On 8 December, the UN General Assembly debated two resolutions on Oceans and Law of the Seas and on Sustainable Fisheries. In this context, the European Union stressed that to in addressing the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery strategies should aim at keeping oceans healthy and productive, fighting climate change, halting biodiversity loss, as well as tackling hunger and poverty. These should not be seen as “either or” options, as ensuring resilience of the society, economies as well as the environment to future shocks can only be achieved by tackling these challenges.
For the EU, in line with the principles of its Green Deal, the best way forward to recover from this pandemic is by rebuilding greener and bluer. This requires decision-making on the basis of the best available science. In this respect, the EU welcomes the outcomes of the Second World Ocean Assessment under the UN Regular Process and looks forward to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030). The EU encourages participation in this Decade, which will provide the science we need for the future we want.
The European Union recognises the important role seafarers and fishers play in providing the global community with goods, including the medicines and equipment used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as food. It remains concerned with the plight of many seafarers and fishers who have been stranded on board of their ships, as also pointed out by the UN Secretary General. In this regard, the EU welcomes the recent consensual adoption by the Assembly of a Resolution on “International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains.”
In line with the objectives of its Common Fisheries Policy, the European Union remains committed to achieving sustainable fisheries. Harmful subsidies which contribute to overcapacity, overfishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing are one of the main impediments to achieving sustainability, therefore the EU hopes that the long-standing WTO negotiations in this regard can be concluded as soon as possible, in line with SDG 14.6, and remains fully committed to this end.
The EU recalls that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) remains the overarching legal framework for ocean governance. The EU continues to encourage all UN States to ratify it to achieve universal participation and calls on States to abide by the fundamental principles and rules of the law of the sea and to refrain from any actions undermining regional stability and security. In addition, the EU considers that that the negotiations of the new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction should be finalised as soon as possible, ideally already next year, to enhance the framework for marine biodiversity in these areas.