Credit: Fluxdesign
Showcase Examples for the OSPAR System of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

WWF's project is to develop a directory of MPA proposals by 2003 and foster governments' nominations of sites for the OSPAR network of MPAs by 2006. As a first step, WWF has identified a pilot tranche of potential offshore MPAs, briefly described below.

For additional information, click name of the area to download full site briefing as PDF file. Click name of habitat or feature to download the relevant section from WWF's Offshore Directory as PDF file.

1 The Dogger Bank is a submerged sandbank within the 200 nm zones and/or EEZs of Germany ("Tail End"), the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark. It is a shallow area (18-40 m deep) of unusual year-round high primary productivity and representing important spawning grounds for commercial fisheries and feeding grounds for seabirds. In May 2004, Germany nominated a set of 10 offshore sites in the German EEZ of the Baltic and North Sea, including part of the Dogger Bank to the European Commission to become part of the European NATURA 2000 network according to the Habitats and Birds Directives of the EU. Several of these sites will also become components of the MPA network under the OSPAR- and Helsinki-Convention. - Related links and downloads: * Map of submerged sandbanks in the North Sea * WWF case study of the management of the Dogger Bank, a potential Special Area of Conservation in the offshore environment * Maps of human uses versus conservation needs in the North Sea * German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) - proposed offshore NATURA 2000 sites * Map of WWF proposals for the German North Sea EEZ *Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - Selection of SACs in the UK * WWF Report: Managing Across Boundaries. The Dogger Bank - a future international marine protected area

2 The Waters west of Amrum /Sylt are situated within the German 12 nm zone (territorial waters), adjacent to the northern Wadden Sea which is a critically important area for harbour porpoise, grey seals and waterfowl. This site was designated as a small cetacean sanctuary by the Schleswig-Holstein Federal State Government in 1999. In May 2004, Germany nominated a set of 10 offshore sites in the German EEZ of the Baltic and North Sea, including the waters adjacent to this site to the European Commission to become part of the European NATURA 2000 network according to the Habitats and Birds Directives of the EU. Several of these sites will also become components of the MPA network under the OSPAR- and Helsinki-Convention. German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) - proposed offshore NATURA 2000 sites * Map of WWF proposals for the German North Sea EEZ

3 Sula Ridge & Reef within the 200 nm zone of Norway is probably the best developed cold water coral (Lophelia pertusa) area in the NE Atlantic, a deep-water "paradise island” of biodiversity, and important nursery grounds for commercial fisheries. It has been protected from bottom trawling by Norwegian fisheries regulations since 1999. - Related links and downloads: * Map of reefs in the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature story on cold water coral reefs * Coral reefs in Norway * Norwegian Directorate for Nature Conservation - map of candidate sites * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep

4 The Western Irish Sea Front is a distinct oceanographic feature of high productivity occurring from March/April through September/October and is an important feeding ground for fish, seabirds and basking sharks. The front which is associated with upwelling effects and eddies occurs across the boundary between the 200 nm zones of the United Kingdom and Ireland. * Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - Irish Sea Pilot Web Site

5 The Rockall Bank is a very large feature rising from more than 1000 m depth with the shallow part ranging from 220 to 65 m. It is situated beyond the continental shelf, partly falling into the 200 nm offshore limit of jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and/or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Ireland. The Rockall Bank is a potential High Seas Marine Protected Area (HSMPA) because its western part lies in international waters. It is of great significance in the North-East Atlantic region due to its extensive cold water coral communities, upwelling conditions resulting in a rich planktonic life and the rich fish populations with more than 130 fish species recorded. Demersal trawling and exploitation of deep water fish is considered a major threat. At least the coral communities of the shallower part are assumed to be seriously impacted. In 2004, the OSPAR Commission called on the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) to take measures to protect cold-water corals on the western slopes of Rockall Bank from fishing impacts. This was not followed up by the regional fisheries management organisation. In February 2005, WWF provided a detailed proposal to protect vulnerable deep-sea habitats and fish stocks in the Rockall and Hatton Bank area. In November 2005, inspite of new ICES advice to close certain areas of Rockall Bank to bottom trawling, NEAFC once more postponed the decision. - Related links and downloads: * Map of reefs in the maritime area of the UK and Ireland * WWF feature story on cold water coral reefs * WWF news story on High Seas Marine Protected Areas * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep * WWF proposal to protect the cold-water corals of Rockall and Hatton Bank by fisheries measures and protected areas * New information on Rockall and Hatton

6 Rockall Trough and Channel is a deepwater (200-3500 m) region adjacent to the Rockall Bank. The area supports a number of diverse ecosystems: cold water coral colonies, distinct water masses with characteristic fauna, carbonate mound fields and rich deep sea fish communities in the deep-water areas. * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep

