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UNGA Adopts Resolutions on Oceans and Sustainable Fisheries

7 December 2010: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) has adopted two resolutions calling on all States to bolster their support for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which highlight the impact of climate change on the oceans, among other things.

The first resolution is the UNGA's 38-page omnibus resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (A/RES/65/37). The second is the resolution on Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (A/RES/65/38), which contains provisions on addressing the impacts of climate change on the sustainability of fish stocks.

After the introduction of the resolutions, a number of countries made statements. On coral reefs, Jamaica, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern about the impact of climate change on corals and other marine organisms, encouraging more activities at all levels to mitigate its impacts. Fiji, on behalf of the Pacific SIDS, underscored that coral reefs are under growing pressure from climate change. Underlining that Pacific coral reefs supported great bounties of fish and marine life, he welcomed the Assembly's increased recognition of the links between healthy ocean ecosystems and sustainable development. Monaco noted that ocean acidification, sometime called the “dangerous twin of climate change,” is affecting arctic environments as well as coral reefs worldwide, and that many sectors have been threatened.

On cooperation, Egypt emphasized the need to further enhance the efforts and programmes to tackle the threats caused by increased sea temperatures, sea level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change. Kuwait called for a more integrated method to examine and strengthen the conservation of marine biodiversity from the effects of climate change. Honduras stated that climate change has meant that oceans are “exacting savage revenge” on coastal communities, and work needs to be done to protect those communities. Costa Rica called on UN bodies to cooperate in the promotion of capacity with regard to the role played by oceans and coastal ecosystems in mitigating the impacts of climate change. He added that such cooperation is important in identifying coastal marine areas' vulnerability to climate change.

Norway explained that the Arctic Ocean is seeing significant changes due to climate change and said important provisions of the Convention must be implemented to improve safety of life at sea, as well as environmental protection. He added that Norway has prioritized work by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to adopt mandatory rules for ships operating in polar waters. Malta underscored that, like other small islands, it faces severe adverse impacts from climate change. [UN Press Release]

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