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OSPAR is the mechanism by which 15 governments of western Europe work together to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. OSPAR incorporates a wide range of marine issues from work on pollution and dumping at sea to the conservation of marine biodiversity.

In 2003, the government committed to establishing a well-managed, ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (known as the OSPAR MPA commitment). Marine Special Areas of Conservation (mSACs) designated under the Habitats Directive, have been submitted as the UKs initial contribution to the OSPAR network. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 external site  and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 external site  contain provisions for new Marine Protected Areas in inshore and offshore waters which will help Scotland meet this commitment.

Whilst OSPAR covers many different issues, the focus of Scottish Natural Heritage's (SNH) current work is on delivering the OSPAR MPA commitment.

Development of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs

A list of marine habitats and species considered to be under threat or in decline within the north-east Atlantic has been produced by OSPAR (known as the OSPAR Threatened and Declining List  PDF document ). The known distribution of these habitats and species in waters around the UK has been mapped on the National Biodiversity Network external site  website.

The habitats and species on the OSPAR Threatened and Declining list have been considered through SNH's Priority Marine Features (PMFs) work to consider which ones are priorities for marine conservation in Scottish waters. A subset of the PMFs, called MPA search features, will be used to help identify possible areas for MPAs and develop the network in Scottish waters.

Working with Marine Scotland and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, SNH has produced guidelines for selecting new MPAs and developing the network in the seas around Scotland.  Together with marine Special Areas of Conservation (mSACs) and marine Special Protection Areas (mSPAs) (designated under the Habitats Directive) Scotland will achieve the OSPAR commitment of establishing a well-managed, ecologically coherent network of MPAs.

More information is available on the Marine Protected Areas page.

Last updated on Tuesday 23rd July 2013 at 16:07 PM. Click here to comment on this page