Agenda Item 76: Oceans and law of the sea.
New York, 9 December 2013
At the outset, I wish to thank the Secretary General for his report contained in Document A/68/71, under the theme “The impacts of ocean acidification on the marine environment”. Let me also express our appreciation to the Director and dedicated staff members of the Division on Oceans and Law of the Sea for their support to Member States on all ocean issues, including this year's negotiations on Sustainable Fisheries and Oceans and Law of the Sea draft-resolutions. My delegation also wishes to record our thanks to Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago and Ms Alice Revell of New Zealand for their able guidance as coordinators of the respective informal consultations on the relevant subject.
The Maldives economy to a large extent depends on coastal and marine ecosystems and the biodiversity they harbour. Fishing has been a way of life for generations - and our traditions and practices have been internationally recognized as sustainable. Pole and line fishing is the backbone of our fisheries industry, and this unique fishing method ensures the protection of marine life. However, the ever-increasing global depletion of this valuable resource is not only a travesty for our environmental conscience, but also for our own economy. The degradation of our ecosystems and the food webs that sustain our fish stocks are of great concern to my delegation.
My delegation therefore finds it incomprehensible that three years after failing to meet the Convention on Biological Diversity's 2010 targets, to minimize unsustainable fishing practices and reverse loss of biodiversity, we as an international community are still faltering or even regressing, instead of taking the right steps to meet the Aichi target 6 - a target which calls for all fish to be harvested sustainably following an ecosystem-based approach.
The blatant neglect of this basic principle has led to massive depletions in shark populations and practices that are wholly unsustainable. Having implemented a shark sanctuary in our territorial waters since 2010, the Maldives has taken initiatives against this trend and has even welcomed the addition of five shark and two manta ray species on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora this March. Further, we are proud to be part of the group of countries aiming to introduce stronger language on the management of shark fisheries and the prohibition of shark finning during this year's negotiations. There is an increased willingness to address these unsustainable and often unethical practices, even if it is not yet fully manifest in writing. And we hereby express our firm commitment to continue working with our partners to make sure this new momentum is not lost.
There is a newfound momentum on the marine debris debate as well. Marine debris, including plastic, has recently attracted some attention and we support initiatives to address the environmental impacts of marine debris and to change consumption patterns and waste management practices to limit its sources. The Maldives is particularly concerned that such trans-boundary pollutants may thwart Maldives' efforts to sustainably manage its marine environment.
The Maldives would also like to stress the fact that anthropogenic CO² emissions drive climate change, leaving in its wake rising sea levels. These are emissions for which Maldives contribution is negligible, while the potential damage is catastrophic. To make matters worse, these emissions have also lead to ocean acidification, hampering the ability of calciferous marine organisms to develop their shells and skeletons; organisms which include our coral reefs – the foundation upon which our tourism and our fisheries industries depend. Our coral reefs are already threatened by coral bleaching. These existential threats to the foundation of the Maldivian economy, to our territorial integrity, and ultimately to our sovereignty are a cause for deep concern. It is unfortunate that political will on the reduction of CO² emissions is still lacking. The dangers that nations like the Maldives face, is not enough to galvanize concerted efforts by the international community, is an absolute parody and will be one of the greatest shortcomings of this century.
The Maldives and other SIDS are committed to do our part; we are doing this by reducing dependence and eventually eliminating carbon emissions from our economy. In this vein, Maldives has announced that it will become carbon neutral by 2020. Yet for the accomplishment of this ambitious goal, Maldives will need the cooperation and assistance of our bilateral and multilateral partners.
In 2011, the Maldives established an entire atoll (Baa Atoll) as a UNESCO biosphere. Since then, the country has scaled up its commitments, announcing the transformation of the entire nation, into a biosphere reserve. With 19 paragraphs devoted to the Oceans in "The Future we want", this announcement could not have been more timely. Yet again, we are alarmed that only one year later, the political will to honour Member States' common commitment to “protect and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of Oceans and Marine Ecosystems, to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for future generations" or even the will to address Oceans in the Post-2015 development agenda seems to falter. In the Barbados Outcome document, SIDS stated clearly that oceans and seas are a thematic priority for the SIDS and should be prominently reflected in the post-2015 development agenda, including through consideration of a thematic Sustainable Development Goal. For the Maldives oceans and seas are an integral and indivisible part of development. An Agenda that does not take this fact into account would be meaningless for us.
We recognize, that these are challenging times for all Member States, but the Maldives cannot help but wonder if we, as an international community, can really afford the lack of progress and even the danger of regression in so many of the critical issues of our time; overfishing, climate change and sustainable development as a whole. After all, we have only borrowed the world from our children. We should not risk it for short-term gains, nor squander our communal bounty. Marine environments have sustained civilizations through generations past, and can sustain generations to come. The truth of this will be found in our actions, in our positions, in our decisions. The truth of this will be found in our legacy.
Thank you Mr. President.