Intervention de la délégation monégasque lors de la quinzième réunion du Processus consultatif informel sur le droit de la mer

Intervention de: M. Frédéric Briand

27 mai 2014

Good morning Ambassadors, good morning everyone.

Monaco congratulates you on your reappointment as Co-chairs and welcomes the opportunity to share its views and concerns on what has become a most challenging question - the role of seafood in global food security.

The difficulty stems from the fact that the equilibrium of the World Ocean has never seemed so fragile, so vulnerable. Not a day passes without a mention of the degradation of the global marine biodiversity due to the over-exploitation of marine resources, deep-sea trawling, the spread of invasive species, climate warming, acidification, persistent contaminants, destruction of coastal habitats, insufficient coverage by MPAs, etc, etc.

The latest talk among marine specialists is the appearance of a sixth continent in the form of large masses of plastic litter, hundreds of km long, 30 m thick, hostage of large mid-oceanic gyres. Not to forget the increasing load of new stressors that are invisible - therefore less talked about - but very persistent and detected deep in the water column, like nannoplastics, persistent organic contaminants, or antibiotics heavily used to the point of abuse in coastal aquaculture operations.

All these factors, together with abandoned nets drifting in mid-waters, with fast-growing maritime transport and uncontrolled mass tourism, have led to a drastic impoverishment of the marine biota. This is more evident in regional seas that are densely populated and particularly studied, but the trends are the same in the High Sea worldwide. To the point that more and more marine biologists are now openly discussing the imminence of a sixth wave of global species extinctions, long after the last event of this kind, which took place some 65 Million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous.

As a result, large pieces of marine food chains are now reported missing, at local, regional, or global levels. To give just one example, our Mediterranean Sea hosts some 70 species of sharks ... of which 25 have not been seen in more than 20, sometimes 30 years. Are they regionally extinct? Or simply more rare? Nobody knows yet. Sharks are highly visible "totemic" species, so one may imagine the fate of hundreds of other less sexy species. All this and more has been detailed in this recent Monograph of the Mediterranean Science Commission, published last year, which we will make available for interested delegations.

One highly noticeable outcome of all these disruptions is the increasing frequency of the proliferation of medusa (jellyfish) in the world ocean. With diminishing fish stocks, with the rarefaction of marine mammals, medusae proliferate. And what used to be a rare occurrence- once every 13 or 15 years - is now the norm, happening not just in summer but almost all year round.

Millions of tons of medusae are produced yearly, of little value to most of us: they eat fish eggs and larvae, clog fishing nets and threaten coastal tourism. In the Mediterranean Sea, jelly blooms are now recorded as early as February until October or November.

In the Black Sea, a single species of pseudo-medusa introduced by accident in ballast waters from Florida in the early '90s destroyed over 90% of the anchovy fisheries. In Scotland waters, a single bloom of Pelagia, a well-known pink jellyfish, destroyed salmon grown in aquaculture enclosures.

Last but not least, the dramatic decline of marine mammals from both direct and indirect catches is playing havoc with the balance and dynamics of complex marine food webs, further affecting the proper maintenance of global seafood security.

In this regard the Principality of Monaco wishes to draw special attention to the case of many species of cetaceans that are listed as highly migratory species in Annex 1 of UNCLOS but are still in lack of a global regulatory instrument.

These populations cover considerable distances, crossing the High Seas and the sovereign waters of many coastal nations and small island States. They are therefore critically dependent on international cooperation for their conservation, as mentioned in Articles 65 and 120 of UNCLOS. Which is far from current reality.

In fact, if one excludes the species of baleen whales under current management by the IWC, as many as 58 species of whales and dolphins - the so-called toothed whales - are still left today without an international organization taking responsibility for their proper conservation and management. Which is dramatic considering (1) the key role these large animals play in the proper functioning of the world marine ecosystems and (2) the real concern for human health, as noted in paragraph 17 of the Secretary-General report, of consuming the meat of mammals, which magnifies the concentration of heavy metals and persistent organic contaminants in their body fat.

We view this "regulatory vacuum" as unfinished business of UNCLOS, some 32 years after the signature of the Convention, more than time to close what is a blatant gap.

Thank you.