(1) Introduction In May 2016, Resolution 2/10 on Oceans and Seas of the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) re-emphasized the importance of the Regional Seas Programme as the regional mechanism for the conservation and sustainable management of oceans and seas. This resolution encouraged UNEP to continue to participate in the process initiated by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 69/292 on the development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (para. 9). Furthermore, it highlighted the importance of reinforcing cooperation, coordination, communication, and sharing of best practices and information among the existing regional seas conventions and action plans across different geographical areas in line with the UNEP Regional Seas Strategic Directions 2017–20 (para. 11). A few months later, from 30 September to 1 October, the eighteenth Global Meeting of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans was held in Incheon, Korea. The meeting addressed five topics: (1) regionally coordinated national actions and reporting for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); (2) assessments and indicators for SDG implementation tracking; (3) regional seas implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities; (4) regional seas engagements in the process of the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction; and (5) implementation of the Regional Seas Strategic Directions (RSSD 2017–20). The aforementioned topics were discussed, stressing the importance of making concerted efforts at the regional level through an action-oriented program, while focusing not only on the mitigation or elimination of the consequences but also on the causes of environmental degradation. The Regional Seas Programme should have a comprehensive, integrated, results-oriented approach to combating environmental problems through the rational management of marine and coastal areas. (2) Baltic Sea During the thirty-seventh meeting of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), which took place in Helsinki on 10–11 March 2016, a recommendation on sustainable aquaculture was adopted (Recommendation 37-3). The recommendation gives tools for the Baltic Sea region to develop this growing sector, based on the best available technologies and best environmental practices for minimizing or eliminating potential negative impacts on water and air from emissions and discharges by adopting control strategies. Among control strategies, it suggests employing regional planning as an instrument for directing aquaculture activities to suitable areas and for mitigating conflicts between aquaculture and other uses of that area. For example, fish farms should not be placed in areas reserved for nature protection if that might conflict with the aims of protection for that area. In addition, three other HELCOM recommendations were adopted at the meeting, helping to improve the status of the Baltic marine environment: Recommendation 37-2 on Conservation of Baltic Sea Species Categorized as Threatened, Recommendation 25/7 on Safety of Winter Navigation with Updated Part on Correspondence between Ice Classes, and Recommendation 37/1 Concerning Cooperation and Coordination of Research Vessel-Based Monitoring and Procedures for Granting Permits. On 1 July, the European Union (EU) took chairmanship of HELCOM until 30 June 2018. Its work plan is based on three main priorities: reaching a healthy Baltic Sea ecosystem by 2021; promoting innovation for a sustainable ‘blue economy’; and tackling the challenge of regional governance. The priorities of the EU chairmanship also include responding effectively to key pressures by implementing the regional action plan for marine litter, among others. The EU intends to promote knowledge and innovation in the Baltic Sea and to foster a well-managed network of marine protected areas (MPAs). (3) East Asian Seas At the Sustainable Ocean Summit, held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, from 29 November to 2 December, the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) announced a new partnership with the World Ocean Council, an international business leadership alliance dedicated to corporate ocean responsibility. The partnership between PEMSEA and the World Ocean Council is relevant in terms of achieving a regional coalition of forward-thinking ocean industries focused on building a blue economy through the protection, conservation, and sustainable use of oceans and coasts in East Asian Seas. In addition, PEMSEA initiated the review and updating of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA) as well as the development of new regional targets post-2015 for the East Asian Seas region. The technical working group, comprised of representatives from PEMSEA country and non-country partners, recommended creating a new strategy on climate change adaptation that serves as a cross-cutting strategy that is linked with the six other existing strategies of the SDS-SEA. (4) Mediterranean Sea At their nineteenth ordinary meeting, held in Athens, Greece, on 9–12 February, the contracting parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution (Barcelona Convention) and its protocols—namely, the twenty-one Mediterranean countries and the EU—demonstrated important achievements. During the meeting, the contracting parties adopted the Athens Declaration as well as several thematic decisions in order to respond effectively to the growing environmental challenges that face the region and to boost the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its protocols. The Athens Declaration was adopted on 11 February in order to celebrate forty years of regional cooperation through the Mediterranean Action Plan and the Barcelona Convention and its protocols (preamble, para. 2). By adopting the Athens Declaration, the contracting parties renewed, among others, their commitment and agreement to step up their efforts to address together the challenges related to environmental protection towards the application of the ecosystem approach as an overarching principle to contribute to the sustainable development of the Mediterranean Sea and coast within the global framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Points 1 and 3). At the same time, they also committed themselves to enhance measures to reduce pressures on marine and coastal environment; stop the decline of endangered species and safeguard and promote ecosystem services and resource efficiency (Point 4); and take the necessary measures to ensure effective implementation of the national action plans in accordance with the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities of the Barcelona Convention and related protocols, with a particular focus on marine litter (Point 7). Furthermore, the Athens Declaration welcomes, among other thematic decisions, the adoption of the revised Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (Point 6). The strategy was fully informed by the preparation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and was underpinned by the conviction that investment in the environment is the best way to secure long-term, sustainable socio-economic development. The main aims of the strategy are as follows: to provide a strategic policy framework to secure a sustainable future for the Mediterranean region; to adapt international commitments to regional conditions; to guide national strategies and to stimulate regional cooperation in the achievement of sustainable development objectives; and to link the need to protect the environment to socio-economic development. Good progress was made in other thematic areas, such as the protection of biodiversity and the defining of nomination and selection criteria for the Environment Friendly City Award, which was established by the contracting parties at their eighteenth meeting in Istanbul and will be conferred on coastal Mediterranean cities. In terms of compliance, the Compliance Committee offered advice assistance, although more progress was required in that area. In addition, the importance of the nineteenth meeting was