MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction

The OSPAR maritime area encompasses extensive areas in the Wider Atlantic (OSPAR Region V) and the Arctic Waters (OSPAR Region I) that are beyond the limits of national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). This Area Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) covers approximately 40% of the OSPAR maritime area. OSPAR has agreed to designate Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in ABNJ with the aim of achieving an ecologically coherent and well managed network of MPAs.

The legal basis on which the OSPAR Commission may decide to take forward the designation of MPAs in ABNJ within the OSPAR maritime area is described in OSPAR’s Regulatory Regime for establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) of the OSPAR Maritime Area.

OSPAR considers proposals for new designations of MPAs in accordance with the criteria for OSPAR MPAs. For MPAs to be collectively designated by OSPAR in the ABNJ of the OSPAR maritime area, OSPAR applies General consultation procedures for establishing Marine Protected Areas in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction of the OSPAR Maritime Area (Agreement 2019-09) when developing the nomination proforma. The objective of the consultation procedures is to collect as much relevant information as possible to ensure that OSPAR has the best available knowledge before establishing MPAs in ABNJ in the OSPAR maritime area, and to draw attention of users, coastal states and other stakeholders to the proposed MPA in order for them to provide relevant scientific information and express possible concerns.

The management actions for each of the OSPAR MPAs designated in the ABNJ of the OSPAR maritime area is detailed in an OSPAR Recommendation for management of the Site. Contracting Parties to OSPAR carry out annual implementation reporting for the management action within the competency for OSPAR. OSPAR cooperates with other competent authorities where management action is appropriate for human activities outside the legal competency of OSPAR. The collective arrangement is an important forum for dialogue between OSPAR and other competent authorities on the management of the MPAs in ABNJ of the OSPAR maritime area. OSPAR continues its liaison with other international competent authorities and relevant bodies to further develop management measures for the MPAs in ABNJ, including through bilateral arrangements and the collective arrangement. Generating further scientific information about the deep sea ecosystems protected by the MPAs is listed among the management actions. The OSPAR code of conduct for responsible marine research in the deep seas and high seas of the OSPAR Maritime Area (Agreement 2008-1) has been written to facilitate this work and to ensure that minimum damage is caused to ecosystems through research activities.

Since 2007, OSPAR has considered 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. This was followed, in 2012 by the designation of a seventh OSPAR MPA in ABNJ, including a Recommendation for management.

OSPAR Marine Protected Area

OSPAR Decision on designation

OSPAR Recommendation on management

Milne Seamount Complex MPA

Decision 2010/1

Recommendation 2010/12

Charlie-Gibbs South MPA

Decision 2010/2

Recommendation 2010/13

Altair Seamount High Seas MPA

Decision 2010/3

Recommendation 2010/14

Antialtair Seamount High Seas MPA

Decision 2010/4

Recommendation 2010/15

Josephine Seamount High Seas MPA

Decision 2010/5

Recommendation 2010/16

Mid-Atlantic Ridge North of the Azores High Seas MPA

Decision 2010/6

Recommendation 2010/17

Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas MPA

Decision 2012/1

Recommendation 2012/01

Charlie-Gibbs Marine Protected Area – Preserving Diversity in the High Seas provides more information about the MPA. This media outreach site was developed in 2012 by WWF with support from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

The Far Out – Preserving Diversity in the High Seas video provides an insight into the deep sea ecosystem at the MPA as well as the process by which the MPA was developed for designation.

Jurisdiction of MPAs in areas beyond the limits of national EEZs of the OSPAR area

By the end of 2018 the OSPAR Network of MPAs comprised ten MPAs situated in areas beyond the limits of national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). An eleventh MPA is sometimes referred to, namely The North West Rockall SAC (SAC - Special Area of Conservation) is sometimes referred to as an eleventh MPA as it partly extends into the area beyond EEZ and is included here for clarity and comprehensiveness, however for calculations of MPA coverage this MPA is assigned to the category of MPAs in UK national waters.

The 10 OSPAR MPAs in areas beyond the limits of national EEZs of Contracting Parties, can be grouped into different categories with regards to their jurisdictional regime:

1) Charlie‐Gibbs South MPA and Milne Seamount Complex MPA

These two MPAs are situated entirely in ABNJ. The seabed, the subsoil and the water column are protected collectively by all OSPAR CPs. 21 Reservation of the Kingdom of Denmark: The area to which the UK nominations is sought to apply falls within the proposed outer limits of the Kingdom of Denmark in relation to the Faroe-Rockall Plateau, which consistent with paragraph 8 of Article 76 of UNCLOS and Article 4 of the Annex II thereto, have been submitted to the UN CLCS, and whose consideration is currently pending.

2) Mid‐Atlantic Ridge north of the Azores High Seas MPA, Altair Seamount High Seas MPA, Antialtair High Seas MPA and Josephine Seamount Complex High Seas MPA

These four MPAs are situated within an area subject to a submission by Portugal to the UN CLCS for an ECS. Portugal has expressed the intention to assume the responsibility to take measures for the protection of the seabed and the subsoil within these areas. Upon invitation by Portugal, the OSPAR Commission agreed to collectively protect the water column of these MPAs.

3) Charlie‐Gibbs North High Seas MPA

This MPAs is partly situated within an area subject to a submission by Iceland to the UN CLCS for an ECS. The water column is protected collectively by all CPs. The seabed and the subsoil remain unprotected.

4) Rainbow Hydrothermal Vent Field, Hatton Bank SAC and Hatton‐Rockall Basin

These MPAs are situated within areas subject to a submission by a CP to the UN CLCS for an ECS. The seabed and subsoil of these sites are protected by the respective CP, while the water column remains unprotected.

Top