OSPAR’s work has been guided since 2003 by the ecosystem approach. This is also a main element of the EU’s Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The essence of the ecosystem approach is to allow sustainable exploitation of natural resources while maintaining the quality, structure and functioning of the marine ecosystems. It has at its centre the integrated management of human activities and nature conservation needs. It involves consideration of the combined effects of all human activities on the ecosystem and the assessment of specified ecosystem components against defined quality objectives. The implementation of the ecosystem approach requires a good understanding of the ecosystem and its dynamics and the development of appropriate indicators and scientific methodologies to enable evaluation of the quality status of the ecosystem in response to pressures from human activities. The development of tools for defining the desired quality of the ecosystem has been a key field of OSPAR’s work. The Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQOs) developed for the North Sea provide an initial set of objectives for selected components of the ecosystem and function as indicators for human pressures. OSPAR’s progress towards assessing the ecosystem health of the five OSPAR Regions of the North-East Atlantic, in support of the ecosystem approach to their management, is reported in Chapter 11.
QSR 2010 supports the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive complements OSPAR’s existing work on protection of the North-East Atlantic. It requires 11 OSPAR countries to take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain ‘good environmental status’ of the EU’s marine waters by 2020, and to protect the natural resources upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. To date1, the Directive does not apply to Iceland and Norway.
The QSR 2010 forms an important regional contribution to the initial assessments of national marine waters that most OSPAR countries will submit in 2012 under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. It will provide a regional reference point and contribute toward delivering the ecosystem approach. In so doing it will support OSPAR’s role as a platform for the relevant OSPAR countries to coordinate their actions on the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive within the OSPAR area.