The OSPAR Commission’s annual meeting in Brussels on 22-25 June did not adopt the Charlie Gibbs Marine Protected Area, despite an earlier agreement by all Contracting Parties to do so.

 

The OSPAR Commission’s annual meeting in Brussels on 22-25 June did not adopt the Charlie Gibbs Marine Protected Area, despite an earlier agreement by all Contracting Parties to do so.

The Charlie Gibbs Fracture zone is a trench in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR) hosting various vulnerable marine ecosystems which provides the only route through which deep sea species can migrate from one side of the ridge to the other. It is a haven for corals, sponges and other species living attached to rocky surfaces, as well as for fish, whales and sharks that feed or spawn by the shallower peaks, or use the canyons and depressions as refuge. The failure to adopt of the first OSPAR MPA located in the high seas is unexpected and very unfortunate.

The MPA was not adopted as several NE Atlantic coastal states submitted papers to the UN CLCS concerning the outer limits of their extended continental shelves. Although the agreed Charlie-Gibbs MPA was nominated by WWF and co-sponsored by the Netherlands, France and Portugal and further candidate sites were nominated by Germany, Iceland requested no further action to be taken with regard to the Charlie-Gibbs MPA in its current boundaries, as long as their submission to the UN is pending.

The final approval and designation of the Charlie-Gibbs MPA is now postponed until the OSPAR Ministerial Meeting in September 2010, which has the OSPAR MPA network on its priority agenda.

The nomination of further sites which had been agreed as candidates for MPAs is also delayed by one year: the northern and southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Josefine, Altair, Antialtair and Milne seamounts, Rockall and Hatton Banks.

In March 2009 the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission Heads of Delegation decided to close to high seas bottom fisheries part of the OSPAR MPA to be adopted. This means that although the MPA has not yet been adopted, at least for a part management measures have already been taken.

Unfortunately, the agreement contains a clause, that these areas would remain open to 'scientific’ or ‘research’ fishing. This is potentially a major loophole which may have the practical effect of maintaining the 'closed' areas open to continued bottom fishing.

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