7 The Celtic Shelf Break extends through the waters south of Ireland, southwest of England and west of France, within the 200 nm zones of these countries. Associated with the slopes, ridges and canyons of the shelf edge enhanced mixing of the water column occurs due to internal waves or upwelling, which results in nutrient renewal and subsequent phytoplankton growth along the shelf-break region of the Celtic Sea. There are important spawning grounds for commercial fish species such as megrium, blue whiting, and mackerel and also important area for leatherback turtles, basking sharks, young oceanic seabirds, and cetaceans (harbour porpoise, common dolphin, and white-sided dolphin). The unsustainable by-catch of small cetaceans is of particular concern. * Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - Selection of SACs in the UK * French information resource on MPAs: Aires Marines protégées Françaises - Réseau d'échange technique

8 The BIOTRANS Abyssal Plain is a potential High Seas Marine Protected area (HSMPA). The deep sea site has been subject to long-term research on deep sea mud sediments (4500-4560 m) at the foothills of the mid-Atlantic range. The near-bottom water layer is enriched with suspended matter ("marine snow”) and the deep-sea floor supports remarkable faunal diversity, with a single square meter harbouring 250 species of invertebrates and an important benthopelagic community living in the water column just above the seafloor. Designation as a MPA will require UNCLOS to develop legal regulations for the establishment and implementation of MPAs in the area of the seabed beyond the continental margin. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story on High Seas Marine Protected Areas

9 The Lucky Strike Hydrothermal Vents are located within the Azorean part of the 200 nm zone (EEZ) of Portugal. They cover an area of 150,000 square metres at 1700 m depth with 21 active chimney sites. These hydrothermal vents are dominated by dense beds of mussels containing commensal polychaetes, and a new species of shrimp. Hydrothermal vents are active volcanoes on the seafloor and among the most unique geological and biological features on earth, with extreme temperatures (up to 333 degrees C) and foodwebs fuelled by bacteria using hydrogen sulphide to produce organic carbon. In June 2002, the Government of the Azores Autonomous Region designated Lucky Strike and the equivalent hydrothermal vent field Menez Gwen as MPAs. This outstanding conservation achievement was celebrated as Gift to the Earth by WWF. In 2006, the designation process according to Portuguese law was finalised, hence both vent fields are being nominated as Natura 2000 and/or OSPAR MPAs. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story and material about the Azores Gift to the Earth * WWF-DOP-DRA flyer about the first deep sea MPAs in the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature article on hydrothermal vents

10 Banco Gorringe is a large seamount within the 200 nm zone (EEZ) of continental Portugal. It rises from abyssal plains at a depth of 5000 m to peaks at only 25 and 40 m deep. Its hard surface supports kelp forests down to 130 m and diverse sessile fauna (hydroids, gorgonians, corals, foraminifera, molluscs). Seamounts are "hot spots" of biological productivity, functioning as refuge and seed areas for a tremendous diversity of deep water fish. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story and press release about seamount exploitation * Map of reefs in the maritime area of Portugal * Map of seamounts and similar features in the North-East Atlantic * OceAnic Seamounts - an Integrated Study (OASIS) * WWF-OASIS-Report on Seamounts of the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature article on seamounts * WWF Offshore MPA Toolbox

11 The Darwin Mounds lie within 200 nm limit of the United Kingdom. They are a novel geographical formation in the northeast corner of the Rockall Trough at around 1000 m depth. The field contain hundreds of individual mounds typically 5 m high and 100 m in diameter that support a substantial population of the cold water coral Lophelia pertusa, a very abundant population of xenophyophores (giant protozoans) and a diversity of benthic invertebrates and deep water fish. The Darwin Mounds under immediate threat from trawling. The Darwin Mounds are considered as a prime offshore Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by the UK Government. In March 2004, the EU Fisheries Council adopted a permanent regulation to protect the Darwin Mounds area from the effects of trawling. - Related links and downloads: * WWF Factsheet about the Darwin Mounds * Map of reefs in the maritime area of the UK and Ireland * WWF UK report "The Darwin Mounds - Out of Sight and still under Threat" * WWF case study of the management of the Darwin Mounds, a potential Special Area of Conservation in the offshore environment * WWF feature article on cold water coral reefs * WWF news story "EU throws lifeline to protect the Darwin Mounds" * Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - Selection of SACs in the UK * WWF news article "Scotland's coral reef finally saved" * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep

12 Lilla Middelgrund is an offshore bank, 40-100 m in depth and located in the sea connecting the North Sea and the Baltic (Kattegat). The bank and adjacent sea area are to the greatest part in territorial waters and the 200 nm zone (EEZ) of Sweden, parts of it extending into the 200 nm zone (EEZ) of Denmark. Lilla Middelgrund has rich and diverse fauna and flora including kelp beds and rare species of red and brown algae. It is an important nursery area for herring and wintering area for seabirds. The site is threatened by shipping and wind farms. In November 2003, Lilla Middelgrund was nominated for the Natura 2000 network by the Swedish authorities. In December 2004, Lilla Middelgrund was included in the official EC List of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for the Continental Biogeographic Region.

