Fish and ships
Fishing is an important economic activity in the OSPAR area, often being highly significant as a source of employment in areas where there are few alternatives. The impacts of fisheries on the marine environment can be profound. OSPAR’s Quality Status Report 2010 identified fisheries as one of the human activities with large and widespread impact on the marine environment. These impacts include:
- continued exploitation of stocks beyond sustainable levels;
- depletion of key predator and prey species and disruption to food webs;
- damage to sea bed communities and habitats by fishing gears;
- by-catch of non-target fish, seabirds and marine mammals in Regions II, III and IV.
The OSPAR Convention states that questions relating to the management of fisheries should be regulated under international and regional agreements dealing specifically with such questions. The following fisheries management regimes exist within the OSPAR maritime area:
- the EU Common Fisheries Policy for the waters of EU Member States;
- Faroese national fisheries policy and regulation within Faroese waters;
- Greenland national fisheries policy and regulation for the waters around east Greenland;
- Icelandic national fisheries policy and regulation within Icelandic waters;
- Norwegian national fisheries policy and regulation within Norwegian Waters;
- 1982 Convention on the future multilateral cooperation in North-East Atlantic Fisheries for fisheries in areas of the North-East Atlantic beyond national jurisdiction and some straddling stocks. This implemented through the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission with whom OSPAR has agreed a memorandum of understanding.
- The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
- The Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean
The OSPAR Maritime Areas contain some of the busiest sea lanes in the world and both the number of ships and the quantities of cargo are growing rapidly. Although maritime transportation is considered to be a comparatively environmentally friendly means of transport, shipping also has impacts on the marine environment. Problems include:
- accidental or illegal pollution with oil or hazardous and noxious substances (HNS);
- introduction of alien invasive species via ballast water;
- air pollution emissions;
- toxic substances from anti-fouling paints;
- pollution with marine litter.
As for the particular issue of the invasive species, the Helsinki and OSPAR Commissions and the Barcelona Convention have put in place voluntary guidelines for the shipping industry that requests vessels entering the waters concerned to exchange all their ballast tanks at least 200 nautical miles from the nearest land in water at least 200 metres deep. The General Guidance on the Voluntary Interim application of the D1 Ballast Water Exchange Standard was agreed by all Contracting Parties, together with the European Union, and enters into force on 1 October 2012.
The OSPAR Commission has agreed an Agreement of Cooperation with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the competent international body for the regulation of international shipping. Where the OSPAR Commission considers that action for the protection and conservation of the North-East Atlantic is necessary in relation to questions concerning maritime transport, it draws those questions to the attention of the IMO. OSPAR Contracting Parties also cooperate on such issues within the IMO.
The North Sea Network of Investigators and Prosecutors (NSN) provides a direct institutional link between the OSPAR Commission and the Agreement for cooperation in dealing with pollution of the North Sea by oil and other harmful substances (Bonn Agreement). In the Bonn Agreement the North Sea States, and the European Community, work together to help each other in combating pollution in the North Sea Area from maritime disasters and chronic pollution from ships and offshore installations as well as to carry out surveillance as an aid to detecting and combating illegal and accidental pollution at sea. The OSPAR Commission and the Bonn Agreement are cooperating closely on many cross-cutting issues and the OSPAR Secretariat also fulfils the secretarial function for the Bonn Agreement.