Statement by Ambassador Peter Thomson at the 16th Meeting of the Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea

New York
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Co-Chairs,

Let me firstly congratulate you for taking the helm of this Informal Consultative Process. You can be assured of the Fiji Delegation's full support throughout this meeting.

At the outset, Fiji aligns itself with the statements delivered by South Africa on behalf of G77 and China, by Malidives on behalf of AOSIS and by the Kingdom of Tonga on behalf of PSIDS. Allow me Co-Chairs to also thank the Secretary-General and those concerned, particularly DOALOS, for the comprehensive report that ties in well with this year's theme.

Co-Chairs,

As we often point out, oceans cover almost 75% of the earth's surface. Therefore, we cannot properly care for the earth without caring for our oceans. The Pacific Ocean constitutes the largest span of this percentage thus it should come as no surprise that throughout the Official Working Group on SDG's, PSIDS representatives unequivocally advocated for a stand-alone goal on oceans, ultimately resulting in SDG14-to conserve and sustainably use marine resources.

Co-Chairs,

Today, the Fiji delegation's focus is on tourism and fisheries, both of which are intrinsically dependent on a healthy and resilient ocean.

Sustainable tourism requires a balanced approach based on the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Visitors to our countries seek preserved cultural heritage, unblemished environment and rich ecological attractions with abundance of biodiversity. All these elements are linked to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, thus tourism should be viewed not only as a driver for economic development, but also as an incentive to protect and preserve the environment. To work against the trend of over-exploitation and decrease of resource abundance, Fiji through its coastal zone management policy, has put in place coastal protected areas and other measures to bring tourism into harmony with nature.

Fiji's Offshore Fisheries Management Policy on the other hand also aims to ensure that fisheries are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. For centuries, fisheries have played a central role in global food security, providing portetin to an estimated 3 billion people and serving as a source of revenue for individuals and states lifting many out of poverty. Fiji has devised its own national strategy to combat IUU fishing, resource overexploitation and harmful fishing practices including inter-alia: a responsive license cap that takes into full consideration the annual fish quota; provision of Vessel Tracking Agreement and the Regional Fisheries Agency's Good Standing record as prerequisite for issuance of license; and a continued regional collaborative approach on the air surveillance of seas to be extended to the domestic and international commercial air carriers. On this note, we look forward to hearing this week from the representative of the Nauru Agreement at this meeting on further fisheries management practices from within our Pacific region.

Co-Chairs,

Climate change and its associated impact calamaties, including ocean acidification and ocean temperature rise, inflict far-reaching effects on important components of the ocean food web, including planktons, corals and shellfish. The disproportionate impact on developing countries, particularly coastal and small island developing States, is deeply worrying as this can be expected to have dire consequences for global and regional fish-stocks. We all know the principal mitigation measure for these problems must be through the reduction of anthropogenically created Co2 emissions, and we are thus looking forward to the presentation at this meeting from the International Atomic Energy Agency's Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre.

Co-Chairs,

In the lead up to Rio, many countries including Fiji called for a paradigm shift on how we tackle oceans issues. It became clear that the international community had a shared vision that we should have healthy, resilient oceans and seas. We now fully support SDG14 as the main deliverer of this shared vision and believe it can be the paradigm shift that will reverse the cycle of decline of our oceans and seas.

In relation to SDG14, we make the following observations:

i. As underlined by PSIDS and others, we reiterate SDG14, target 14(c), namely that UNCLOS provides the ultimate legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, including for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. In this regard, we further emphasize the need for a specific global indicator for SDG's target 14.4 on monitoring and surveillance for the IUU target;

ii. One of the main lessons learnt from the MDGs was that it took countries more time than expected to properly integrate the goals into their national planning. We therefore believe all efforts immediately beyond 2015 must first deal with the question of how countries can effectively integrate the SDGs into national action plans and programmes. The ICP in particular, should therefore consider the integration of SDGs and we propose this as a theme for ICP in either 2017 or 2018. At that time, we will be able to share experiences on how our countries are progressing on integrating SDG14.

iii. Lastly, the Fiji delegation wishes to emphasize that SDG14 will be pointless without having an effective implementation and follow-up review process in place. Accountability will be the key factor as we work to reverse the current cycle of decline of our oceans and we are cognizant of the important role to be played by the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Given that oceans will be a new stand-alone goal, we must examine our processes to ensure that the international community delivers meaningful implementation. We have noted the absence of a process or agency that will keep the accountability focus on SDG14 particularly in years where the HLPF is not considering SDG14. We are therefore turning our attention to the establishment of an open international process whereunder the attainment of all aspects of SDG14 will be realized by the end of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As this is a work in progress, we will be pleased to report on this initiative in due course in appropriate forums. There can be little doubt that the integrity of delivery of SDG14 is vital to the future of our species.

I thank you Co-Chairs

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