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Common Procedure


Common Procedure

The Common Procedure for the Identification of the Eutrophication Status of the OSPAR maritime area (the "Common Procedure") provides an assessment framework for Contracting Parties to evaluate the eutrophication status of their parts of the OSPAR maritime area and for identifying those areas for which actions are needed under the Eutrophication Strategy. The Common Procedure characterises areas as:

  • non-problem areas with regard to eutrophication for which there are no grounds for concern that anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients has disturbed or may in the future disturb the marine ecosystem. These areas will be reassessed if there are grounds for concern that there has been a substantial increase in the anthropogenic nutrient load;
  • potential problem areas with regard to eutrophication for which there are reasonable grounds for concern that the anthropogenic contribution of nutrients may be causing or may lead in time to an undesirable disturbance to the marine ecosystem due to elevated levels, trends and/or fluxes in such nutrients. For those areas, preventive measures should be taken in accordance with the precautionary principle, and monitoring and research should be urgently implemented to enable a full assessment of the eutrophication status within five years of their characterisation;
  • problem areas with regard to eutrophication for which there is evidence of an undesirable disturbance to the marine ecosystem due to anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients. In this case, measures shall be taken to reduce or to eliminate the anthropogenic causes of eutrophication and their implementation reported and effectiveness assessed.


Eutrophication assessments

The first step of the Common Procedure is a Screening Procedure, which was completed in 2001, to identify obvious non-problem areas. All remaining areas are periodically assessed under the second step, the Comprehensive Procedure which selects ten parameters for harmonised application by Contracting Parties to evaluate in a cause-effect relation scheme nutrient enrichment, direct and indirect eutrophication effects and other possible effects. The second application of the Comprehensive Procedure in 2007 confirmed that eutrophication is still a problem in 106 defined areas of the North-East Atlantic, mainly within the coastal zone, embayments and estuarine areas of the Greater North Sea (Region II), the Celtic Seas (Region III) and the Bay of Biscay and Iberian coast (Region IV) and wider areas of the eastern and southern North Sea (see Figure on eutrophication status 2007):

Ecological Quality Objectives for eutrophication for the North Sea

The Comprehensive Procedure is the tool through with the integrated suite of Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQO) for eutrophication for the North Sea is implemented. The overarching objective is that all parts of the North Sea should have the status of non-problem areas with regard to eutrophication by 2010 as assessed under the Common Procedure. It is supported by an integrated set of five specific EcoQOs reflecting selected harmonized assessment parameters and associated assessment levels of the Comprehensive Procedure, as described in the Background Document:

  • concentration of nutrients in seawater
  • concentration of phytoplankton chlorophyll in seawater
  • oxygen deficiency
  • biomass and duration of blooms of area-specific phytoplankton indicator species,
  • kills in benthic animal species as result of oxygen deficiency and toxic phytoplankton species.


Synergies in monitoring and assessment between OSPAR and the EU

The Eutrophication Monitoring Programme sets out the minimum monitoring and reporting requirements for parameters of the Comprehensive Procedure, including the five specific EcoQOs, as part of the Co-ordinated Environmental Monitoring Programme (CEMP).

The development of the assessment framework of Common Procedure and associated monitoring and reporting requirement seeks synergies with obligations and commitments of Contracting Parties under relevant European Community legislation, especially under the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) of the European Community and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC):