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Protected areas under international law

Marine protected areas (OSPAR MPAs) in OSPAR Convention states in 2015

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Gaps remain in OSPAR North-East Atlantic marine protected areas network despite expansion

A large number of states have started work on creating a network of marine protected areas in the North-East Atlantic. The OSPAR Convention provides the framework for this work. Although these protected areas have almost doubled in size, a coherent, interconnected network is not yet in place.


The creation of marine protected areas is an important goal of the Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention, 1992). The Convention entered into force in 1998 and became binding for 15 signatory states (parties) and the European Union.

Six out of 413 marine protected areas located in Germany

As of December 2015, the OSPAR network comprised 423 marine protected areas (MPAs) with a combined area measuring 789,125 km² or 5.8 percent of the OSPAR Convention area. Most of these MPAs (413) are designated in the territorial waters of the respective parties, meaning within their coastal waters and their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Six MPAs are located in German waters and cover a combined area of 16,875 km². As the first organisation in the world to do so, OSPAR has also designated seven large-scale marine protected areas at sites beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) with the aim of protecting deep-sea habitats at risk.

Marine protected areas expanded, but gaps still remain

In recent years, great success has been achieved in terms of the number and size of OSPAR marine protected areas. Since December 2010, the total area covered by OSPAR protected areas has increased by 2.7 percentage points (from 3.1 to 5.8 percent) and had thus almost doubled by 2016. Despite the increase in area, there are nonetheless still major gaps in the network. The goal of establishing a coherent, interconnected network of marine protected areas by 2012 (OSPAR Ministerial Conference 2010) was not, however, achieved.

More information

OSPAR Comission

OSPAR MPA database (Ospar Comission)

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