The UN conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) which just took place in Samoa was the opportunity for the Global Ocean Commission to further engage with SIDS governments and stakeholders.
Commissioner Robert Hill from Australia and Deputy Executive Secretary Rémi Parmentier presented the Global Ocean Commission’s final report at the UN SIDS conference.
On 1st September, a delegation made up of Commissioner Robert Hill from Australia and Deputy Executive Secretary Rémi Parmentier presented the Commission’s recent report “From Decline to Recovery – A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean” at an event co-sponsored by SPREP, the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, chaired by SPREP Deputy Director General Kosi Latu.
In a keynote address delivered on behalf of President Tommy Remengesau, Palau’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Umiich Sengebau welcomed the proposals of the Global Ocean Commission, especially the ideas contained to combat IUU – illegal, unregulated and unreported – fishing, and the Commission’s call to eliminate high seas fishing fleet’s fuel subsidies.
“We agree with the Global Ocean Commission that it is high time for developed countries with distant water fleets to act in accordance with their international obligations, and stop fuel subsidies to the fleets operating in the High Seas” said Minister Sengebau.
With reference to the announcement earlier this year by the President of Palau that the entire Exclusive Economic Zone of his country would be closed to industrial fishing, Minister Sengebau said that this proposal would “greatly facilitate the implementation of Palau’s policy to seek the recovery of its fish resources for its people”.
Minister Sengebau also expressed his gratitude to the Global Ocean Commission for their support of the proposal initiated by Palau of a stand-alone UN Sustainable Development Goal for the Ocean, as well as for their support for the start of negotiations by the UNGA in 2015 for an Implementing Agreement under the Law of the Sea Convention, for the sustainable use and conservation of High Seas biodiversity.
Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu’s Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment Ian Fry said that “the eight proposals [in the Commission’s report] to advance high seas recovery are very sound and we endorse each one of these”.
“The issue of Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing is a serious concern for Tuvalu”, said Ambassador Fry. “These fishing practices are not only depleting the ocean of fish stocks they are also depriving countries like Tuvalu of revenue from sustainable fishing activities in our EEZ. We support the recommendations in relation to creating a global information sharing platform for real-time sharing of data on high seas fishing vessels”.
Ambassador Fry also highlighted the importance of establishing an Implementing Agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with the aim of implementing and updating the environmental protection and conservation of the high seas. “We believe the Convention on Biological Diversity could also play a strong supportive role in this endeavour”, he said.
Commenting on another Commission proposal, Ambassador Fry said: “it never ceases to amaze me when I visit some of the remote islands of Tuvalu how much rubbish is washed up on the shore. A large proportion of this is plastic. We clearly need to find means to stop this constant inflow of plastic into the ocean. Our islands and the ocean in general should not be the world’s dumping ground”.
Ambassador Fry added that he wished to encourage the Commission to increase its work on acidification, and to address the transport by sea of nuclear wastes across the Pacific Ocean. “We must all work together to protect this vast system and rescue it from the serious decline it is suffering”.
Global Ocean Commissioner Robert Hill from Australia explained the origins, composition and modus-operandi of the Global Ocean Commission that met four times in the last eighteen months. He explained why the Commissioners focussed their report on the eight proposals and gave his views on ways to implement them.
Commissioner Hill emphasised the importance in his view of establishing a Global Ocean Accountability Board, and said that he hoped the Commission would be able to develop this proposal further. He also explained how the concept of a High Seas regeneration zone came about, and that he thought it had been needed to raise the alarm at the degradation and need to take action.
The Commission’s Deputy Executive Secretary, Rémi Parmentier announced that the Mission Ocean petition launched when the Commission’s report was release at the end of June had already received 105,000 signatures. The Commission hopes that this number would increase in the coming weeks before the opening of the UN General Assembly in three weeks, said Parmentier, who said he hoped that participants in the SIDS conference would sign and promote the petition.
The session continued with an interactive questions & answers session. Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence said that she “wholeheartedly welcomes and endorses the work of the Global Ocean Commission”.
Two days later, on 3rd September the Global ocean Commission organized another event at the SIDS conference, jointly with the Pew Charitable Trusts, “SIDS and Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction”, about the implications for SIDS of the proposed UNCLOS Implementing Agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of High Seas biodiversity. Among the speakers at the session, Ambassador Inga Rhonda King, Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, Counsellor Tevita Suka Mangisi, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN of the Kingdom of Tonga, and Duncan Currie of the High Seas Alliance, all emphasized the key role of the SIDS group of countries at the United Nations.