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OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas


One of the tools that can be used to ensure the sustainable use and protection and conservation of marine biological diversity and its ecosystems is the implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The use of protected zones is a long established practice for the protection of resources and livelihoods. More recently MPAs have entered the international political arena. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 world leaders committed themselves to creating representative networks of MPAs by 2012.

Within OSPAR, MPAs are understood as areas for which protective, conservation, restorative or precautionary measures have been instituted for the purpose of protecting and conserving species, habitats, ecosystems or ecological processes of the marine environment.

OSPAR Network of MPAs

At the Ministerial Meeting in Sintra in 1998, OSPAR Ministers agreed to promote the establishment of a network of marine protected areas and following a period of preparatory work, the 2003 OSPAR Ministerial Meeting in Bremen adopted Recommendation 2003/3 on a network of marine protected areas with the purpose of establishing an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs in the North-East Atlantic by 2010.The aims of the OSPAR network of MPAs are:

  • to protect, conserve and restore species, habitats and ecological processes which have been adversely affected by human activities;
  • to prevent degradation of, and damage to, species, habitats and ecological processes, following the precautionary principle;
  • to protect and conserve areas that best represent the range of species, habitats and ecological processes in the maritime area.
The progress made by Contracting Parties in identifying, selecting and establishing MPAs as components of the OSPAR network is summarised in the latest progress report on the network and a map describing the network. Fuller details of the sites that Contracting Parties have reported to OSPAR are held in the OSPAR MPA database.

MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction

OSPAR has also agreed to consider proposals from Contracting Parties and observers on possible components of the OSPAR network of MPAs in areas of the North-East Atlantic outside the jurisdiction of the Contracting Parties and where appropriate consider with other authorities how such areas could be protected. Since 2007, OSPAR has been considering proposals for several sites in ABNJ as possible MPAs. The 2010 OSPAR Ministerial Meeting took the significant step of adopting OSPAR Decisions establishing six MPAs in ABNJ and OSPAR Recommendations on their initial management. OSPAR will now continue its liaison with other international competent authorities and relevant bodies to further develop the management framework for these sites.

In June 2012, OSPAR welcomed the initiative of WWF to develop a media outreach website: Charlie-Gibbs Marine Protected Area – Preserving Diversity in the High Seas. The development of the site was supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The site is available at http://www.charlie-gibbs.org/.

Guidance for the development and management of the OSPAR network

To assist work by Contracting Parties on developing the network, OSPAR 2003 adopted guidance documents on identifying and selecting sites to include in the OSPAR network and on managing MPAs as part of the network. OSPAR has since augmented this guidance through the development of the concept of ecological coherence. Several products have been issued including guidance on developing an ecologically coherent MPA network, a scorecard to assist with MPA network design, and a background document on assessment of ecological coherence. OSPAR has also agreed a scorecard to assess the effectiveness of management of OSPAR MPAs and a guidance document on good practice for communicating with stakeholders in the establishment and management of MPAs.

Reporting of MPAs

MPAs selected by Contracting Parties as components of the OSPAR network can be reported using the OSPAR nomination database (Latest version: July 2008). Completed versions of the database should be sent to the OSPAR Secretariat and to the lead country, Germany (Ms Kerstin Kroeger - kerstin.kroeger@nabu.de). Contracting Parties should also complete the implementation reporting format for Recommendation 2003/3 when they submit reports of selected MPAs or develop management plans or management measures for sites within the network. It is recommended that any proposals for MPAs in areas outside national jurisdiction should be submitted in the first instance in paper format using the following nomination proforma (English version) (French Version).