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Statement: Informal Consultations of States Parties to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (ICSP-17)

Statement by Ms. Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir
Counsellor & Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations
Informal Consultations of States Parties to the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (ICSP-17)
Agenda item 15: General debate
15 May 2024



Honorable Chair. 

Firstly, allow me to reiterate full support of the Icelandic government for you as the Chair of this meeting, including for the start of preparations of the next resumed Review Conference.
        As always, the delegation of Iceland is looking forward to engaging with colleagues from around the world, and Iceland would specifically like to congratulate Saudi Arabia for having ratified the Fish Stocks Agreement since we met at the Review Conference and ICSP last year.
        The topic of the ICSP this year, “Sustainable fisheries management in the face of climate change”, deserves discussions indeed and we thank the delegation of the United States for suggesting it during last years negotiations on the General Assembly Fisheries Resolution.


Before touching upon aspects specifically relating to climate change and managing sustainable fisheries, allow me to please very briefly to mention the relevant overarching policies of my government. 
        Climate change, the science tells us, is taking place and is changing the world as we know it. How drastic the changes will be, depends on how much climate action is being taken. Iceland strongly supports the guidance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the goal of limiting temperature increase to 1,5°C. We support the phasing out of fossil fuels and ending fossil fuels subsidies.
        This leads me to the ongoing work to specifically decarbonize all major sectors, the fishing sector included. While some challenges remain, the government and the private sector, in close cooperation and active dialogue, continue work to this end. 
        This further applies to ongoing work on action to mitigate the environmental effects of fisheries and seafood, notably in the context of the circular economy and by fully utilizing seafood; thereby increasing the value of existing resources and eliminating waste.


As we will hear more about in the coming days, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations increasingly work on the wider environmental aspects of fisheries, such as in relation to biological diversity and vulnerable marine ecosystems as well as climate change.
        This work reflects a gradually changing reality, in terms of environmental factors and scientific knowledge of them, including regarding climate change. 
        For Iceland, what does the aforementioned mean for management work taking place in the context of commitments under the UN Fish Stocks Agreement?
        Just as the situation gradually changes, so do our approaches. Mainstreaming climate change aspects into fisheries management does not mean changing things overnight, or with the pressing of a button, but rather it means ensuring that fisheries management is flexible enough to be able to adapt to the changes as they take place.
        A key aspect here is that the tools needed for responding to the effects of climate change on fisheries  are in essence the same as those needed for  sound management of sustainable fisheries.
        Scientific research is key as a prerequisite for knowledge of changing realities, including the gradual effects of climate change on fish stocks.
        Fisheries control, including in order to ensure full transparency of what exactly is being caught by our fishers at each point in time, helps keep science up to date and is a fundamental feature of fisheries management in Iceland.
Among the major challenges of climate change for fisheries management is the likely effect on stock sizes. Some stocks will decline over time while others will increase in size. We must ensure that our management takes this into account. Good scientific stock assessments are critical in this context.
        Another major challenge is changes in stock distribution and migration patterns. In Iceland we have already noted changes where stocks that are usually mainly to the South of our island are now more prominently than before noted in the North. We also have examples where changing distribution and migration patterns are causing international challenges with stocks increasingly present in some EEZs while they are less prominent in other EEZs. This requires renegotiation of sharing arrangements, which is not an easy exercise.
        The timeframe for these changes is very different from the timeframe of fisheries management measures. Predictive models for these effects of climate change refer to decades, often 30-50 years. Fisheries management measures are usually for one year and sometimes for up to three or even five years. This difference in timeframe is helpful from the point of view of fisheries managers, as it means less reasons to panic.
        In order for fisheries management to take full account of climate change, we do not need to foresee and predict all these medium to long term changes immediately or with unrealistic precision and act on them without delay. We simply need to acknowledge that they are likely to happen increasingly, and we need to ensure that our fisheries management systems – domestic and international – are flexible and adapt to the changes as they take place over time. By ensuring such flexibility, we are mainstreaming climate change into our management without creating a completely new and unnecessary paradigm.
        This can also mean that the most value added in terms of partnering with developing countries wishing to mainstream climate change into their fisheries management is to work with them towards building general fisheries management infrastructure, from its scientific basis through its legal framework and enforcement schemes – and to ensure that they are set up in a manner that is flexible and adaptive.
        Helpfully, this could also mean that more States and RFMOs than realize it themselves  may already have reasonably climate resilient fisheries management in place.
        The bottom line is that we do not need to re-invent sustainable fisheries management because of climate change. We need to monitor climate change and react to its effects over time within our robust fisheries management systems that are based on scientific assessments of fish stocks, effective management and enforcement measures and adaptive procedures for international agreements on the sharing of these resources.
        When it comes to more technical work regarding sustainable fisheries management in the face of climate change, it is clear that States and RFMOs still have much work to do – even if that work will not include completely changing the way they work on fisheries management. For issues that require cooperation and coordination at the global level, it is clear that the FAO will have a key role. Iceland therefore notes with appreciation that the issue is on the agenda of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries that will meet in July this year. 


Zooming out again towards the end of these remarks, I would like to touch upon the important role the Ocean plays as a source of food. Healthy oceans can continue to provide us with nutritious food which is low in carbon intensity and can therefore contribute to combatting climate change. There is untapped potential, but there are also significant challenges.
        Lastly, and importantly, in terms of the greater context of sustainable fisheries and the management thereof, climate change can increase challenges faced by fishers, as well as managers, in terms of, for instance, extreme weather events and changes to familiar patterns. These kinds of challenges need to be met, including by urgent climate action such as Early Warning for All, which Iceland contributes to.

I thank you.



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