shown by setting the direction of the Mediterranean Action Plan for the next six years and, in regard to the sustainable development agenda, for the next ten years. Finally, the meeting contributed to establishing a new narrative on, and trajectory for, sustainable development and the actions needed to combat global warming. It paved the way for a truly integrated approach towards economic progress of the Mediterranean Sea, which could not be addressed without taking into account sustainability and equity. (5) Northwest Pacific The twenty-first Intergovernmental Meeting of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) was held in Seoul, Korea, on 23–5 November. It underlined the duty and responsibility to cooperate to create new value and generate common benefits resulting from marine environmental protection for current and future generations. During the meeting, the needs to continue assessing the state of marine biodiversity and ecosystems, work on oil spill preparedness and response, and address marine litter issues were stressed. One of the major goals of this meeting was the adoption of recommendations on the future vision of the chairperson of the twenty-first NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting (Doc. UNEP/NOWPAP IG. 21/10, Annex 2). This welcomed the efforts and measures taken by NOWPAP member states to strengthen and stabilize the NOWPAP institutional framework and enhance its activities responding to complex challenges to the Northwest Pacific environment with renewed trust in the value and relevance of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (Point 7). It also underlined the further implementation of NOWPAP at the regional, national, and sub-national levels, with the application of the ecosystem approach as an overarching principle (Point 10) and the adoption of the NOWPAP Mid-Term Strategy for 2018–23 at the twenty-second Intergovernmental Meeting of NOWPAP. Thereafter, its implementation as the strategic framework for the wise use, development, and management of the coastal and marine environment of the Northwest Pacific region, with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs and targets (Point 11), would begin. The importance of this meeting was to discuss the future of NOWPAP since it should be connected to the evolving global and regional oceans agenda. (6) Polar Waters At its meeting on 21–5 November, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted Resolution MSC.416(97), which amends the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) in relation to revised training requirements for masters and deck officers onboard ships operating in polar waters. The revised training requirements in the STCW provide international standards for seafarer’s education and training. The hazards of vessel operations in polar waters demonstrate the relevance of these amendments in order to effectively implement the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) and related amendments. They became mandatory under both the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships from 1 January 2017 for new ships and from 2018 for existing ships. The Polar Code supplements existing IMO instruments in order to increase the safety of ship operations and mitigate the impact on people and the environment in the remote, vulnerable, and potentially harsh polar waters. While Arctic and Antarctic waters have similarities, there are also significant differences. Hence, although the code is intended to apply as a whole to both the Arctic and the Antarctic, the legal and geographical differences between the two areas have been taken into account. (A) Antarctic The thirty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was held in Hobart, Australia, on 17–28 October. On this occasion, the CCAMLR made a landmark decision for Antarctica regarding the establishment of the world’s largest MPA. All member countries agreed to a joint United States–New Zealand proposal to establish a 1.55 million square kilometre area of the Ross Sea as an MPA. The new MPA, which is to come into force in December 2017, aims to conserve marine living resources, maintain ecosystem structure and function, protect vital ecosystem processes and areas of ecological significance, and promote scientific research. In order to reach those goals, 72 percent of the MPA is a ‘no-take’ zone—which means all fishing is forbidden—while some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research is permitted in other sections. This is a major step for the CCAMLR and for the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). It clearly demonstrates that the governments that are part of the ATS are willing and able to make progress in environmental conservation areas that are important for Antarctic policy. At the same time, it also represents a significant milestone towards a comprehensive and more effective international ocean governance. Other major topics discussed at this meeting include the status of CCAMLR-managed fisheries; a CCAMLR fisheries regulatory framework; ongoing efforts to establish a sustainable funding base for the organization; and assessment and avoidance of incidental mortality of Antarctic marine living resources. Attention was also paid to new and exploratory fisheries; the system of inspection and the scheme of international scientific observation; compliance with conservation measures in force, including the implementation of the CCAMLR Compliance Evaluation Procedure; a review of existing conservation measures; and the adoption of new conservation measures. Looking to the future, dialogue also addressed the further development of the CCAMLR Catch Documentation Scheme and the Vessel Monitoring System; and management under conditions of uncertainty, and cooperation with other international organizations, including within the ATS, and agreement to commission a second performance review. Significant progress was also achieved in the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Members strengthened obligations related to vessel authorization and tightened the rules on IUU listing procedures. (B) Arctic In 2016, Arctic sea ice appeared to reach a record low winter maximum extent, according to scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center. Combating climate change is an urgent common challenge for the international community and on 27 April, the EU Commission and the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy adopted a joint communication entitled An Integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic (Doc. JOIN(2016) 21 final), which should guide EU actions for the coming years in three priority areas: climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment; promoting sustainable development in the region; and supporting international cooperation on Arctic issues. The Arctic Council celebrated its twentieth anniversary on 19 September. At this time, the Arctic states reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the 1996 Ottawa Declaration: to work together and with the indigenous permanent participants and to promote prosperity, development, and environmental sustainability for the benefit of generations to come. On this occasion, Ambassador David Balton, the current chair of the Senior Arctic Officials, underlined the possibility of expanding the Arctic Council’s role from policy shaping to policy making. Under US chairmanship (2015–17), a Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC) identified additional needs for coordinating Arctic states’ actions and policies concerning the Arctic Ocean and considered possible mechanisms for meeting those needs. On 1–2 June, the third meeting of the TFAMC took place in Reykjavik, Iceland, where it was emphasized that the Arctic marine environment is changing rapidly and that these changes mean new challenges and opportunities in the realm of marine cooperation. The TFAMC may ultimately lead the council to make a truly significant, positive impact on the Arctic region in the future. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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