The OSPAR Commission’s strategic objective with regard to eutrophication is to combat eutrophication in the OSPAR Maritime Area with the ultimate aim to achieve and maintain a healthy marine environment where anthropogenic eutrophication does not occur. 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:
- Problem areas if there is evidence of an undesirable disturbance to the marine ecosystem due to anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients;
- Potential problem areas if 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;
- Non-problem areas if there are no grounds for concern that anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients has disturbed or may in the future disturb the marine ecosystem.
The assessment and classification is supplemented by common monitoring and reporting arrangements to attain harmonised information on the eutrophication status of Maritime Area.
The Common Procedure comprises two phases: an initial ‘broad-brush’ screening of selected Maritime Areas, and; an iterative comprehensive eutrophication assessment of those Maritime Areas which, by screening, have not been identified as obvious non-problem areas with regard to eutrophication. The Comprehensive Procedure consists of a set of qualitative cause-effect related assessment criteria which are linked to form a holistic assessment and area classification with respect to the eutrophication status of a given Maritime Area.
The third application of the Comprehensive Procedure in 2016 confirmed that eutrophication is still a problem in 7% of the North-East Atlantic, mainly affecting coastal areas. The Greater North Sea had the largest problem area (approximately 98,000km2) with respect to eutrophication, extending along the coast from Belgium to Danish and Swedish waters. Small problem areas (5 to 400 km2) were found along the coast of France, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the Celtic Seas many small inshore and coastal areas were classified as problem areas (approximately 500 km2). In the Bay of Biscay two problem areas (approximately 800 km2) were identified.
- Third OSPAR integrated report on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR Maritime Area
- Second OSPAR integrated report on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR Maritime Area
- First OSPAR integrated report 2003 on the eutrophication status of the OSPAR Maritime Area based upon the first application of the Comprehensive Procedure
IA2017 Eutrophication status in areas assessed in Arctic Waters, the Greater North Sea, Celtic Seas, and the Bay of Biscay, 2006–2014:
Data available here: https://odims.ospar.org/maps/1052/view
Third application of the Common Procedure national reports
Synergies in monitoring and assessment between OSPAR and the EU
OSPAR encourages use of the Common Procedure in other (maritime) areas and forums. The Common Procedure assessment framework and associated monitoring and reporting requirements seek synergies with obligations and commitments of Contracting Parties that are EU member states under relevant European Community legislation, especially under the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EU) of the European Community, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008/56/EU) and the Commission Decision on good environmental status (2017/848/EU). The third application of the Common Procedure proved it to be a good operational tool for the assessment of the eutrophication status and a useful instrument for addressing the requirements of the MSFD.
A further application of the Common Procedure is necessary to follow up the effectiveness of reduction measures within OSPAR and under relevant EU regimes, for the eutrophication status of the North-East Atlantic.