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Oceans and fisheries
News announcement11 December 2019Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Climate change: EU stresses the need to address the impacts of climate change on oceans at UN General Assembly

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted on 10 December two resolutions on Oceans and Law of the Seas and on Sustainable Fisheries. In this context, the EU called for urgent, resolute and ambitious international action by all States in line with agreed commitments to counter the impacts of climate change on the oceans such as ocean acidification, ocean-warming, reduced fisheries catch potential and rising sea levels.

The EU regrets that there was no agreement on reflecting the findings and recommendations of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC) on Oceans and the Cryosphere in these resolutions as suggested by the EU and numerous other delegations including Small Island States and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. For this reason, the EU Member States have chosen not to co-sponsor the Sustainable Fisheries resolution, unlike in previous years.

Nevertheless, the EU welcomes the fact that the resolution on sustainable fisheries made progress on a number of key issues, in particular the social dimension of fisheries, which is a longstanding EU priority. In line with commitments to ensure decent work for all, the EU proposed measures to promote equality and the recognition of the role of women in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors as well as improved labour conditions and safety aboard fishing vessels. The EU encourages the ratification of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention and the Cape Town Agreement by all states. The EU also supports the work of the FAO with regard to Social Responsibility to tackle labour right violations and human rights abuses, which are known to occur along the fisheries value chain.

25 years after its entry into force, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) remains the overarching legal framework for ocean governance. The EU continues to encourage all UN states to ratify it to achieve universal participation. In addition, the EU looks forward to the finalisation of negotiations next year of the new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The finalisation of the new implementing agreement will ensure that the Convention is able to meet current challenges.


To highlight the role of science in policy-making and the opportunities provided by oceans in tackling the climate challenge, the European Commission organised an ‘EU Ocean Day’ on 7 December during the COP 25, the UN Climate Change Conference which is taking place in Madrid between 2 and 13 December 2019.

The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved in September 2019, highlighted that since 1970, the "global ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system." The rate of ocean warming has "more than doubled" since 1993. Surface acidification has increased as the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide.


Publication date
11 December 2019
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries