Skip to main content
European Commission logo

ATLAS Deliverable 7.2 Report on priorities for an expert assessment of North Atlantic MPAs, EBSAs, and VMEs in ABNJ.


The report represents a Deliverable of the ATLAS project that aims to understand the complexity of the deep-sea ecosystems. The project develops a scientific knowledge base to support sustainable management of the deep-sea resources in the Atlantic and contributes to the European Commission's Blue Growth objective. It reports the priorities for an expert assessment of North Atlantic marine protected areas, Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA) and Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VNE) in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer:

  • What are the priorities for an expert assessment of OSPAR MPAs in the North Atlantic?
  • What are the priorities for an expert assessment of EBSAs in the north Atlantic?
  • What are the priorities for an expert assessment of VME in the North Atlantic?

Implementation Context:

The document represents a Deliverable of the ATLAS Project that aims to improve understanding of the deep-sea ecosystems in the North Atlantic, as well as to predict their future change and vulnerability in the face of ongoing climate change. 

Aspects / Objectives:

The report aims to contribute to an evaluation of priorities for an expert assessment of OSPAR Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), CBD Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs), and FAO Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) as identified or proposed for the North Atlantic ABNJ.


The report starts by presenting the ATLAS project providing an overview of the existing network of Area-Based Management Tools in the ABNJ in the North Atlantic: OSPAR MPAs, CBD EBSAs, FAO VME. It is followed by a review of the individual evaluation processes currently underway for OSPAR MPAs, CBD EBSAs and FAO VMEs and considers a number of more holistic initiatives relevant to determining priorities for expert assessment. The next chapter analyses predicted mid to long term environmental shifts, and associated ecosystem dynamics, in the north Atlantic and their effects on significant components of biodiversity within these ABMTs. This report ends with principal recommendations on priorities for an expert assessment on North Atlantic EBSAs, VMEs and MPAs in ABNJ.

Main Outputs / Results:

The main results of this report are listed in the Executive Summary as:

  • The future of current ABMTs in the North Atlantic looks bleak in the context of climate change. To evaluate priorities for ABMTs in ABNJ high resolution climate change predictions for the next two to five decades are needed. Temporal and spatial scales are crucial. Impacts will be felt within the next 20 years at a rate likely more rapid than many species can adapt and beyond resilience thresholds.
  • Only hydrothermal vents and seeps which have a different ecosystem base from coral and sponge dominated communities show resilience to climate change.
  • Building a network of resilient ABMTs in the North Atlantic may require a profound review of the EBM concept with a need for adaptive ABMTs and a significant reduction of other stressors.


Results and recommendations and the work implemented by the ATLAS project can inspire other sea regions taking into account different characteristics existing between the different sea basins.


ATLAS project


This work was developed in the context of the ATLAS project which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 678760 (ATLAS).

Contact person:

David Johnson

Seascape Consultants, Ltd. (david[dot]johnson[at]seascapeconsultants[dot]co[dot]uk)

Maria Adelaide Ferreira

Seascape Consultants, Ltd. (adelaide[dot]ferreira[at]fcsh[dot]unl[dot]pt)

Ellen Kenchington

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (ellen[dot]kenchington[at]dfo-mpo[dot]gc[dot]ca)