High Seas Marine Protected Areas, the Agency at the heart of innovative initiatives.
The Agence des Aires Marines as actively contributed to the creation of the first Marine Protected Areas in the world that are beyond national jurisdictions, notably in the north-east Atlantic and the Antarctic. It is now pursuing these actions with the creation of management procedures for the zones.
On a national level, the Agency is involved in the promotion of consultation and the consideration of issues specific to the high seas.
The high seas, an area of freedom, not of lawlessness
The high seas, defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as all of the maritime zones located beyond national jurisdictions, include both sea beds, the water column, and the surface. An area of freedom, the high seas are not however an area of lawlessness. With projects for the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the high seas, the request for exploration rights in the seabed area and new political and legal questions are becoming clearer. Sustainable management in the high seas is now the subject of an ad hoc United Nations workgroup.
The scope of regional sea conventions sometimes extends to high seas zones. France is also committed through the Convention on Biological Diversity.
High Seas Marine Protected Areas, a new field of protection
In terms of international cooperation, the development of High Seas Marine Protected Areas has been designated as one of the priorities of the Agence des Aires Marines Protégées. Thus the agency organised an international workshop on the subject of “2012-Marine targets” in 2008, within the framework of the French presidency of the European Union and developed a partnership with GOBI (Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative).
The Agency is also greatly involved in the works of OSPAR and the CCAMLR for the creation and management of MPAs in the high seas, which are the first regional sea conventions to have been designated as High Seas MPAs.
High Seas MPAs within OSPAR
In 2003, the OSPAR Commission created a high seas Marine Protected Area identification process in order to pursue the objective of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas covering 10% of the maritime areas covered by OSPAR in 2012 and the setting up of suitable management by 2016.
The "2012-Marine targets" saw several proposals being put forward by contracting parties and the WWF. Based on this work, in 2010 and 2012 the OSPAR Commission formalised the creation of seven High Seas Marine Protected Areas covering 9.6% of the high seas area of the OSPAR zone.
Documents from the 2nd Madeira workshop – January 2012 :
In order to support the implementation of a High Seas MPA management framework, the Agency participated in the works of the Madeira process (started in March 2010 in Portugal) and organised the second meeting in January 2012. The agency contributed technically by carrying out an analysis of environmental management measure interactions between different competent authorities and the possibilities for cooperation for the protection of designated areas.
High Seas MPAs within the CCAMLR
Since 2004, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) has been working on the creation of a network of MPAs in the application zone of the convention covering both waters under jurisdiction but also vast areas of high seas, for which a conservation measure specifies the framework (Measure 91-04). The Commission thus created the first High Seas MPA to the south of the Orcades islands in 2009. France, notably through the eco-regionalisation program is particularly involved in the works of the CCAMLR MPA expert group works regarding the implementation of a representative system of Marine Protected Areas in the Antarctic. Following the meeting held in Brest in August 2011, a network of seven High Seas MPAs was thus put forward jointly by France and Australia, in the Eastern Antarctic. To date, no consensus has been reached, so the work is on going to strengthen the scientific case on one side and to clarify the legal framework on the other.
Partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations
- The agency has combined its strengths with those of the ISDIR in order to make a contribution to national considerations regarding the high seas. Added to a number of thematic notes and reports, a seminar was thus jointly organised with the ISDIR and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in Boulogne sur Mer, in September 2011.
- This partnership was behind the creation of an informal group, on a national level, meeting twice a year in order to constitute a platform for exchanges regarding the high seas.