Download9 Other Human Uses and Impacts

Human uses are concentrated in the coastal waters of Regions II, III and IV and have increased in intensity since 2000. Some new uses, such as offshore wind farms, are part of efforts to mitigate climate change. The relative and cumulative environmental impact of these pressures is not fully understood. The needs of different users of the sea must be balanced to ensure environmental protection and sustainable use of marine resources.

OSPAR Contracting Parties should cooperate

  • to improve international coordination on integrated management of human activities, including marine spatial planning, building on existing experience in some OSPAR countries and in conjunction with the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive;
  • to monitor the impacts from growing human uses of the sea and to agree on methods for cumulative impact assessment and socio-economic evaluation;
  • to promote international action on marine litter and underwater noise.

A range of other human uses of the sea provide goods and services for OSPAR countries. These include: shipping; tourism and recreational activities; wind farms; cables; land reclamation, coastal defence and other structures; artificial reefs; mineral extraction; and dredging and dumping (including dumped munitions). These activities exert physical, chemical and biological pressures on marine ecosystems which need to be carefully managed so as to avoid unwanted impacts. Some of these impacts have been covered in Chapters 4 and 5. Under the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Strategy OSPAR has been considering the impacts from these activities to determine whether any specific measures are needed to ensure the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. Many of these activities are regulated through national procedures, including licensing and the application of environmental impact assessments (EIA). Shipping is regulated largely through the International Maritime Organization (IMO). OSPAR is developing tools to help with the socio-economic evaluation of these activities, as a basis for valuing ecosystem services. There are also specific impacts which result from more than one activity, such as marine litter, microbiological contamination, non-indigenous species and underwater noise. Integrated management based on an ecosystem approach to management is essential for balancing the demands of different uses of the sea and nature conservation interests.

OSPAR Regions

Box 9.1 Integrated management strategies and integrated tools

OSPAR is revising its structure and activities in line with recent legislative efforts to set in place instruments for the integrated management of the marine environment based on the ecosystem approach. In 2008, the EU adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Norway has agreed integrated management plans for several large marine areas. Overall integrated management strategies such as these should be developed in close coordination with a range of specific tools for the management of human activities: environmental impact assessment (EIA), marine spatial planning and integrated coastal zone management. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a further tool for integrating the management of human uses with environmental protection. These are often complemented by sector-specific actions and measures.

Environmental impact assessment identifies the potential impacts of a project or activity on the environment and develops mitigation measures to reduce these to acceptable levels. The EU EIA Directive supports a common approach in applying EIA to major projects such as wind farm development, land reclamation, coastal defence works and the placement of structures. An EIA aims to identify a series of discrete, auditable measures to eliminate or reduce impacts, set out in an environmental management plan. The EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive aims to contribute to sustainable development by ensuring that environmental consequences of certain plans and programmes, including for fisheries, energy, industry, transport and tourism, are identified and assessed in consultation with the public during their preparation.

Marine spatial planning. In 2003, OSPAR agreed to pursue strategies that would promote cooperation in spatial planning and to develop spatial planning tools for the OSPAR area. Marine spatial planning is a public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process. While some of the objectives of spatial planning are to facilitate the orderly development of maritime activities, this tool can also be useful for ensuring that they are carried out within sustainable boundaries applying the ecosystem approach. Its development should therefore be closely coordinated with overall integrated management strategies designed to achieve good status of marine waters.

Integrated coastal zone management is a multi-disciplinary process designed to promote sustainable management of coastal zones. It seeks to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives within the limits set by the environment. The complexity of the coastal zone means that marine, littoral and terrestrial issues are all involved.

Marine protected areas are areas for which protective, conservation, restorative or precautionary measures have been put in place to protect and conserve species, habitats, ecosystems or ecological processes of the marine environment on a temporary or permanent basis. MPA management plans set out how human activities within an MPA should be managed to meet conservation objectives. A joint network of MPAs is being developed through OSPAR and the Natura 2000 network under the EU Habitats Directive Chapter 10.

OSPAR Strategy objective for biodiversity and ecosystems

To protect and conserve the ecosystems and the biological diversity of the maritime area which are, or could be, affected as a result of human activities, and to restore, where practicable, marine areas which have been adversely affected.

The Strategy includes the following actions:

  • Assessment of the impact of human activities on the marine environment.
  • Drawing up of programmes and measures for controlling human activities that have an adverse impact on species and habitats that need to be protected or conserved where this is necessary.
  • Drawing the attention of the IMO to questions concerning maritime transport on which OSPAR considers that action is desirable.