Regulation-Based Classification of the OSPAR Marine Protected Area Network

Julia Roessger

Ocean protection targets aim to protect 10% of the ocean through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to improve the status of biodiversity by 2020; this year. To achieve this target many large MPAs were established. Scientific evidence to use MPAs as a biodiversity conservation tool is mostly based on fully protected areas, which are considered the most effective tool to ensure efficient ecosystem protection. However, most MPAs are not fully protected, allowing fishing and other impacting uses. The OSPAR maritime area encompasses extensive areas in the Northeast Atlantic. Its contracting parties agreed to establish an MPA network. Covering approximately 6% of the Northeast Atlantic, the network has failed to reach its 10% target. This study investigates the allowed uses within OSPAR MPAs to assess their protection levels, using a regulation-based classification. Although 80% of the OSPAR MPAs did not have regulation data in the OSPAR database, nearly 33% of the MPAs could be assessed together with external sources. This study found that the vast majority of MPAs are weak to unprotected. Only 0.000002% of the OSPAR Maritime Area shows high protection levels, for which conservation outcomes can be expected. Substantial efforts are needed to safeguard marine ecosystems which serve human well-being.