13 Formigas Bank and Dollabarat Reef are a remote group of unique shallow reefs in the Azores of high ecological importance in terms of feeding grounds, spawning and nursery areas for many species, with the highest plant biomass in the archipelago. There are large colonies of black coral, and a rich diversity and abundance of pelagic fish communities. The area is important for dolphins and loggerhead turtles. It became a nature reserve in 1988, with a small fraction nominated for the Natura 2000 network (European Site of Community Importance, SCI), but management and protection measures are still lacking. In 2001, the nomination of Formigas and Dollabarat was formally acknowledged by the European Commission. - Related links and downloads: * EC List of Sites of Community Importce(SCIs) for the Macaronesian biogeographical region * Map of SCIs in the Azores

14 The "Grande Vasière" is a large mud plain situated partly in territorial waters, partly within the 200 nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of France. Along with the adjacent cold water coral reef on the continental slope off the Biscay coast of France it is the natural habitat for communities of fragile species which are particularly sensitive to physical damage. While biogenic reefs ought to be subject to conservation measures under the EU Habitats Directive, there are currently no national or international protection mechanisms applied to fine sediment habitats. However, sublittoral fine sediment habitats like those characterized by sea-pens and burrowing macrofauna have been proposed as being of special concern to OSPAR. Hence, future measures agreed at OSPAR level could supplement the EU provisions. The area is threatened by an extensive fishery for Norway lobster and by marine litter. - Related links and downloads: * Map of reefs in the maritime areas of France and Spain. * French information resource on MPAs: Aires Marines protégées Françaises - Réseau d'échange technique

15 Fladen is an offshore bank situated in the Kattegat, 17 km west of the Swedish coast. The bank and adjacent sea area are mostly situated in Swedish territorial waters, but the southern parts also extend into Sweden’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Fladen is representative of the rich offshore banks in the eastern Kattegat, displaying lush vegetation with high diversity and dense growth of macroalgae. The water is clear and the area still has a rather intact ecological structure, making it a potential breeding and nursery area for a great variety of invertebrates associated with hard bottoms, soft bottom and kelp beds, as well as for fish. Fladen also is a very important feeding and wintering area for seabirds and an important feeding area for grey and common seals. The area is threatened by pollution caused by the dense ship traffic and by destruction due to the planned establishment of an offshore wind farm. In November 2003, Fladen was nominated for the Natura 2000 network by the Swedish authorities. In December 2004, Fladen was included in the official EC List of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for the Continental Biogeographic Region.

16 The Faroe Bank is the largest topographically distinct feature within the Faroese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) besides the Faroe plateau itself. The shallowest sections on top of the bank are less than 100 m deep. The bank resembles a seamount as it is separated from the Faroe shelf by the Faroe Bank Channel. Its geographic and hydrographic characteristics demarcate an isolated and self-contained ecosystem with a high biodiversity compared to the surrounding waters. The species assemblage on the bank includes unique sponge fields and species not found on the shelf and several fish species like cod are represented by independent stocks on the bank. The cod on the bank is the fastest growing one world-wide and differs genetically from other cod stocks. The bank supports an unique ecosystem of ecological and economical importance. Many of the species like the corals and sponges are very sensitive to physical damage and disturbance, as it is often caused by activities like trawling without a proper management. The Faroe Bank is an important fishing ground to the Faroese fishery. The bank might be of potential value in terms of oil exploration. - Related links and downloads: * Map of reefs * Map of submerged sandbanks in the North-East Atlantic countries' EEZs.

17 The Galicia Bank is a large seamount with the shallow part of the bank encompassing about 6,250 square km. A channel of about 2,500 m depth separates the bank from the shelf. Seamounts such as the Galicia Bank function like an island within the ocean. Based on their three-dimensional structure, they provide a higher number of microhabitats than the barren surroundings and host a more biodiverse benthic fauna. The intensity of vertical mixing of the water column and thus the primary productivity is often higher around them than in the open ocean. GaliciaBank is located within a seasonal upwelling area. Many fish species and cetaceans tend to aggregate in their vicinity and use them as feeding and spawning grounds.Due to its reef-like character, the Galicia Bank qualifies as a potential offshore Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive. In November 2002, the damaged tanker Prestige sunk in the vicinity of Galicia Bank. About 50.000 tons heavy fuel oil are dumped in 3-4000 m depth at the slope of the seamount. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story and press release about seamount exploitation * Map of reefs in the maritime areas of France and Spain * Map of seamounts and similar features in the North-East Atlantic * WWF news story and material about the Prestige catastrophe * OceAnic Seamounts - an Integrated Study (OASIS) * WWF feature story "Make the Galicia Bank a Marine Protected Area" * WWF-OASIS-Report on Seamounts of the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature article on seamounts * WWF Offshore MPA Toolbox * A network of marine protected areas in Spanish waters

