OSPAR MPA Nomination: Case Study Charlie-Gibbs Marine Protected Area

Formal Site Nomination

For a new site to become part of  the envisaged OSPAR network of marine protected areas (MPAs) it has to satisfy the criteria set out in the selection guidelines. Sites within national jurisdiction have to be formally nominated to the OSPAR Commission (OSPAR Commission, 2003a) by the respective Contracting Parties. Sites in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), can also be nominated  by observer organisations with regional activities in the field, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) or OCEANA.

The standard proforma for site nomination requests information on location, size, biogeographic region and general characteristics of the area, as well as other ecological and practical information and supporting information in relation to the OSPAR MPA selection criteria (OSPAR Commission, 2003b). Ecological criteria guide the identification of areas as OSPAR MPAs (see Factsheet). However there are no quantitative or qualitative thresholds. In case of doubt, practical criteria (see below) are supposed to help prioritise among sites of equal qualification.

Criteria for Evaluation

The ecological criteria set out by OSPAR in 2003 are very similar to the criteria for determining ecologically and biologically significant areas in the open ocean and the deep sea, so-called EBSAs (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2008, see Factsheet, link). They consider the importance of an area for threatened and declining species and habitats, as stated in the OSPAR list (OSPAR Commission, 2008), other important species, habitats, biotopes, functional significance, diversity, representativity, sensitivity and‚ 'naturalness'.
OSPAR’s practical criteria aim to assess the suitability of the site’s size, its potential for restoration, degree of stakeholder acceptance, and its scientific value. The potential success of management measures and the extent of damage by human activities shall be evaluated.
A third section of the nomination proforma requests information on the existing or proposed management and protection status. However, this section is not relevant for the nomination of MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

Technical Selection Process in OSPAR

In 2006, WWF formally proposed the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone (CGFZ) MPA to the OSPAR technical level fora (link: Map-2006). From 2007, the Netherlands co-sponsored the proposal. This generated wider support and led OSPAR to request the International Commission for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and a group of independent deep-sea scientists to review the proposal in early 2008. After several updates and further critical reviews (more info), OSPAR 2008 considered the proposal, now supported by the Netherlands, France, and Portugal, and agreed that:

a. a comprehensive scientific case had been established for the CGFZ as a potential OSPAR MPA (now named Charlie-Gibbs MPA);

b. collectively, Contracting Parties had expressed substantial political support for further work on the CGFZ proposal; and,

c. the CGFZ was approved in principle as a potential MPA in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) as a component of the OSPAR network of MPAs, encompassing the seabed and the superjacent water column.

In 2008 OSPAR also agreed on a 'roadmap' to consider the possible adoption of the Charlie-Gibbs MPA at the OSPAR Ministerial meeting in 2010 (more info). The 'roadmap' included the development of conservation objectives, and wider consultation with other competent authorities on the best ways to achieve these.

Developing Conservation Objectives

The conservation objectives for the Charlie-Gibbs MPA were endorsed by OSPAR 2009 (OSPAR Commission, 2009) and are part of the background documentation which accompanies the designation of each OSPAR MPA in areas beyond national jurisdiction (OSPAR Commission, 2010a). The conservation ambitions are set out as a long-term conservation vision and general conservation objectives. These are supplemented by  specific conservation objectives with respect to ambient conditions and biota living in the water column, the bentho-pelagic and/or benthic habitats. Habitats and species of specific concern are listed to aid the direction of management.

Developing Multilateral Cooperation

OSPAR can coordinate management action, but does not have the competence to regulate most activities taking place in areas beyond national jurisdiction such as fishing, shipping or marine mining. Therefore it needed to intensify and formalise relations with the respective competent management bodies such as the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the International Seabed Authority (ISA), and others. A first international stakeholder meeting in 2010 (see Factsheet)  agreed on a set of  basic management principles and had first considerations on a collective arrangement which would pool the necessary measures to achieve the conservation objectives (OSPAR Commission, 2010b), all of this subject to endorsement by the respective organisations.

Big Step Forward: Designation of the First Set of MPAs in ABNJ in 2010

In 2010 only the southern section of the Charlie-Gibbs MPA (as approved in principle in 2008) was designated as an OSPAR MPA (OSPAR Commission, 2010b). The northern section and the proposed MPA on the Reykjanes Ridge were not designated as their seafloor would overlap with the potential extended continental shelf of Iceland and the country withheld its support (see Factsheet).
At the same time, the Milne Seamount complex, the Josephine, Altair, Antialtair and Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) north of the Azores became part of the OSPAR network of MPAs (link: Map-2010).
The latter four areas are located on the potential extended continental shelf of Portugal, whereas the water column is under international jurisdiction. OSPAR Ministers agreed to resolve any outstanding issues with regard to the high seas of the northern part of the originally proposed Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone MPA by 2012. A nomination of the northern Charlie-Gibbs section is pending (spring 2012).
In 2011, the whole Mid-Atlantic Ridge from 3000 m depth to surface waters was proposed as an ecologically and biologically significant area (EBSA) (see Fig. 1) according to the criteria set out by the Convention on Biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2008).


Figure 1. First High Seas Marine Protected Areas in the North Atlantic. (click image to enlarge)




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