2018 Status Report on the OSPAR Network of Marine Protected Areas

Executive Summary

OSPAR Recommendation 2003/3, amended by OSPAR Recommendation 2010/2, on a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) sets out the goal of OSPAR Contracting Parties (CPs) to continue the establishment of the OSPAR Network of MPAs in the North-East Atlantic and to ensure that:

  1. by 2012 it is ecologically coherent, includes sites representative of all biogeographic regions in the OSPAR Maritime Area, and is consistent with the CBD target for effectively conserved marine and coastal ecological regions;
  2. by 2016 it is well managed (i.e. coherent management measures have been set up and are being implemented for such MPAs that have been designated up to 2010).

Full Report

This is the live dataset and represents the current status of OSPAR Marine Protected Areas Network and does not reflect that when the assessment was completed. Available via https://odims.ospar.org/layers/geonode:Marine_protected_area__OSPAR____Global_view__polygon_

This report aims to summarise the information made available by OSPAR CPs on their respective MPAs nominated to the OSPAR Commission and on this basis assess the progress towards overall status, management and ecological coherence of the OSPAR MPA network.

Since Contracting Parties started nominating MPAs to the OSPAR Network of MPAs in 2005, all 12 CPs bordering the North-East Atlantic have nominated sites to the OSPAR Network of MPAs in their national waters. All Contracting Parties to OSPAR have collectively designated MPAs in Areas Beyond National jurisdiction (ABNJ) of the OSPAR maritime area.

By 1 October 2018, the OSPAR Network of MPAs comprised 496 MPAs, including 7 MPAs collectively designated in ABNJ. The sites have a total surface area of 864,337 km2 covering 6.4 % of the OSPAR Maritime Area.

Since the last Status Report in 2016, 48 MPAs with a surface area of more than 57,000 km2 were added to the OSPAR Network of MPAs. The new MPAs were nominated by the United Kingdom (42 MPAs) and Norway (6 MPAs) – increasing the overall covered by OSPAR MPAs of the OSPAR Maritime Area from 5.9 % to 6.4 %. No additional MPAs were nominated in ABNJ.

To date, the majority of designated OSPAR MPAs are located in territorial waters, with an overall coverage of 19.6 %. The area beyond the limits of national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), i.e. the High Seas and the Area and the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) areas include 8.9 % by sea areas designated within OSPAR MPAs. The lowest coverage of OSPAR MPAs is found in the EEZ area where 2.7 % is designated within OSPAR MPAs.

OSPAR Region II, the Greater North Sea has an MPA coverage of 18.6 %. The Celtic Seas (Region III) and the Wider Atlantic (Region V) have 15.3 % and 8.3 % area designated within OSPAR MPAs, respectively. While coverage of the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast (Region IV) is at 5.9 %, the Arctic Waters (Region I) show the lowest coverage with 1.9 % designated within OSPAR MPAs.

With respect to the assessment of the ecological coherence of the OSPAR Network of MPAs, it is important to bear in mind that the Madrid criteria were derived from the “three initial spatial tests” defined at the early stage of the development of the OSPAR MPA network. If the MPA network fails one of these tests then it cannot be considered to be ecologically coherent.

The application of the Madrid Criteria to the OSPAR MPA network as it stood at the end of 2018 illustrates that whilst significant progress has been made in developing the network, it cannot yet be considered to be ecologically coherent.

Since the last Status Report on the OSPAR Network of MPAs in 2016, further work was done on developing an ecologically based assessment (see 2.6) to further explore the principle of MPA network connectivity for OSPAR threatened and/or declining species and habitats. However, additional work is required to develop the way in which to the OSPAR MPA network is assessed for ecological coherence in time for the OSPAR Quality Status Report 2023.

The assessment against Madrid Criterion A (a proximity analysis of MPAs as a surrogate for the OSPAR MPA network principle of connectivity) suggests that the OSPAR MPA network is nearing being considered to be well distributed in OSPAR Regions II (North Sea) and III (Celtic Seas), but there remain significant gaps in OSPAR Regions I (Arctic) and V (Wider Atlantic) and a small gap further offshore in OSPAR Region IV (Bay of Biscay and The Iberian Coast). Future work should focus on addressing these geographical gaps where possible.

The assessment against Madrid Criterion B (percentage coverage of MPAs across the Dinter biogeographic provinces) suggests that the target has been exceeded for six of the 19 provinces; all within the continental shelf and slope of the OSPAR Maritime Area and all within the Eastern Atlantic Temperate sub-region. A further three exceed 5 % total surface coverage (the Barents Sea province, one within the Eastern Atlantic Temperate sub-region and the Atlantic deep-sea region) and of these one exceeds 9 % (within the Eastern Atlantic Temperate sub-region). Four provinces have no OSPAR MPAs and a further four have less than 1% surface coverage. These provinces are predominantly to the north of the OSPAR Maritime Area.

The assessment against Madrid Criterion C (protection of OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining species and habitats within OSPAR MPAs) shows that 14 of the 54 OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining habitats and species (where recommendations are in place) are protected within more than one MPA in the OSPAR Region(s) they are considered to be under threat/subject to decline. All OSPAR Threatened and/or Declining invertebrates, three of the nine birds, one of the two reptiles, one of the four marine mammals, one of the 20 fish and five of the 16 habitats are considered sufficiently protected according to the requirements of Madrid criterion C.

Almost 9 out of 10 (86%) of the OSPAR MPAs have either full or partial management information in place which is publicly documented, a 9% increase since the 2016 Status Report. There has also been improvement in the implementation of management measures considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of MPAs; implementation has increased from 12% in 2016 to 14% in 2018. There has been a notable increase in partial implementation of management measures; with an increase from 54% in 2016 to 63% in 2018. Progress towards achieving conservation objectives has also taken place since 2016, with an increase in 3%. However, in 2018 a high proportion of ‘unknown’ responses (28%) to the achievement of conservation objectives still remains; largely due to site-specific data on the ecological status of the protected features of OSPAR MPAs not being available.

Future work should focus on implementing the management measures considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of the protected features of OSPAR MPAs. In parallel, there is a need for long-term monitoring programs to be established to evaluate the effectiveness of such management measures in order to conclude with greater confidence on whether the conservation objectives of the protected features of OSPAR MPAs are being achieved. In addition, work should progress on improving methods of evaluating the degree to which the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed to support a more sophisticated assessment as to whether or not the OSPAR MPA network is delivering a genuine conservation benefit to targeted habitats, species and ecological processes.

For OSPAR MPAs in ABNJ, there should be continued effort to further the collective arrangement and cooperate through the Memorandums of Understanding with relevant competent management authorities, so that they can consider appropriate management actions to help deliver the conservation objectives for OSPAR MPAs in ABNJ. Contracting Parties should continue to raise awareness of OSPAR MPAs in ABNJ with relevant stakeholders and interest groups and look to further our scientific understanding of these sites.