Marine Protected Areas

Why it matters

  • The compounded impact of competing activities at sea, pollution of the sea, coastal developments , overfishing and climate change (to cite a few) point to the need to urgently and globally decrease impacts from human activities on oceans to ensure the sustainability of ocean systems and that they can continue to provide the services humans expect from them and rely on.
  • Marine protected areas (MPAs) can provide refuge for threatened and endangered marine biodiversity, as well as serving as scientific reference areas. They can also help marine areas and the species they support remain or become more resilient to global change.
  • A 10% global target for MPA coverage has been set by the Convention on Biological Diversity and in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), including SDG 14 on life below water
  • However, once a marine area has been identified as ecologically or biologically sensitive or designated as an MPA, this does not immediately translate into restrictions to human activities in this area in order to decrease their environmental impact.
  • More often than not, impacts from different activities in this area have to be characterized for restrictions to be adopted to protect the area. This demonstration is often done activity by activity. Most sectoral rules focus on impact from their activity to specific features identified in the area as being ecologically or biologically sensitive.
  • Larger concepts of Area-Based Management Tools and Area-Based Conservation Measures have developed in the last 10 years (MPAs being only one of them) of them.
  • The new discourses seek to reconcile the conservation discussion on MPAs with the sectoral legal regimes applicable to different activities at sea and restrictions to these activities
  • ACOPS works to overcome the frequent difficulty encountered in proving the direct causality between a particular activity and the overall degradation of an area or an ecosystem. High research costs involved in bringing this proof are also a critical element. We rely on international law, sound science and pragmatism to emphasize the need for caution, application of the precautionary approach and of the realization of a cumulative impact assessment to be included in the regulation of sectors of activities at sea.
  • There are significant knowledge gaps concerning those species and habitats worthy of protection at international and regional levels but work is underway to develop ecologically coherent networks of MPAs in many international and inter-governmental bodies.
  • Many of the international organisations that ACOPS works with have their own systems to set aside areas for marine protection (e.g. IMO, OSPAR, ISA).

ACOPS Activities

  • ACOPS is an Observer to the OSPAR Commission (the Regional Seas Convention for the Protection of the Environment of the North-East Atlantic) and have taken a specific interest in the OSPAR MPA network and in particular High Seas MPAs.
  • ACOPS follows closely and contributes to the evolution of the discussion on MPAs within relevant organisations
  • ACOPS will help States and relevant international and regional organisations work towards meeting their commitments under Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 and Sustainable Development Goal 14.5, in accordance with international marine environmental law including the law of the sea and on the basis of sound science