At a ministerial meeting held today in Cascais Portugal, the contracting parties of the Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) agreed on a decade-long North-East Atlantic Strategy that aims to protect the sea and ocean. The EU, as a contracting party to OSPAR, supported this strategy as it helps EU Member States achieve their environmental obligations under EU law, thereby contributing to cleaner, healthier and more productive seas. The meeting also agreed on establishing a Marine Protected Area about the size of France, including proposals for management actions.
The Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, representing the European Union,said:
The 10-year strategic plan for the North-East Atlantic comes at a watershed moment for the future of our oceans, on the eve of major international conferences on climate and biodiversity. It sends a clear signal that that OSPAR will lead by example to protect the marine environment and fight pollution. The European Union is committed to working with OSPAR partners to put this plan into action to protect marine biodiversity and fight pollution more effectively.
The OSPAR strategy for the North-East Atlantic focuses on key challenges such as protecting and restoring biodiversity and preventing plastic pollution. The plan will help EU Member States protect their marine waters and achieve the commitments under theEU Biodiversity Strategy and the Zero Pollution Action Plan. While overfishing, another key pressure, does not fall within the remit of the convention, protecting the seabed from harmful fishing practices does, which is an element also covered by the strategy.
The designation of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov basin marine protected area in international watersis also an important milestone for the convention, as it allows OSPAR to reach so called Aichi target 11, which calls for the conservation of at least 10% of coastal and marine areas. In its EU biodiversity strategy the EU calls for a 30% coverage and for 10% strictly protected areas.
A ministerial declaration puts these and other commitments to paper.
OSPAR has sixteen Contracting Parties, out of which twelve are EU Member States. The EU is also contracting party in its own right. Regional cooperation for the protection of the marine environment is a key element of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, is the EU’s main tool for marine environmental protection. It looks at all pressures on the seas and ocean and brings them together under one umbrella to tackle the cumulative impacts of human activities in one strategic framework. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires EU Member States to set up marine strategies in respect of the marine region of the Member States’ marine waters to achieve “Good Environmental Status”. This translates itself into extensive cooperation on a number of issues like biodiversity, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and underwater noise with the Regional Sea Conventions, such as OSPAR. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive must be reviewed by mid-2023 and where necessary, amendments will be proposed. A public consultation is ongoing until 21 October 2021.
For More Information
- Publication date
- 1 October 2021
- Directorate-General for Environment