Government of the Federated States of Micronesia





New York, November 24, 1998

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President,

I have the honor to address this Assembly on behalf of the SOPAC group, the ten South Pacific Forum member countries represented here at the United Nations in New York, namely Australia; the Republic of Fiji Islands; the Republic of the Marshall Islands; New Zealand; the Republic of Palau; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Solomon Islands; Vanuatu; and my own country, the Federated States of Micronesia.

Mr. President,

The ocean, for obvious reasons, is of immense importance to the South Pacific Forum island countries. The Pacific island countries, although varying greatly in terms of resource endowments and land mass, all share a common bond - the Pacific Ocean. We are oceanic states and together we occupy a vast area of the Pacific Ocean that comprises almost a third of the entire surface of the earth. At the 29th South Pacific Forum meeting held in the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia last August, our leaders focused a great deal of attention on fisheries and other issues relating to the marine environment.

For centuries, the ocean has always been our provider and its bounty is the principal resource for the economic survival of many of us. The sea brings us together and its resources represent the most tangible asset for the future sustainable economic development of many of our island communities. We are concerned that the great potential that the ocean holds, however, cannot be realized if continued human induced pollutants, and the protection and management of this vital resource are not comprehensively addressed by this body, and other regional and non-governmental bodies.

We particularly welcome the effort of the world community to focus attention on the ocean by proclaiming this year 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean. As the year 1998 draws to a close, we call upon all members of the international community to re-dedicate their efforts towards ensuring the protection of this valuable resource, and to safeguard it from any activities that may create any detrimental effect and endanger the ocean environment. We welcome the significant trend towards universal participation and adherence to the legal regime established by UNCLOS and we call upon states that have not ratified UNCLOS and the three institutions created by UNCLOS to do so.

Mr. President,

Cooperation amongst States is an essential requirement for the successful implementation of UNCLOS. The Forum countries are pleased to note the inclusion of specific recognition of the obligation to cooperate in this year's draft resolution on driftnet fishing and other fishing issues, which we hope will command consensus in this Assembly. We reaffirm the importance we attach to sustainable management and conservation of the marine living resources of the world's oceans and seas, and the obligations of States to cooperate to this end.

Cooperation is also recognized as an essential element of the Implementing Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and in particular regional approaches are required to put its provisions into practice. We welcome the inclusion in this year's resolution of the operative paragraph on the Fish Stocks Agreement and we urge all members who have not already done so to sign and ratify the Agreement as a matter of priority. In the Pacific we have taken a pro-active approach and have engaged in dialogue with the Distant Water Fishing Nations who fish in our waters. We are now involved in full negotiations with them on a regional arrangement for the conservation and management of our tuna resources.

The Forum countries welcomed the progress achieved during the Third Session of the Multilateral High Level Conference (MHLC3), now known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Conference, held in Tokyo in June 1998. The valuable support of the Government of Japan in hosting this important Conference is greatly appreciated. We are also particularly grateful to H.E. Mr. Satya Nandan who has supported this process and provided valuable and impartial advice in his guidance as Chairman of the negotiations.

We take particular note of the significant steps achieved in the negotiations for the development of a legally binding conservation and management arrangement at the Conference. The importance of this arrangement cannot be over stressed in its contribution towards the maintainance of sustainable fisheries in the region beneficial to both the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) as well as the Forum island countries, many of whose economic livelihood are dependent on this one resource.

The Forum called on developed States to honor their obligations and commitments to provide financial assistance to facilitate the participation of Pacific Island Countries at future inter-sessional working group meetings and Multilateral High Level Conferences. Such assistance would assist the Forum island countries in the discharge of their management and conservation responsibilities.

At the 29th Forum, our leaders reiterated their endorsement for the concept of the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for member countries of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). This will be progressively implemented for those vessels of the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) operating in the exclusive economic zones of FFA countries. We call upon the Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs) operating in the region to support this VMS initiative. We believe that requiring the use of VMS is currently the most effective and cost efficient method available for monitoring and surveillance of fishing activities in our respective EEZs, and is therefore a vital tool in our efforts to combat illegal fishing activities.

Mr. President,

The SOPAC delegations have been participating actively in the negotiations of the two resolutions to be adopted under the Oceans and Law of the Sea agenda item. We thank the coordinators of both resolutions for their hard work in sensuring that all interested delegations had the opportunity to participate in the discussions. We would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his very useful reports prepared under this agenda item and to acknowledge the very important work carried out by the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

For the SOPAC delegations the resolution on drift-net fishing, unauthorised fishing in zones of national jurisdiction and the high seas; fisheries bycatch and discards; and other developments is one of particular relevance and importance. As Chair of the Forum, and on behalf of the SOPAC delegations, I would like to voice in the strongest terms our support for this draft resolution and the deep collective concern we have regarding the continuing problems that this resolution addresses.

It is with great disappointment that we note the continuing report of drift-net fishing taking place in contravention of the terms of the moratorium agreed upon by the international community in Resolution 46/215. This unacceptable mode of fishing has caused the loss of countless marine mammals and seabirds, as well as sharks, turtles, and other species. We call upon all States which have not done so to take immediate and effective action to ban illegal drift-netting. In this context, we are pleased to see that for the first time the draft resolution draws attention to the problem of transfer of illegal nets to other parts of the world. If Governments are serious about their commitment to the ban in moratorium they must take action to ensure that the enforcement of the drift-net ban in some parts of the world does not result in the same nets turning up in other parts of the world. SOPAC delegations reiterate their views that Governments have a responsibility to confiscate and destroy illegal drift-nets. Clearly, efforts to address this problem would also be assisted by developing effective disciple on the manufacturing and distribution of driftnets.

The resolution also calls on States to take greater enforcement measures to ensure that their vessels do not fish in areas under the national jurisdiction of other States unless authorised by that State and in accordance with the terms of that authorisation. The issue of unauthorised fishing is a crucial one for the South Pacific, and we endorse the call in the draft resolution to development assistance with monitoring and control of fishing activities.

Another important target area for development assistance, in the view of our delegations, should be the facilitation of attendance by representatives of developing coastal states, in particular, small island developing States, at significant negotiations on fisheries and other marine issues - such as the process taking place in the FAO towards the adoption of plans of action on incidental catch, sharks and overcapacity. It is important that small island states be able to participate in such meeting where important decisions are being taken regarding fisheries and conservation issues.

The SOPAC delegations look forwards to the Commission for Sustainable Development's session next year focussing on Oceans and Seas. We believe that given CSD's broad representation from all sectors engaged in ocean issues, both government and non-government, it is particularly well placed to take an overview of developments in the area of oceans and seas. We hope the discussions at CSD will lead up to a more integrated and effective approach to the problems of the oceans.

I thank you Mr. President.