Oceans and the law of the sea

Statement by

Ms. María Mjöll Jónsdóttir

Item 79 (a) and (b)

Oceans and the law of the sea

8 December 2015


Mr. President,

Iceland attaches great importance to the two UN draft resolutions under discussion today, on Sustainable Fisheries and on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. For an island state like Iceland, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and heavily dependent on sustainable use of living marine resources, maintaining healthy oceans and marine ecosystems is a constant priority

In order to accommodate different views on the variety of issues these draft resolutions cover and reach an agreed outcome, a firm coordination is needed. Iceland would wholeheartedly like to thank H.E. Ambassador Mr. Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago, coordinator of the Law of the Sea resolution and Ms. Alice Revell of New Zealand, coordinator of the Sustainable Fisheries resolution, for their able stewardship and excellent coordination. We wish Ms. Revell all the best in her new position and thank her for her years of dedicated work as coordinator. Furthermore, Iceland would like to thank the Secretariat, including the able staff of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, for their good work and assistance provided to the Member States.

Iceland would like to stress the importance of reaching a consensus among Member States in negotiations in this important field of work of the United Nations, and a balance in the outcome of negotiated text. An example from the last two rounds of negotiations on the draft Oceans and the Law of the Sea resolution, regarding an Article on human related threats to marine life, shows how even a wide gap between national positions can be bridged with excellent, neutral facilitation, a thorough search for common ground and solution-oriented cooperation of the parties concerned.

Ocean affairs are of growing importance for the international community as a whole. This is reflected in the conventional ocean affairs venues here at the United Nations, where 2016 will be an exceptionally busy year, including a review of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement and a review of actions taken by States and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements regarding bottom fishing, as decided in paragraph 162 of resolution 69/109. It should also be kept in mind that in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by our leaders on 25 September this year, Sustainable Development Goal 14 is on Conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources. Iceland welcomes an increased focus on Ocean affairs in relation to Climate Change, including in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where a special Oceans Day was held last Friday,  December 4th.

Iceland would also like to recall and welcome the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary in March this year of the opening for signature of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, to which there are now 82  States Parties.

Mr. President,


The field of Ocean and the Law of the Sea is constantly developing. A notable step in that regard is the decision in GA resolution 69/292 on the development of an international legally-binding instrument under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Iceland would like to congratulate H.E. Ambassador Mr. Eden Charles on his appointment as Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for this process.  We have full confidence that his able chairmanship will guide Member States in the challenging two-year preparatory process that lies ahead. During that time the preparatory committee will be faced with the task of making substantive recommendations to the General Assembly on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under the Convention.

Even though the outlines of issues for discussion by the preparatory committee are laid out in the 2011 package, the scope of the subject matter is wide and as yet not fully delimited. Iceland would in that regard like to point out that the process should not reopen issues that are already subject to a sufficient international legal regime and should (as prescribed in the resolution) „not undermine existing relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies.“ A good example in that regard is high seas fisheries, which are subject to the legal regime of the Law of the Sea Convention. That regime was complemented by the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement, which provides the legal framework for the work of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and for high seas fisheries. The scope of a new legally binding instrument under the Convention should accordingly not include fisheries.  

Mr. President,

As stated at the outset, Oceans and Law of the Sea are matters of growing importance in various fora. A growing number of requests for outputs and servicing of meetings has unavoidably entailed an additional workload for the Secretariat and in particular DOALOS. We commend the good work of the Division´s able staff, but underline our view that sufficient funding for the Division is imperative.  Iceland therefore welcomes the request to the Secretary-General in the draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, to make proposals in the context of the 2016-2017 budget in order to strengthen the Division’s capacity to carry out the functions and services entrusted to it.


Similarly, the working conditions of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf have been a matter of concern. A large number of submissions have been made to the Commission and many are still to be made. Although the Commission has already issued 22 recommendations, it has a considerable number of submissions to consider and continues to have a significant workload. Given the important work the Commission is performing and the urgent challenges the current working conditions place on the Commission, Iceland is pleased to note the request in the draft resolution on the Oceans and the Law of the Sea that the Secretary-General provide cost-effective, transportable, non-structural improvements to address some of the immediate working space needs of the Commission. Iceland also welcomes the interim measures set out in the same resolution regarding medical coverage for the members of the Commission, and calls for a permanent solution to this matter.

This year, as always, Iceland was a dedicated participant in the negotiations on both the resolution on Sustainable Fisheries and on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and is pleased to be a co-sponsor of both draft resolutions.


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