KINGSTON, JAMAICA – In his first address to the General Assembly since being elected ISA Secretary-General, Mr. Nii Allotey Odunton spoke about matters relating to Oceans and the Law of the Sea . He said he felt extremely privileged to have been invested with the responsibility for guiding the work of the Authority over the next four years.

He said the ISA Council had made excellent progress in tackling outstanding issues with respect to the draft regulations before the General Assembly, and he was confident that they could be resolved at the 16th Annual Session in 2010.

He emphasized that the Authority would have to examine issues relating to the regulatory framework that would apply beyond the exploration phase, and to address the critical legal and financial questions that will determine whether investment in seabed mining takes place.

To help strengthen the capacity of member States, and particularly developing States, to fully realize the objectives of the regime for the international seabed area, Secretary-General Odunton said the Authority had hosted regional sensitization seminars to promote its work and encourage cooperation among countries to make full use of the resources of the deep seabed.

He said the ISA Endowment Fund had provided training and research opportunities for more than 15 individuals from developing countries, supporting: three scientific fellowships at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in the United States;  three research fellowships at the National Oceanographic Institute of India;  eight participants at the 2009 Rhodes Academy; and practical scientific training in deep sea exploration techniques through the Chinese Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association. 

He said that China had in November 2009 announced funding for postgraduate studies in marine science at Tongji University, Shanghai, for up to five candidates from developing member States, which was the result of a memorandum of understanding signed with the Authority in June 2009

 Other Authority activities included the conclusion of a geological model of the Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone in the Central Pacific Ocean – a comprehensive scientific study of the geology and environment of the seafloor designed to enhance understanding of the formation of mineral deposits and the effect of geochemical and geophysical conditions on the deep marine environment.

Secretary-General Odunton said the protection and preservation of the marine environment has always been a priority of the Authority. This is reflected in the exploration code, which requires contractors to: collect environmental data and share it with the Authority; conduct environmental studies of ocean floor conditions; and perform assessments of the impacts of their activities on the marine environment.

He said a major development in the work of the Authority related to a proposal to set aside areas of the Central Pacific Ocean to protect the environment and safeguard biodiversity. An international workshop would be convened by the Authority in 2010 to review the proposal and advise on the formulation of an environmental management plan and strategic environmental assessment for the entire Clarion Clipperton Zone.