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ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA: Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished Delegates.

The United States is pleased to co-sponsor the General Assembly resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, as well as the resolution on sustainable fisheries.

The United States greatly values the platform the General Assembly provides to elevate important ocean and fisheries issues through these resolutions.

We agree wholeheartedly with the Secretary-General’s profound words yesterday: “The ocean is life.  The ocean is livelihoods.  And the ocean binds humanity together across the world, across history, and across cultures.”  Which is why we are here.

We gather today toward the end of what has been a “super year” of ocean action.  It began with the One Ocean Summit in France.  And then the United States was proud to co-host with Palau the seventh Our Ocean Conference, which closed with more than 400 commitments worth more than $16 billion to protect and conserve the ocean and its resources.

The second UN Ocean Conference was another of these achievements, advancing transformational ocean initiatives.  We congratulate the hosts and the conference secretariat for its success.

But the ocean remains under threat from multiple stressors, including the profound impacts of greenhouse gas emissions; illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; plastic pollution; and biodiversity loss, to name a few.

These multi-faceted challenges demand innovative solutions that will protect the ocean, the livelihoods it supports, and the ecosystem services it provides.

Perhaps no issue is more cross-cutting than climate change.  As President Biden has said, climate change is the existential threat of our time.

As greenhouse gas emissions rise, our ocean is becoming warmer, more acidic, and less productive, with cascading harms on communities and livelihoods around the world.

The most devastating of these impacts is sea level rise, which threatens the very existence of some island nations and the livelihoods of people from coastal states around the world.

The United States will work with coastal states toward the goal of lawfully establishing and maintaining their baselines and maritime zone limits in the face of sea-level rise, and will not challenge the full extent of such baselines and maritime zone limits that are not subsequently updated despite sea-level rise caused by climate change.

We urge other countries to do the same in order to ensure the stability, security, certainty, and predictability of maritime entitlements that are vulnerable to sea-level rise.

We must also apply every lever available to reduce emissions to keep the 1.5-degree goal within reach and to improve ocean and coastal resilience.  This includes leveraging the power of ocean-based climate solutions.

For example, we must spur the transition to a zero-emission shipping sector.  That is why we launched, with Norway, the Green Shipping Challenge at COP27, which featured more than 40 major announcements from countries and non-state actors on issues such as the production of zero-emission fuels, investment in zero-emission vessels and technologies, and creation and advancement of green shipping corridors.

We also must scale up offshore renewable energy.  The United States is a leader in offshore wind, with national goals to deploy at least 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2035.

We are also a founding member at COP27 of the Global Offshore Wind Alliance, which will promote ambitious uptake of offshore wind globally and contribute to achieving increased total offshore wind capacity.

But we cannot afford to stop there.  We must also protect and restore coastal ecosystems that store carbon and protect our coastlines from climate impacts.

This is one reason we launched the Ocean Conservation Pledge, a commitment by governments to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of ocean waters under their jurisdiction by 2030.  Sixteen countries endorsed the Pledge at COP27 – and we encourage all others to join us as well.

Ambitious action to conserve more of the ocean is also critical for protecting biodiversity, maintaining the health of the ocean, and increasing the resilience of marine ecosystems.

A 30 percent conservation target by 2030 has been identified by leading scientists as the minimum needed to support ocean system functionality.  The United States fully supports the goal of conserving or protecting 30 percent of the global ocean by 2030.

We led an effort to memorialize the importance of this goal in this year’s oceans resolution.  We were disappointed that Member States were unable to agree to include it.

But we will not give up.  We are hopeful that Member States will come together to recognize the importance of 30 by 30 through the oceans resolution next year.

Another essential tool for protecting biodiversity will be the successful conclusion of the new BBNJ agreement.

The BBNJ agreement is an unprecedented opportunity to coordinate the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity across management regimes, including – for the first time – a coordinated and cross-sectoral approach to establishing high seas marine protected areas.

We look forward to working with all delegations to finalize the BBNJ agreement. We are determined to successfully conclude it by the end of the Our Ocean Conference hosted by Panama next year.

With regard to deep seabed mining, the United States shares the concerns being raised on the need for more scientific research on the marine environment and the possible harmful effects of seabed mining.

Much more research is needed in this regard – this is the Decade of Ocean Science after all – let’s use this time well.  Let’s not make irreversible mistakes.

The United States exclusive economic zone and continental shelf are immediately adjacent to the Clarion-Clipperton Zone where a broad range of interests, including those of our Indigenous communities, that rely on an accessible and sustainable marine environment have the potential to be directly impacted by negative effects from seabed mining.

For an effective regulatory regime, we must have much more research to understand the potential for negative impacts on the marine environment from exploitation activities in the Area and the necessary steps to minimize and mitigate them.

We must also actively pursue the global agreement on plastic pollution because we know that plastic pollution can be found everywhere in the ocean – from pole to pole to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and in giant gyres found globally.

We must also build protection of aquatic ecosystems and resources into our fisheries management.

Destructive fishing practices are harming vulnerable marine ecosystems all over the world.  We have to put an end to these practices.

We must support sustainable fisheries and food systems without further degrading water quality, habitats, or ocean ecosystems.

We must also move to reduce all ocean pollution, including ocean noise.

The United States welcomes the significant progress to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices since we last reviewed bottom fishing in 2016.

In fact, since 2016, the scientific understanding of the important contribution of VMEs to supporting healthy fisheries has dramatically improved.

Between the relevant UNGA resolutions and the FAO Guidelines for the Management of Deep-sea Fisheries in the High Seas, we have the tools to adequately protect VMEs and ensure the long-term sustainability of deep-sea fish stocks.

However, we need robust and even implementation of these tools in every region of the world.

We were disappointed that our proposal in the sustainable fisheries resolution to advance the use of a precautionary approach to bottom fishing did not gain the support of all Member States, but we remain hopeful that we can work together to move the ball further at the next opportunity.

We are also keenly aware of the negative impacts of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

IUU fishing damages our ocean, undermines maritime security, and endangers the law-abiding fisheries and communities that rely on fish.

Too often IUU fishing is coupled with criminal activities like trafficking and labor rights abuses, including forced labor.

Left unchecked, these labor abuses undermine economic competitiveness, maritime security, fishery sustainability, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world.

This is why President Biden issued the National Security Memorandum on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Associated Labor Abuses to address forced labor in the fishing industry, especially in IUU fishing.

While the problems of IUU fishing are pervasive and complex, we cannot be afraid to tackle these challenges and raise our standards.

We invite all countries to join the IUU Fishing Action Alliance, which the United States, United Kingdom and Canada launched at the UN Ocean Conference.

By joining the Alliance, countries pledge to take urgent action to:  improve the monitoring, control, and surveillance of fisheries; increase transparency in fishing fleets and in the seafood market; and build partnerships to close the net on bad actors.

Finally, the United States underscores the central importance of international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention – the universal and unified character of which is emphasized in the oceans resolution.

As we see attempts to impede the lawful exercise of navigational rights and freedoms under international law, it is more important than ever that we remain steadfast in our resolve to uphold these rights and freedoms.

We call on all States to fashion their maritime claims and conduct their activities in the maritime domain in accordance with international law as reflected in the Convention, to respect the freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea that all users of the maritime domain enjoy, and to peacefully settle disputes in accordance with international law.

We reiterate our deep concern with respect to expansive and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea that do not have a basis in the Convention and call on all claimants to comport their maritime claims with the international law of the sea as reflected in the Convention.

With regard to both the oceans and fisheries resolutions, we refer you to our General Explanation of Position delivered on November 21, 2022, to the 77th General Assembly Second Committee session, which among other issues, underscores the independence of the World Trade Or

In closing, the United States would like to thank the coordinators of the informal consultations on both resolutions – Ms. Natalie Morris-Sharma of Singapore and Mr. Andreas Kravik of Norway – for their outstanding coordination of the resolutions.

We also would like to thank the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for its expertise and hard work throughout the consultations on both resolutions.

Finally, we express our appreciation for the delegations’ flexibility and cooperation in working together to address the numerous and complex issues that lie ahead for the ocean and all its resources.

Thank you, and Happy Holidays to all of you and your families.

U.S. Department of State

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