Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea - Statement of Iceland

United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

General statement


Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources and Environment.

Mr. Co-Chair,

At the outset I would like to thank the Co-Chairs for preparing and chairing this fifteenth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. In the view of Iceland, the Consultative Process has been a successful facilitator of the General Assembly´s work in reviewing developments in ocean affairs and the law of the sea. This is not least due to the informal character of the Consultative Process and the participation of the various disciplines and stakeholders in its meetings.

I would also like to express our appreciation to the Secretariat, in particular the able staff of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, for the report for this meeting of the Consultative Process.

Mr. Co-Chair,

The report for this meeting is of significant importance to the member States for more than one reason. First, the timing is perfect now just before members of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are about to finish their work suggesting the goals and before we dive into negotiating the new Post-2015 Development Agenda. Second, the report updates a lot of the information members regularly refer to when raising and arguing for the importance of fisheries in the global economy, for food security and as a major livelihood in developing countries. Third, the report gives an overview of the negative drivers and pressures on the role of seafood in global food security and not least it lists some of the opportunities for seafood to have an even bigger role to play in food security and economic development in the future.

Mr. Co-Chair,

Some of the facts the report lays out are for many of us not new, while we don’t hear other very often. Seen in the context of the SDGs and Post-2015 Development Agenda, these are facts member States need to hear when they are about to decide on the way forward to get to the “Future we want”. It is our view that the contribution of seafood to food security has not had the attention it deserves.

Let it suffice to refer to two facts that stand out as arguments for a strong focus on seafood and seafood industry in the SDGs and post-2015 Development Agenda. We are used to hear about the percentage contribution of seafood as a protein source but what we do not hear as often is how extremely important it is as a source of micronutrients and fatty acids. For 3 billion people, seafood is the main source of proteins, micronutrients and fatty acids.

The other fact I would like to highlight, to make the case that member States cannot neglect the contribution of seafood in the “Future we want”, is that 9–12 % of the global population are dependent on the seafood sector. In relation to that, we note with appreciation that employment in aquaculture has enhanced the economic and social status of women in many places in developing countries. All this has major importance when discussing the SDGs and the Post-2015 Development agenda; we must not forget the seafood sector as a provider of livelihoods and economic benefits.

Mr. Co-Chair,

Having realized the importance of the seafood sector, it makes it only more important not to forget the numerous pressures that affect the current, as well as the future, availability, access, utilization and stability of seafood in global food security. Here we cannot afford to fail. We must stop  unsustainable practices in the exploitation of seafood resources and we must relief the pressures other industries and human behavior put on the marine environment. Some of this has been recognized in the work of the Open Working Group with strong focus on IUU fishing, unsustainable fishing, harmful subsidies, pollution not least from land-based activities, habitat destruction and ocean acidification.

Mr. Co-Chair,

The third main part of the report is of vital importance for the work we will be conducting in the coming months. It regards the opportunities of seafood in global food security. There is an opening now, if we can come up with a focused agenda for the next 15 years. We need to focus on what will make a difference and what works.

The good thing is that we have a robust legal framework in place which can never be overemphasized, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This year we commemorate the twenty years anniversary of the entry into force of this constitution of the oceans. The list of initiatives in promoting conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources is long, however, the international community has not been able to reverse the trend of overfishing and habitat degradation. 

Allow me to mention two issues from the report we believe are of major importance for the future of seafood for food security. Neither of these have received the attention they deserve in the discussions in the Open Working Group.

The first issue is capacity-building. The report devotes some attention to capacity-building and this may best be summarized in the first paragraph of that chapter, and I quote: “The importance of human, institutional and systemic capacity for the sustainable management of the marine environment and marine resources cannot be overemphasized and is essential to unlocking the benefits of seafood for global food security.” This is further reinforced in the subsequent paragraphs in the same chapter.

Mr. Co-Chair,

The second issue is about what has been known for some time, the difference between the potential and actual net economic benefits from marine fisheries which is approximately $50 billion per year, equivalent to more than half the value of the global seafood trade. Thus, global marine capture fisheries are currently an underperforming global asset.

Further, according to the report, “ many parts of Africa, lack of infrastructure has led to post-harvest losses of greater than 30 percent of the catch.”

Mr. Co-Chair,

It should be clear to everyone that capacity-building in such an underperforming sector should be a good investment. To capture this, Iceland has emphasized two targets in discussions in the Open Open Working Group on SDGs, both of which are possible if the global community has the political will. The first target is to double every fifth year capacity-building measures in developing countries for the conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources. The second is to increase by X% by 2030 the economic benefits from the sustainable use of living marine resources.

Mr. Co-Chair.

It is our sincere hope that this meeting will assist member states in their work in the Open Working Group on SDGs to focus on what works and what will make a difference.

I thank you, Mr. Co-Chair.

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