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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Committee on Fisheries - 25th Session

Committee on Fisheries
Twenty-fifth Session
Rome, 24-28 February 2003

Agenda item 5: Progress Report on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Related International Plans of Action

Statement of the Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials
Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson


Allow me, in my capacity as Chair of Senior Arctic Officials, to start off this morning by introducing steps taken in the Arctic region that are of particular relevance to the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The Arctic Council is a regional forum for sustainable development, mandated to address all three of its main pillars; the environmental, social and economic. The scientific work and policy guidance of the Arctic Council is carried out in several expert Working Groups focussing on such issues as monitoring, assessing and preventing pollution in the Arctic, including the Arctic marine environment, climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

The Arctic Council is a distinctive form of co-operation between the governments of the Nordic countries, Russia, the United States and Canada and indigenous peoples in the Arctic region. This makes the Council particularly well placed to take into account traditional knowledge, highlighted in the general principles of the Code. The importance of clean oceans for states, indigenous peoples and small communities in the Arctic, many of which base their diet and livelihood to a large extent on the sustainable use of marine resources, cannot be overemphasized.

One of the aims of the Arctic Council is to ensure that appropriate attention be given to ocean issues. This emphasis is also a response to an international call for increased coordination, particularly at a regional level, and a growing trend towards integrated approaches, including the ecosystem approach, in addressing the challenges of coastal and marine environments.

With your permission, I would like to mention two areas of Arctic Council activity that are pertinent to the implementation of the Code, the development of a strategic plan for the protection of the Arctic marine environment and the Arctic Council regional programme of action for the protection of the marine environment.

Last October, the Arctic Council decided to develop a strategic plan for the protection of the Arctic marine environment. One of its Working Groups, responsible for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), has been mandated to develop this plan over the next two years, led by two of the member countries, Iceland and Canada.

The plan will be developed through an open consultative process, involving all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure that the Arctic region has an integrated ocean position within the international oceans agenda. In this way, the Arctic Council hopes to make a significant contribution to the follow-up of the WSSD 2002 Plan of Implementation.

The same Working Group also contributes to the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA). Some 80% of the pollution load in the oceans originates from land-based-activities. The Global Programme of Action (GPA) aims to prevent the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by assisting States to take actions individually and jointly.

Therefore, the initial phase of the Arctic Council's Regional Programme of Action (RPA) has focused on strategies and measures for the short-term to address urgent pollution problems in the Arctic marine environment stemming from land-based activities. The implementation and further elaboration of the Russian Federation}s National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment is an important component of the implementation of the regional action program. Due to the transboundary nature of pollution, the measures envisaged by the Russian programme are important, not only to Russia, but the whole circumpolar region as well as the global community.

Allow me, finally, in my capacity as Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, to thank you for your attention to the Arctic Council's work on the oceans and let me assure you that the Arctic Council sees great value in co-operating further with the FAO on issues of common concern.

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