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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

14 April 1999

Australia Leads Bid to Conserve Global Oceans

The Federal Government has announced it will launch a campaign through the United Nations to provide better protection for the world's oceans.

Environment Minister Robert Hill will spearhead the historic bid for global marine conservation at the UN's upcoming Seventh Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York.

"The world's marine biodiversity faces serious threats from pollution, over-exploitation, conflicting use of resources, habitat destruction and degradation," Senator Hill said.

"Australia will be urging the Commission on Sustainable Development to endorse a number of key initiatives to address these threats.

"We hope to see a world-wide expansion of successful conservation measures already introduced here to protect the biological diversity of oceans and promote the sustainable use of ocean resources."

In particular, Australia will be proposing that the international community agree to action in the following areas:

"With the recent release of Australia's Oceans Policy, Australia is seen as a world leader in marine conservation," Senator Hill said.

"These proposals translate our domestic experiences and expertise to the wider international community and reflect innovative approaches to global conservation of ocean resources.

"Australia has embraced the concept of marine protected areas, however, across the globe their distribution is limited and uneven," Senator Hill said.

"Our proposal would result in all the UN members cooperating to develop a comprehensive, global system of marine protected areas, through action within their national jurisdictions. Such a system would make a significant contribution to the protection of marine biodiversity."

"There is no legal framework that enables the establishment of marine protected areas on the high seas, outside of national jurisdictions. Nevertheless, the potential value of the high seas in terms of its biodiversity and other resources is increasingly being recognised.

"Accordingly, Australia is proposing that existing bodies collaborate to identify areas of important biological diversity on the high seas and work together to implement suitable conservation and management regimes.

"The Commission will also be discussing the need for improved coordination and cooperation at the international level on ocean issues. Australia recognises that this will be vital to the effective implementation of the outcomes of the meeting. We will be supporting the formation of a body, reporting directly to the UN General Assembly, to co-ordinate international action on ocean issues."

Senator Hill said Australia will also be calling for the rapid implementation of a global program of action to tackle land-based sources of marine pollution.

Notes to Editors: The seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) will be held in New York from 19 to 30 May 1999. The annual meetings of the Commission review implementation of 'Agenda 21', the document which was the key outcome of the meeting of the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development or UNCED, which met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The Commission makes recommendations on actions to promote sustainable development, which are taken forward to the United Nations General Assembly for endorsement.

Each session of the CSD scrutinises different issues. The seventh session of the CSD will be examining oceans and seas, sustainable tourism, sustainable development of small island developing states and production and consumption.

Contacts: Rod Bruem (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7211 or 041112 8582

Philip Burgess (Environment Australia) 62742 1111

Commonwealth of Australia