Málefni hafsins - Ræða Íslands

Statement by

H.E. Ambassador Gréta Gunnarsdóttir

Permanent Representative


GA66 – Plenary Meeting

Oceans and the Law of the Sea

6 December 2011



Mr. President,

I would like at the outset to thank the Secretariat, including the able staff of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), for the valuable assistance provided to Member States. I would also like to thank the two coordinators, Ambassador Henrique Rodrigues Valle of Brazil and Ms. Holly R. Koehler of the United States, for conducting the informal consultations on the two draft resolutions before us, on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries, both of which Iceland cosponsors. Ms. Koehler, who is stepping down after eight years of excellent and invaluable service, deserves a special tribute.

It is imperative to preserve the integrity of the Convention on the Law of the Sea which provides the legal framework for all our deliberations on the oceans and the law of the sea. Iceland welcomes a recent ratification of the Convention bringing the total number of States Parties to 162. By ratifying and implementing the Convention, States sustain and promote a number of the most cherished goals of the United Nations. Every effort must be made to utilize existing instruments to the fullest before other options, including possible new implementation agreements under the Convention, are given serious consideration.

The three institutions established under the Law of the Sea Convention are all functioning well. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has received 57 submissions from coastal States, including Iceland, regarding the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. We note with satisfaction the progress in the work of the Commission but share the concern expressed in the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea about the heavy workload of the Commission. We emphasize the need to ensure that the Commission can perform its functions expeditiously and effectively while maintaining its high level of quality and expertise and respecting fully the Convention and the Rules of Procedure of the Commission.

We fully support the request to the Secretary-General to allocate appropriate and sufficient resources to DOALOS to provide adequate services and assistance to the Commission due to the increased number of its working weeks, including through the establishment of additional posts to reinforce the Geographic Information System (GIS), legal and administrative support to the Commission by the Division respectively. 

Iceland participated in the meeting of the 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, held in New York last May. We fully endorse its recommendations. We look forward to the next meeting of the Working Group which will presumably prepare workshops that will focus on such issues as marine genetic resources and area-based management tools.

Iceland welcomes the work of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process (UNICPOLOS) and its contribution to improving coordination and cooperation between States and strengthening the annual debate of the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea by effectively drawing attention to key issues and current trends. This year’s focus topic was very timely and appropriate.  In this regard we endorse the call of the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea on States to consider the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development as an opportunity to consider measures to implement internationally agreed goals and commitments relating to the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources.

In the preparations for the Conference Iceland puts special emphasis on the marine environment. Economic prosperity and food security is dependent on healthy oceans. Sustainable use of living marine resources contributes substantially to human food security, as well as dietary variety. It provides for the livelihood of millions of people and is a central pillar of many national and regional economies, especially low-income food-deficit countries and Small Island Developing States.

Iceland attaches great importance to the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of living marine resources and the obligation of States to cooperate to this end, in accordance with international law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. We welcome the reaffirmation of these goals in the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries. 

My country considers the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU) a very important instrument. We welcome signatures and ratifications of this first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of IUU fishing and encourage States to ratify it with a view to its early entry into force.


Iceland welcomes the recent review of actions taken to implement the relevant paragraphs of General Assembly resolutions 61/105 and 64/72 addressing the impacts of bottom fishing on vulnerable marine ecosystems and the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks. In particular, we welcome the successful Workshop held in New York on 15 and 16 September 2011 to discuss the implementation of these important paragraphs. At the Workshop, representatives of States and RFMOs explained extensively their respective actions of implementation. We concur with the concluding remarks in the Secretary-General’s report prepared for the Workshop, that, if fully implemented, resolutions 61/105 and 64/72, as well as the FAO Guidelines, provide the tools necessary to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts due to bottom fishing and to ensure the long-term sustainability of deep sea fish stocks.

As provided for in the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, my country welcomes the important progress made by States, RFMOs and those States participating in negotiations to establish RFMOs competent to regulate bottom fisheries to implement the relevant paragraphs. Despite the progress made, however, the actions called for in those paragraphs have not been fully implemented in all cases and further actions are needed to strengthen continued implementation. We welcome the decision to conduct a further review after four years, in 2015. This should give sufficient opportunity for improved implementation, where necessary, with the technical assistance of the FAO.

Thank you, Mr. President



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