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Statements in International Organisations


UN General Assembly: Ad-Hoc Open-ended Informal WG to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction; Agenda item 5(c) – The role of area-based management tools

Intervention on behalf of the European Union by Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations


Co-Chairpersons, I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

In light of the growing pressures on marine ecosystems from human activities, including destructive fishing practices, illegal dumping, harmful marine scientific research practices, deep seabed mining and deep-sea tourism in all marine areas, and mounting evidence of actual destruction, causing significant loss of marine biodiversity, the EU strongly believes that urgent action is needed by the international community to preserve the uniqueness of marine biodiversity in ABNJ as well as to ensure that its components are used in sustainable manner. Conservation of marine ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable population of species in their natural surroundings necessitates the application of modern tools, which can ensure an integrated and holistic approach to biodiversity protection and conservation. In this respect the EU recognizes, inter alia, the value of area based management tools, including broader-based marine spatial planning and marine protected areas, which I will now turn my attention to.

The EU underlines the importance of implementing an ecosystem-based approach to the management of human activities in the marine environment. This would enable all the different components of an ecosystem, the various activities that affect it as well as the regulatory and policy frameworks to be coordinated in a holistic and systematic manner. The EU views multipurpose marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks and other similar area-based management tools as playing an essential role in this respect, being that they provide a basis to overcome the largely sectoral management and help to address the full scale of threats to marine ecosystems in a holistic manner.

The recognition of the role MPAs play as a necessary and essential tool in the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity is reflected in the globally agreed WSSD commitment on the establishment of marine protected areas, including representative networks by 2012. Moreover, the 7th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted the Programme of Work on Protected Areas with the objective to establish and maintain by 2012 for marine areas, "comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative systems of protected areas" that, collectively, will significantly reduce the rate of global biodiversity loss. It envisages at least 10% of each of the world's marine and coastal ecological regions effectively conserved as well as the protection of areas of particular importance to biodiversity.

However, marine and coastal ecosystems are still severely underrepresented as protected areas. According to MPA Global, a database of the world's Marine Protected Areas developed by the Seas Around Us Project in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC, WWF and IUCN-WCPA, as of March 2008 there were an estimated 4435 MPAs worldwide, covering an area equivalent to 0,65% of the world's ocean surface or 1,6% of the world's total EEZ coverage, which puts us much behind the targets set by the WSSD and the CBD. While acknowledging that the existing initiatives provide a valuable contribution to the protection of the marine environment, we would nevertheless have to conclude that at the current rate of progress it would not be until 2067 that 10% of the oceans would be protected. It is important to build on the current momentum to reverse this trend.

Moreover, existing area-based measures are at the moment largely established by a single sector for specific sectoral purposes, without the desired coordination with other sectors, hence reducing the chances of achieving a generally favourable conservation status for the concerned marine ecosystems. In addition, different sectoral organizations have different priorities and may face difficulties in dedicating necessary levels of resources for the identification, designation and management of marine areas in need of protection and their integration in the representative MPA networks.

In order to meet the targets agreed by WSSD and CBD, there is an urgent need to progress significantly on the delivery of MPAs, including in ABNJ. In this regard European Union is currently in the process of establishing a network of MPAs within waters of the EU member states, as part of our broad network of protected areas, called Natura 2000 network. In neighbouring marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, the EU is also working on several initiatives aimed at the protection and conservation of marine biodiversity, including fishing closures in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. For example the GFCM has called for restrictions on fishing in some areas in order to protect sensitive deep-sea habitats, as well as adopted recommendations requiring members to prohibit the use of towed dredges in trawl-net fisheries at depths greater than 1,000 metres, and prohibiting the use of bottom-trawls and dredges in three specific areas to protect corals, cold hydrocarbon seeps and seamounts. Furthermore, fishing closures have been established in the North Atlantic by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). The EU also works to implement UNGA 61/105 resolution in different RFMO's, in order to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts resulting from deep sea fishing.

MPAs are under development in ABNJ of the Northeast Atlantic by the OSPAR Commission. It is also worth recalling Mediterranean experience. The 1995 Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean, which was concluded within the framework of the Barcelona Convention, is a notable instrument on MPAs. The Protocol applies to all maritime waters of the Mediterranean, including high seas, to the seabed and its subsoil and to the terrestrial coastal areas designated by each of the Parties. It provides for the establishment of a List of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Interest (SPAMI List), which may include sites of importance for conserving the components of biological diversity in the Mediterranean. The Pelagos Sanctuary for marine mammals is one SPAMI particularly relevant in the context of discussions on area based management tools in ABNJ as it covers a large extent of high seas. The Parties to the Sanctuary Agreement undertake to adopt measures to ensure a favourable state of conservation for every species of marine mammals and to protect them and their habitat from negative impacts, both direct and indirect.

Despite these positive developments and the urgent need to protect unique, fragile, representative and vulnerable habitats in the high seas, what is lacking is a coordinated approach regarding the establishment of a network of MPAs in the high seas, as well as a comprehensive and integrated regime for marine biodiversity protection in ABNJ. Progress to this end has been made within the framework of the regional seas conventions, such as OSPAR. However, such regional conventions are only binding upon their Parties. This illustrates the need for a global regime in this regard.

Nevertheless, the EU believes that a number of short term measures can be implemented now in order to contribute to the protection and ensure sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas.

As a first step in this process, the EU supports the use of scientific criteria for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection. Such criteria have been developed in the context of the CBD, in its key role in supporting the General Assembly with scientific advice on marine biodiversity issues beyond national jurisdiction. After a long and comprehensive process, including several scientific workshops and a peer-review, and following agreed procedures according to the CBD, an expert meeting was held in the Azores, from 2 to 4 October 2007, where, building upon the best available scientific evidence and the existing criteria for identification of such areas, as used by relevant organisations including FAO, RFMO's, IMO and regional seas conventions, a consolidated set of scientific criteria for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection, and for representative networks of marine protected areas in “open ocean waters and deep sea habitats”, was developed, refined and agreed upon. Moreover, biogeographical and ecological classification systems for delineating ocean regions and ecosystems were compiled.

The EU is committed to setting in motion the process for the actual protection of ecologically and biologically valuable areas in ABNJ and therefore welcomes the consolidated set of scientific criteria, as developed and refined by the CBD Azores workshop.

With such a crucial tool at hand it is now time to move forward. We believe that governments and international and regional organisations should apply these criteria urgently and hope that this meeting will recognize the importance of putting these into practice in order to achieve our WSSD commitment to establish a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012. In this respect, a register/list of those areas, which would meet the criteria should be produced as a first step of the process of their designation and establishment as protected areas. The EU believes the CBD and its SBSTTA is to complete this task of identifying the appropriate areas. Further process of actual designation, establishment, and management, should be undertaken by the 2010 by different sectoral bodies and international organizations with competence over human activities in these areas, such as RFMOs, ISA, IMO or regional seas conventions, and a strong cooperation and coordination among them. We believe that this meeting of the open ended working group should show strong support for moving forward with the identification of areas that meet the criteria, as well as with their actual designation and protection by the competent organizations.


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Date: 05.05.2008