18 The Røst Reef is the world's largest known cold water coral reef and has only been discovered in May 2002. It appears to be largely intact, situated at depths between 300 and 400 m within Norway's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), west of the Røst Island in the Lofoten Archipelago. As 30-50% of all Lophelia reefs in Norwegian waters are estimated to be damaged or impacted as a result of bottom-trawling there is a need to protect the Røst Reef by amending the Norwegian Coral Regulation of 1999. The reef is further proposed as a no-go area for petroleum activities. In June 2003, WWF honoured the Norwegian Government's initiative to protect the Røst and/or Tisler reefs with the Gift to the Earth certificate. - Related links and downloads: * Map of reefs in the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature story on cold water coral reefs * Coral reefs in Norway * WWF news story and material about the Norwegian Gift to the Earth * Norwegian Directorate for Nature Conservation - map of candidate sites * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep

19 Kosterfjorden / Yttre Hvaler qualifies as a transboundary MPA across Swedish and Norwegian territorial waters. The proposed ensemble at depths between 250 and <50 m can be considered to be representative for Skagerrak habitats asnd species. It contains rich and unique cold water coral reefs and is an important area for a great variety of invertebrates, fishes, sharks and seals. The area also hosts internationally important numbers of seabirds. Only in 2002, a previously unknown coral reef was found north of Tisler in Yttre Hvaler, Norway, possibly the largest reef found in inshore waters so far, with yellow varieties of Lophelia pertusa . The negative side effects of shrimp trawling on this structure is of great concern. In June 2003, WWF honoured the Norwegian Government's initiative to protect the Røst and/or Tisler reefs with the Gift to the Earth certificate. - Related links and downloads: * WWF feature story on cold water coral reefs * Project on deep water corals in the Skagerrak * Video footage from remotely operating vehicle (ROV) * WWF news story and material about the Norwegian Gift to the Earth * Norwegian Directorate for Nature Conservation - map of candidate sites * WWF brochure: Cold-water corals - fragile havens in the deep

20 The Josefine Bank is a current-swept seamount with exposed volcanic rocks situated in international waters between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of continental Portugal and Madeira (Portugal). Hence, protection can only be secured by designation as a High Seas Marine Protected Area (HSMPA). Josefine is the westernmost extension of the east-west trending Horseshoe Seamount chain that also includes the Ormonds and Gorringe Banks. It rises from 2000-3700 m depth to within 170 m below the surface. Due to its patchwork of various hard and soft substrates, it probably serves as a stepping stone for the dispersal, via pelagic larvae, of a wide variety of benthic species from similar habitats on the continental shelf and other seamounts. The species-rich fauna of Josefine Bank, comprising inter alia 16 species of horny and black corals, 13 species of stony corals and 26 species of benthopelagic fish is typical for east Atlantic islands, offshore banks and seamounts. Due to the presence of commercially valuable deep sea fish and the rapid increase in fishing pressure in the High Seas there is concern that vulnerable benthic features might be impacted. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story and press release about seamount exploitation * Map of seamounts and similar features in the North-East Atlantic * OceAnic Seamounts - an Integrated Study (OASIS) * WWF-OASIS-Report on Seamounts of the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature article on seamounts * WWF Offshore MPA Toolbox

21 The Rainbow vent field is located in international waters at 2270-2320 m depth on the Azorean segment of the Mid-Atlantic-Ridge (MAR). Hence, protection can only be secured by designation as a High Seas Marine Protected Area (HSMPA). The Rainbow hydrothermal vent field comprises more than 30 groups of active small sulphide chimneys over an area of 15 square kilometres. About 32 different species have been recorded in the Rainbow area so far including several ones new to the MAR. Due to the environmental conditions, the species community differs considerably between Rainbow and the two shallower fields Lucky Strike and Menez Gwen in the Azorean Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). While shrimps prevail at the chimneys, mussels dominate the community on surrounding blocks within the active area. Bursts of venting fluid cause temperatures to vary between 3-6° C in the mussel beds and 11-13° C in the shrimps environment. The small spatial extent and site-specific communities make the vent field highly vulnerable to the increasing levels of scientific and commercial exploitation, including sampling, bioprospecting ans mineral mining. In March 2005, WWF launched a proposal to nominate Rainbow vent field to the OSPAR Commission. - Related links and downloads: * WWF news story and material about the Azores Gift to the Earth * WWF-DOP-DRA flyer about the first deep sea MPAs in the North-East Atlantic * WWF feature article on hydrothermal vents * WWF proposal for a nomination of Rainbow vent field a MPA within areas beyond national jurisdiction under the OSPAR network

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