support development of a global ocean observing system.

ICELAND emphasized: the need for public education on ocean protection; the effect of marine pollution on human health; and the importance of POPs. He proposed creating a separate drafting group to facilitate debate on the UNEP report. SWEDEN observed that: overfishing and marine pollution threatens the livelihoods of millions of poor people worldwide; mariculture and stock enhancement activities can lead to loss of marine biodiversity; and ICAM can address these problems.

CANADA stressed the importance of finding an institutional means to express national priorities on marine and coastal issues. She highlighted national activities for coastal area and marine management, including an Oceans Act and development of a code of conduct for responsible fisheries that goes beyond that of the FAO. She supported use of the precautionary approach. The UK noted that a workshop it recently sponsored called for more coordination between UN agencies and bodies and for a forum to express national consensus. He suggested a regional-level focus and noted the importance of collaboration on scientific and policy advice. He reminded delegates that NGOs — both business and environmental — play an important role.

COLOMBIA called for a carefully-defined scope for a coordinating mechanism and stated that sustainable management of the oceans should be as defined by Chapter 17 of Agenda 21. He also stated that self-sustaining financial mechanisms should not be the sole source of financing. NORWAY stated that implementation should be at the regional and national levels. The international role is to assist regional cooperation. He also noted: the need for sustainable aquaculture practices; the risk presented by introduction of alien species; and the importance of advanced fishing gear technology. CHINA noted that it has formulated a national Agenda 21. He identified a number of related actions, including strengthening the integrated control of land-based pollution activities and the supervision of coastal and port construction projects.

AUSTRALIA supported: using a system-wide approach to meeting objectives; pooling UN resources; using Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds while encouraging private sector funding; and developing an agreed international framework. Australia criticized the report as biased toward Northern hemisphere countries and for promoting a top-down rather than a regional approach. The US suggested: preparing progress reports to the 1997 FAO meeting on fisheries; reducing the catch of discards and nontarget species; and addressing overfishing and excess capacity. He expressed reservations about using the CSD as a decision-making body on oceans, given that the Law of the Sea Convention is a pre-existing legal framework in this area.

MEXICO outlined his government's policy on oceans, and emphasized the importance of cooperation. He suggested attention to the agreed principles of the Rio Conference, including common but differentiated responsibility and the precautionary principle. MOROCCO described a national strategy on the marine environment that: reduces fishing activities in Morocco's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); mandates safer and more efficient fishing technology; and establishes protected areas for the monk seal. He mentioned work to conserve straddling fish stocks, with help from Japan, through artificial reproduction of red tuna.

JAPAN noted points in the Secretary-General's report that he believed were inappropriately addressed: the issue of whale sanctuaries should not be dealt with by this group; the Kyoto Declaration should be endorsed by the CSD; and marine biodiversity should be addressed in a balanced way. PAKISTAN noted national efforts, including university programmes and school clubs, to increase awareness. Legislation will soon be introduced to keep industries from improper effluent disposal. The EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) stressed the priority of overfishing and overcapacity. He called for: proper implementation of the existing legal framework; intensified international cooperation through subregional and regional organizations; and increased consultation at the local level.

GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL called for a moratorium on increasing net harvest in fisheries that are fully- or over-fished. He also: noted that aquaculture has often been unsustainable; urged caution in endorsing the Kyoto Declaration; and stated that the Secretary-General's recommendation regarding the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was appropriate. JAPAN later responded that the Kyoto Declaration had been endorsed by 95 States. The NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (NRDC), on behalf of World Wildlife Fund (US) and the National Audubon Society, stated that overcapacity in the fishing sector is at the heart of the crisis in world fisheries, and that bycatch of non-target species is also important.

The CHAIR then opened the floor for comments on specific recommendations in the Secretary-General's report. The EU, supported by the UK, called for short, clear, easily implemented CSD decisions. NORWAY suggested a discussion of UNEP's role in more specific terms. BRAZIL, supported by PAKISTAN, MOROCCO and others, stated that there was a lack of emphasis on technology transfer. PAPUA NEW GUINEA stressed capacity building, prior informed consent and funding. He stated that he was not convinced of the necessity for a global response to oil and gas extraction, and noted that nuclear testing in the South Pacific has long-term impacts of international concern.

The US drew a distinction between redrafting the Secretary-General's report vs. providing clarifications to the text as input to the upcoming CSD meeting. The SECRETARIAT noted that two documents would be made available to the CSD, the Secretary-General's report plus the Addendum, as well as the report of the Intersessional Working Group.

III. MAIN POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Delegates offered a number of comments on the paragraph specifying CSD action to increase efforts for the conservation, rational use and development of ocean and coastal area resources. The EU suggested that text calling for the "demonstration of greater commitment to implement" international agreements on ocean issues be changed to call for the "prompt and full implementation" of the instruments.

COLOMBIA, supported by CHINA, proposed moving a reference to "international collaboration, particularly in the area of financing" to a separate paragraph. In the same reference, MEXICO, supported by GUYANA, suggested changing "international collaboration" to a call for enhanced cooperation. MEXICO also suggested deleting the reference to "system-wide frameworks for activities requiring cross-sectoral planning," and, in reference to text calling for "pursuing a system-wide approach to mobilizing funding," preferred broader terms of reference.

IV. ACTION REQUIRED

Programme area A. Integrated coastal area management: The NETHERLANDS, supported by AUSTRALIA, COLOMBIA, BRAZIL and others, noted the importance of ecosystems besides coral reefs, including mangroves, estuaries and mud flats. BENIN mentioned the difficulties faced by developing countries in undertaking ICAM.

