I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
On the occasion of the 6th meeting of the Informal Consultative Process, the European Union wishes to draw the attention of participants to the important issue of the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity of the oceans, in areas within and beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We recall the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly last year and express our commitment to take action accordingly. We believe there is a continuous need for the international community to address this issue in the near future and would like to outline our views on the subject. To begin with, I would like to refer to the speech by the European Union at last years ICP on this same issue.
The biodiversity of the oceans knows no boundaries. Ecosystems in the oceans are interconnected and do not take into account the role of man-made boundaries and limits. Clearly, protective measures taken within national maritime zones and on the high seas will need to be coherent in order to be effective. We would like to emphasise the importance of an approach that is based on coherence between protection and management of marine biodiversity within the zones under national jurisdiction and the high seas.
Today there are several international instruments concerning the protection of the marine environment that contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We believe there is a need to complete and fully implement the international regulatory framework to address the issue as a whole.
We believe the international community should urgently consider ways to integrate and improve the management of all activities that affect or risk adversely affecting the marine biodiversity of seamounts, cold water corals, hydrothermal vents and other vulnerable eco-systems. Measures should be taken on a case by case basis and should be based on the best available scientific information, the application of the precautionary principle and should be in accordance with UNCLOS. These measures should be reviewed regularly. We note that the absence of adequate scientific information on certain parts of the oceans should not be a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures. Also, the international community should assess and address the gaps in scientific knowledge, management and ocean governance necessary to protect biodiversity and to ensure the sustainability of fisheries.
For the EU it is therefore important to differentiate between the medium-term track and the short-term track. In the short-term, urgent action to address destructive practices and to protect marine biodiversity and particularly vulnerable eco-systems must be taken. In its resolution on fisheries adopted last December, the General Assembly called upon States (either by themselves or through RFMOs) to take specific measures, and we look forward to the review to be undertaken next year on the progress of action taken in response to that call. The medium-term track should be aimed at the development of an implementing agreement of UNCLOS.
At this stage the EU would like to stress that, taking into account their mandate, regional organisations, in particular RFMOs, have an important role in taking action to address destructive practices and protect marine biodiversity and ecosystems. The EU considers that the conservation powers of existing RFMOs should be strengthened urgently where current management powers are inadequate. Also, the EU supports the establishment of new RFMOs in areas beyond national jurisdiction where currently there are none.
Also, UNEP Regional Seas Programmes and other Regional Seas Conventions could for instance have a role in the assessment of areas in urgent need of protection from certain damaging activities, and can also regulate activities in order to protect vulnerable systems.
In addition, enhanced co-ordination and co-operation between the different fora dealing with Law of the Sea and marine biodiversity issues should be achieved. In that respect, we are looking forward to learn about the work and the results of the Taskforce on Biodiversity in Marine Areas beyond National Jurisdiction which has been established under UN-Oceans1.
Let me continue with the developments we envisage in the medium term. The obligations contained in UNCLOS for the protection of rare and fragile ecosystems, need to be further developed in the wider context of the protection of the marine environment. At the ICP of 2004 the EU has stated that in principle [it] would support the development of an instrument within the framework of the Law of the Sea Convention, that will provide for the conservation and management of marine biological diversity in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, including the establishment and regulation on an integrated basis, of marine protected areas where there is a scientific case for establishing these areas. We are confident that the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction will be able to further the development of policy on this subject through appropriate recommendations.
These are the European Unions views on the steps to be taken to better protect the marine environment, and in particular the bio-diversity of the oceans. We are ready to commence this important endeavour and would ask others to join us in addressing this issue in the near future, specifically in the work to be undertaken in 2006, concerning both the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group and the review requested by the latest Fisheries resolution.
In order to attain the objectives agreed at the WSSD, we face a crucial challenge. The European Union firmly believes we are on the right track and there is no time to waste.