Statement by Mr. Hassan Hussain Shihab, First Secretary at Oceans and Law of the Sea

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

My delegation is grateful for this annual opportunity to express our thoughts on Oceans, Fisheries and Law of the Sea. At the outset, my delegation would like to thank Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago and Ms. Alice Revell of New Zealand for ably guiding us through the respective informal consultations on the Oceans and Law of the Sea and the Sustainable Fisheries resolution.

Mr. President,

The Maldives is an archipelago of 1200 small islands, the ocean is intrinsically linked with our daily livelihood and forms the basis of our economy. Our traditional pole and line fisheries contribute crucially to our economy, providing jobs, healthy food and our cultural identity. Our oceans have and continue to be important transport corridors connecting my country to the global markets.

Oceans, and the biodiversity they harbor, also fuel our tourism industry. The beauty and the richness of our oceans, draw visitors from all over the world. In fact, the success of our tourism industry was a key contributing factor in our graduation to a middle-income country in 2011. Maldives' example shows clearly that integrated oceans management is key to a small island developing state's successful development path.

Mr. President,

The Maldives is committed to the negotiations on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, and Fisheries. We believe outcomes related to the oceans are inherently multilateral and must be deliberated among the international community. Ocean currents carry water masses - and anything in them - across borders. Fish stocks and other marine organisms migrate over them. Therefore, the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, fish stocks and other resources also needs to be discussed at the international level - providing the legal framework such as the legal regime reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

My delegation is pleased to see this vital debate happening more frequently. Oceans and Fisheries were strongly reflected in the "Future We Want" debate. Together with others we raised a loud and clear voice for a stand-alone goal on Oceans in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. Just a year ago, the question still was: Will there be a Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans and the Seas? Now we are delighted to see that the goal is settled firmly at the core of the proposal.

Mr. President,

Sustainable use of oceans will entail different methods for different species, taking into account that due to their biology and characteristics, they require special caution. Recognising this principle, the Maldives has banned the fishing of certain species groups, such as sharks, because we are convinced that this is the best way of ensuring their continued survival and their vital contribution to the health of our ecosystems and the economy. We as international community can build on the common understanding that the conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources will enable the largest and long-lasting development gains to all of us. We need to eliminate destructive fishing practices, restore fish stocks to their maximum sustainable yields and reverse biodiversity loss in the oceans. The Maldives calls upon all member states to renew their political commitments to find an urgent solution for biodiversity loss.

The Maldives believes there is a need for further commitment by States in enforcing regional agreements on the management of ocean resources. This could provide more capacity to Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and make them better equipped in ensuring the sustainable management of our oceans. We also need to abolish subsidies to maintain large, long-distance fishing fleets contributing to the problems of overcapacity, overfishing and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU). These subsidies are not only environmentally unsustainable, and morally questionable, they are also economically unprofitable.

Mr. President,

The protection and sustainable use of marine resources for SIDS like the Maldives represent a key part of our sustainable development. The protection and sustainable use of marine resources require scientific expertise, the collection of data, and good monitoring systems. Small Island Developing States have been the custodian of the Oceans and could fulfil this role even better with improved capacity and technology transfer in this regard. Oceans are the center and source of life to all of us; life that we all need to protect.

Thank you.