SWEDEN stressed action with regard to integrated management and sustainable development of coastal areas to protect marine and coastal biodiversity. ST. LUCIA endorsed the International Coral Reef Initiative and proposed a funding mechanism for regional coral reef initiatives. BRAZIL proposed a new sub-paragraph calling for the promotion of science, specifically regarding the treatment of sewage.

Programme area B. Marine pollution: The NETHERLANDS, supported by NORWAY, ICELAND, the US, AUSTRALIA and FRANCE, suggested that objectives for regulating normal operational discharge of offshore oil and gas installations should be global in scope, but that guidance for developing these regulations should be provided regionally. The NETHERLANDS offered to host an international workshop on this subject. NORWAY suggested that the IMO, which has already recommended against developing a global regulatory framework, should play a role in developing regional regulations.

BENIN differed on the need for global regulations, noting that operational discharges are a global problem. He suggested that oil and gas extraction activities in general are a relevant environmental issue for consideration by the CSD. The US suggested that the sub-paragraph that calls for priority to be given to the protection of the marine environment from LBA, should better reflect the priorities of the Washington Conference GPA.

The UK called delegates' attention to the EU-proposed text regarding the physical degradation of marine and coastal areas, including the impact of freshwater ecosystems on integrated coastal zone management, and suggested linking it with Chapters 17 and 18 (freshwater resources) of Agenda 21. The E&P FORUM (Oil Industry International Exploration and Production Forum) noted there had been no mention of the IMO recommendations on regional regulation of offshore oil and gas activities.

SWEDEN emphasized the need for an international instrument for the regulation of POPs. He also suggested that the heading should read "Marine environmental protection." GERMANY supported the Netherlands proposal for a workshop on offshore activities.

BRAZIL proposed a new sub-paragraph regarding the impact on the marine environment from freshwater sources. PAKISTAN called for reference to toxic chemicals, and suggested that governments consider some regulation on the export of certain toxic chemicals, including certain agrochemicals.

Programme areas C and D. Living marine resources: The EC distinguished between subsidies that reduce fishing capacity and those that lead to overfishing. He presented a paper, supported by NORWAY and the US, that stresses the importance of developing regional fisheries management organizations to: establish sustainable harvest rates to rebuild commercial stocks; reduce bycatch; protect marine and coastal biodiversity; and keep under review the effectiveness of these management strategies. He offered EC assistance to develop such management organizations. NORWAY suggested adding aquaculture to the EC paper and reducing bycatch through policy decisions.

BRAZIL, supported by BENIN, objected to the paragraph calling for the reduction of subsidies to the fishing industry, since fishing is critical to the economies of several developing countries. BENIN stated that governments should not limit consultations on establishing regional fisheries managment organizations with just FAO, as the text suggested. He stated that establishing conditions on financial assistance based on commitments to reduced overall fishing efforts, as implied by the text, was not acceptable. He further stated that effort-reduction should be measured by total fishing capacity, not number of fishing vessels.

INDIA, supported by PAPUA NEW GUINEA, noted that Articles 24, 25 and 26 of the Straddling Stocks Agreement acknowledge the dependency of developing countries on fishing, and stated that the Secretary-General's report should reflect this. MEXICO recommended that the paragraph on overfishing should be worded to follow the FAO Code of Conduct, including the precautionary approach. AUSTRALIA suggested adding wording to prohibit cyanide and dynamite fishing and to reduce the bycatch of seabirds. CANADA proposed changing the paragraph regarding subsidies to refer to subsidies that "aggravate" the problems of overfishing and overcapacity.

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES stated that FAO should be encouraged to develop regional organizations, and suggested increasing subsidies for harvesting unutilized and underutilized species to reduce overfishing of commercial species.

GREENPEACE proposed that governments and regional fishery management organizations develop plans to minimize bycatch and discards in fisheries to achieve a 60% global reduction by the year 2000. The NETHERLANDS COMMITTEE FOR IUCN called attention to the recommendations of the Second Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity with regard to marine biodiversity.

Programme area E. Critical uncertainties: BENIN stressed that technology transfer and financial assistance to developing countries would be essential to meet objectives regarding the development of information management systems and to monitor the effect of pollution on human health. MEXICO stated that text regarding monitoring should mention multilateral assistance.

Programme area F. International cooperation and coordination: THAILAND supported the recommendation that CSD be the focal point for formulating priorities for the coastal and marine environment. The UK clarified a previously offered proposal regarding decision-making at the global level. He suggested that UNEP be the focal point for follow-up on the Washington Conference GPA, and that UNEP prepare the scientific background on marine issues, which would be sent to the CSD, the political body to address such issues.

BRAZIL added a reference to "technology transfer" in the paragraph calling for the use of the competent UN agencies in setting GEF funding priorities. MOROCCO also supported a reference to technology transfer. BENIN deleted the reference to providing assistance to "countries with economies in transition" in the paragraph calling on donor Governments to consider increasing financial support.

The BIODIVERSITY ACTION NETWORK suggested a sub-paragraph urging actors to cooperate in implementing the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity. The US opposed highlighting this initiative over others. JAPAN questioned the methodology used to estimate the cost of over-fishing (over US$50 billion/year). He also suggested deleting the sub-paragraph calling for user charges, taxes, etc., to cover the costs of conservation and management.

AUSTRALIA supported the GEF as the primary financial mechanism and called for a role for the private sector. The UK, CANADA and others stated that paragraph 25(b), regarding actions donor governments should take, was not consistent with the approach adopted in the GPA on land-based activities. They preferred the GPA approach. The EU proposed changing the call for enhanced contributions to the GEF to a note that the "GEF has become a critical funding source." MALAYSIA, supported by Guyana and China, called the reference to 90% of funding from national sources dangerous, and proposed a reference to increased levels of overall ODA.

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