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The OSPAR convention for the north-east Atlantic: a priority for the Agence des Aires Marines Protégées

The OSPAR convention is one of the most active regional conventions. Its methods, analysis, and lists are often used in European policies. The agency is therefore fully geared up to monitor and to provide information for its works, supporting the ministries of sustainable development and foreign affairs.

OSPAR: a very active convention

The OSPAR convention, a merger of the Oslo and Paris conventions, was adopted in 1992.
It links 16 parties (15 states and the European commission, representing the European Union) to the conservation of the north-east Atlantic marine environment.
It has developed five strategies on:

  • combating eutrophication
  • dangerous substances
  • radioactive substances
  • offshore extraction of gas and oil
  • biodiversity (added in 1998).

An integrated evaluation and monitoring program was also put in place. Every 10 years it creates a report on the health of the north-east Atlantic.
The OSPAR convention is one of the most active regional conventions. It produces methods, analysis, and lists which are often used in European law. In practice, each party contributes to the production of these documents.
The Ministry for Sustainable Development has asked the agency to actively contribute to information producing organisations.
The OSPAR convention meets on a ministerial level every four years, and each year in a commission. The works are then directed by specific committees. One of them concerns biodiversity and manages the subject of species, habitats, and marine protected areas. The agency is particularly involved in its work: Olivier Laroussinie, the director of the agency, presided over the committee for two years and the agency prepares documents and participates in meetings, and organises some of them, on behalf of the ministry.

OSPAR habitats and species

In the north-east Atlantic, a list of habitats (16) and species (32) has been drawn up and is regularly updated.

Hippocampe parmi les herbiers

It contains coastal habitats like intertidal mudflats, limestone reefs of the Normandy coast, seagrass beds, plateau habitats, such as maerl beds or Dublin Bay prawn or sea comb mudflats but also deep water habitats like a sponge aggregates, cold water coral reefs, and underwater seamounts.

Sterne de Dougall sur la plage

Regarding species, there are invertebrates (5) like the flat oyster, fish (12) such as diadromous species or two seahorses but also North Sea cod, bluefin tuna or rays and sharks, birds (9) like Dougall’s Stern and the Balearic Shearwater, two sea turtle species, and four cetaceans including the harbour porpoise.
The parties involved have committed to take measures to preserve these habitats and species in the regions where they are threatened. A certain number of them can therefore be found in bird and habitat directives and the implementation of the "Marine Environment Strategy" framework directive should use these lists as a source of support.
The agency has produced, on behalf the ministry, 10 monographs on species (seahorses, large cetaceans, turtles, diadromous species, basking shark) and two on habitats (intertidal mudflats and Dublin Bay prawn and sea comb mudflats) and has organised a workgroup on priority measures to be taken for listed species and habitats.
In a manner that is original in the OSPAR context, the agency wanted to associate the professionals from activities concerned with these works, which has sometimes given rise to intense debates.
The agency has also contributed a biodiversity chapter to the  2010 health report by running the workgroup and by providing work versions.

OSPAR protected marine areas

Like all regional conventions that contribute to biodiversity conservation, the OSPAR convention encourages parties to design a "coherent and well managed network" . Deadlines are specified in ministerial commitments, they are based on those of the biological diversity agreement.
Concerning the waters under its jurisdiction, France has undertaken to complete its network of sites listed with OSPAR; to do this it is using sites that are already protected by other means: natural reserves, natural marine parks, Natura 2000 sites, etc.
An initial series of eight natural reserves in the Channel and the Atlantic was sent in 2007, the Iroise Marine Park was sent in 2008 and the network should be completed before the end of 2012, notably with Natura 2000 sites, given that this does not create new responsibilities.

The OSPAR convention is also a pioneering project for the high seas and the agency makes a very important contribution to the major role played by France concerning:

  • the collection of information and organisation of seminars, notably in 2008, a seminar under the French presidency of the European Union gave rise to the publication “Cross-checking High Seas issue” ;
  • co-sponsoring support by France of the definition of six MPAs in 2010;
  • its contribution to the definition of high seas MPA management: drawing up the management framework, updating data, creating a PVMZ file for the IMO.

All the contacts made during these meetings are also used to create partnership programs between European partners; the MAIA interregional project [lien vers page Partager > réseaux d’échanges > MAIA] was born out of these contacts and provides information for the works of the convention.