OSPAR at 20

29 June 2012

On its 20th anniversary the OSPAR Commission is still breaking new ground. Meeting in Bonn (Germany) this week, the sixteen Contracting Parties to the OSPAR Convention agreed several new and innovative legal measures:

  • To designate and manage a 7th extensive High Seas Marine Protected Area encompassing the water column of an area of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge immediately north of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone;
  • To adopt protective measures for two species of seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus and Hippocampus guttulatus) and the eelgrass beds (Zostera) where they live; and
  • To adopt a Recommendation for a Risk-based Approach to the Management of Produced Water Discharges from Offshore Installations together with supporting Guidelines.

Welcoming delegations to Bonn, State Secretary Jürgen Becker identified three milestones. He emphasised that OSPAR had led the way in defining the ecosystem approach, helped inspire the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and is now responsible for a significant network of marine protected areas.

Mr Victor Escobar (Spain), Chairman of the OSPAR Commission said ‘I am extremely proud of the achievements of OSPAR during this meeting and over its long history. Through cooperation and consensus the OSPAR countries have set a global example of how to tackle pollution.’

In a special 20-year anniversary speech Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer reflected on the essential role of regional governance. Following his contribution to last week’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Mr Töpfer praised the collective work of the OSPAR Commission. He said ‘we have progressed from protecting species to conserving systems: we now have new challenges – ocean acidification, plastic particles in the sea and increased exploitation of marine resources. I wish OSPAR continued and well-deserved success.’

Since its inception OSPAR has in particular:

  • Banned dumping and incineration of wastes at sea;
  • Significantly reduced the input from the land of hazardous substances and nutrients;
  • Ensured discharges from nuclear power plants are the lowest recorded;
  • Regulated key aspects of the offshore oil and gas industry such as decommissioning;
  • Developed ecological quality objectives for a healthy ocean; and
  • Comprehensively evaluated the health of the North-East Atlantic in the Quality Status Report 2010.