Agenda item 72: Oceans and the law of the sea
Statement by the Micronesian Delegation
New York, 9 December 2022
My delegation first likes to thank the delegations of Singapore and of Norway to coordinate the Oceans omnibus, as well as the sustainable fisheries resolutions and to bring negotiations to successful conclusions.
In 2022, we have focused a substantial amount of work on the Ocean, with mixed results. While the outcome of the Our Ocean Conference in Palau and the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon both concluded successfully, critical works remain to be accomplished when it comes to fully protecting the Ocean resources considered as common heritage of mankind.
In August of this year, we, as an international community, were unable to finalize an international legally binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (or BBNJ); and in August we had to pause the 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference because we ran out of our allotted time. It is imperative that we finalize this work as soon as possible, so that we can protect Ocean resources effectively. Micronesia looks forward to the resumption in late February and early March, and to its conclusion.
This past summer, Micronesia announced that we were joining the Alliance of Countries for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium, alongside a number of fellow Pacific SIDS. It is the view of Micronesia that deep seabed mining in the international seabed Area should not occur until the Precautionary Principle, Ecosystem Approach, and the Polluter Pays Principle have been implemented. In the international seabed Area, no such implementation can take place in the absence of the finalization of a robust, responsible, and comprehensive set of exploitation regulations by the International Seabed Authority. To do otherwise will be a dereliction of our duty to protect and preserve the marine environment and respect the common heritage of mankind.
Turning to maritime areas within our national jurisdiction, the vast expanse of Micronesia’s maritime zones represents both an opportunity and, at the same time, an enormous challenge. We have some of the largest fishing grounds in the Pacific, covering an area of 1.1 million square miles, and one of the most productive tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific.
Our maritime zones are exposed to the threats of transnational crimes and illegal activities. We need our partners to support us in capacity-building efforts towards law enforcement in the areas of maritime surveillance, money laundering and terrorist financing, drug trafficking, and other transnational crimes.
We are thankful to Australia for donating two Guardian-Class patrol boats, and also grateful to Japan for complementing these assets with four smaller patrol boats for nearby coastal waters. We recognize the U.S. Coast Guard as an enduring partner in protecting our expansive ocean territory.
But, given our vast EEZ and extended continental shelves reaching beyond 200 nautical miles, we invite additional countries to assist us in acquiring more assets with much more advanced maritime surveillance capabilities such as drones and submersibles. Our law enforcement, border management, and maritime surveillance teams would benefit from more partnership in capacity-building and support to continually enhance their law enforcement maritime skills.
In July 2022 the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum expressed their concerns about the threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, its people and prospects. For Micronesia the concern about the decision to discharge ALPS treated water, that had suffered nuclear contamination, into the Ocean starting from next year, persists. The impacts of this decision are both transboundary and intergenerational in nature. We cannot close our eyes and allow for the destruction of our Ocean resources that support the livelihood of our people.
In 2022, we also embarked on an important new project to develop a legally binding instrument to prevent plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Micronesia has actively engaged in the recent meeting in Uruguay and will continue to do so.
The key message, Mr. President, for the United Nations as an organization, and all countries in the world that engage with the Pacific, is that Micronesia and the rest of the Pacific Islands Forum solicit all countries who engage with the Pacific to support and respect the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. This strategy is our Pacific Region’s roadmap for sustainable development and growth, and we can only succeed if we work together with the support of our international partners. In this respect, we look forward to the fourth United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States to be convened in 2024 having a strong Ocean component.