OSPAR Marine Protected Areas

 
Lophelia pertusa reef at Hatton Bank © BERR, Defra, JNCCA key part of OSPAR's biodiversity strategy is to establish a network of marine protected areas which is both ecologically coherent and well-managed by 2016. A Marine Protected Area (MPA) as defined by OSPAR is:
 
"an area within the [OSPAR] maritime area for which protective, conservation, restorative or precautionary measures, consistent with international law have been instituted for the purpose of protecting and conserving species, habitats, ecosystems or ecological processes of the marine environment" (OSPAR 2003 Annex 9 A-4.44a)
 
This definition currently encompasses the full range of IUCN categories for marine protected areas (listed in IUCN, 1994). The MPA network is intended to contribute to the protection of OSPAR threatened species and habitats and toward the conservation of areas which best represent the range of species, habitats and ecological processes in the OSPAR area. Further information on JNCC's work to map OSPAR Priority Marine Habitats is available.
 
OSPAR guidelines for the identification and selection of MPAs were developed and adopted in 2003, along with guidelines for the management of Marine Protected Areas in the OSPAR Maritime Area. JNCC has been closely involved in all aspects of this work, in conjunction with Defra. In particular, JNCC has led the development of a definition of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs, and a series of 14 recommendations to this end were agreed in 2004. By 2006, OSPAR (supported by the UK) had documented the key criteria for ecological coherence and a set of MPA network design principles. JNCC subsequently developed a matrix approach to assessing the ecological coherence of the OSPAR MPA network, which was then trialled in the channel with other Contracting Parties. A paper presenting the results of the trial application of the matrix approach 'A matrix approach to assessing the ecological coherence of the OSPAR MPA network: trial of methodology in the Channel' was presented to the OSPAR Biodiversity Committee (BDC) in early 2013.
 
The UK has currently identified 267 OSPAR MPAs. Information on OSPAR MPAs that have been submitted by all Contracting Parties is available from the OSPAR Commission.