Regenerating Fish stocks and achieving SDG 14

Statement by H.E. Karel J. G. van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

Let me first of all thank the organizers, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Republics of Poland and Palau, the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, Global Partnerships Forum, and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, for organizing this symposium on this very important topic “Regenerating Fish stocks and achieving SDG 14”. I am very honored to be able to speak on this topic. 

Your Excellency’s, ladies and gentlemen,


The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists out of the Netherlands which lays in Europe, and borders to the North Sea, and a Caribbean part (Aruba, Curacao and Saint Maarten). In that respect we are an example of the notion ‘one ocean, many seas’. 

Being present in two different regions means that we face different problems and challenges. In the Caribbean part we see an increase in tourism and the impact that has due to an intensive use of the Caribbean Sea for recreational purposes. In the European part we see an intensive use of the North Sea for commercial purposes and a lot of traffic from ships using the North Sea as a sea-lane. We are a small country and bringing together economic activities with environmental protection is a challenge. That's why marine spacial planning, based on an integrated approach is necessary, in order to prevent a fragmented approach. 

Marine Protected Areas

Since 2005 we have established Marine Protected Areas. In the Caribbean the Kingdom participates in  Caribbean Marine Protected Area Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM), as to establish a network of marine protected areas. For instance, in Aruba we have established ‘Bubali Pond’, in Curaçao we have established ‘Curaçao Marine Park’. In the Netherlands, the European part of the Kingdom, all EU directives on environmental protection are applicable. In the Netherlands we have established the ‘Doggersbank’ (amongst others) as MPA. 


Today, the world faces one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century: how to feed 9 billion people by 2050 in the face of climate change, economic and financial uncertainty and growing competition for natural resources. The multiple challenges of food insecurity, climate change, degradation of ecosystems, and economic recession require an integrated response and an urgent transition of the world economy towards a sustainable, inclusive and resource efficient path. Healthy oceans are one key to rising to this challenge. However, three key threats to ocean health affect our ability to use the oceans to drive strong economies. These are: (1) overfishing, (2) habitat change and (3) pollution. These threats have contributed to a tension between growth versus conservation, and private sector interests versus equitable benefits for communities. 


It is of the utmost importance that the international community addresses the main drivers of fishing vessel overcapacity, and the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU-Fishing). IUU-Fishing is a global problem that threatens ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. It depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and weakens coastal communities, particularly in developing countries. States should prevent, deter and eliminate IUU-Fishing and urgently put effective control mechanism in place. Combatting IUU-Fishing should be a joint effort of states. States should effectively cooperate and assist each other in order to successfully combat IUU-Fishing. 

Habitat Change

Our ocean’s health is being threatened by the rising of sea temperature and acidification, due to climate change. The rising sea temperature has a major influence on distribution of marine species and on the timing of the cycles of life in the ocean. They are partly responsible for the phenomenon of coral bleaching, devastating large areas of the world’s coral reefs.  And ocean acidification directly threatens all marine animals and plants. All these changes will affect the way ecosystems function, and changes to ecosystems affects people too, due to the effect on food security. 

Last Monday, I attended a meeting organized by the Pacific SIDS. The ocean has been an integral part of the PSIDS people’s daily lives for centuries. We see that the effect of climate change disproportionately affects them as they are particularly vulnerable to climate calamities resulting from unusually high king tides. 


The major source of pollution on the high seas is plastics, which forms a threat to the environment and humans. Plastics in the ocean reflect poor handling and waste management practices on land and requires a combination of political a regulatory action, supported by an increase in consumer awareness.   

Last week the PSIDS together with the World Animal Protection organized a side-event on UNCLOS and the Post-2015 Agenda: protecting Oceans and marine animals – a global approach to tackling lost and abandoned fishing gear. And next year, the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea will focus on marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics. We are looking forward to these discussions and would call upon all interested parties to actively participate at ICP. 

Your Excellency’s, ladies and gentleman, 

In order to tackle the challenges that faces the ocean and in order to address threats, the Netherlands organized, together with the FAO, World Bank Group, and partner countries Grenada, Indonesia, Norway and the US, the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth, in April 2014 in the Hague. As Result of this Summit the Netherlands with $ 1 million of funding for optimizing Grenada’s coastal, marine and ocean resources and for the establishment of a dedicated “Blue Growth and Oceans Governance Institute”, making Grenada a global example for Blue Growth as an Ocean State. 

Furthermore, in order to raise awareness on the importance of oceans and seas, we have initiated the Group of Friends of the oceans and seas, of which I am one of the co-chairs. The GoFOS operates as an informal group not seeking to duplicate, replace or work in parallel to formal negotiations that already exist in the UN context (such as SPLOS, the SDG-process, etc). Rather will the group function as a platform to exchange knowledge and facilitate dialogue between Member States.  

The importance of oceans and seas cannot be underestimated anymore. A stand-alone SDG on ocean sustainability would provide a focused and accountable attention that the oceans need. We satisfied with the current proposal of the stand-alone SDG on ocean which is necessary to reverse ocean degradation. It would trigger the kind of action necessary for a recognition that the global ocean is an Earth system that needs to be addressed and managed as a single entity. As the Global Ocean Commission stated earlier, and I would like to repeat those words: ‘We must address the fragmented approach that is currently driving ocean decline. A concerted effort is required which should be framed in a specific Ocean SDG, underpinned by key reforms in global ocean governance and implemented by every government, by civil society and by the private sector so that the words on paper become action in the water.’  

The Kingdom of The Netherlands, your partner for peace, justice and development.