The definition and application of the MSP by the OSPAR Convention


This study investigates how the convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of North-East Atlantic, or OSPAR Convention (OSPAR, 1992) is taking MSP into account. It presents the political commitment for MSP by OSPAR since 2002 and lists the main global instruments for ocean governance, which should also be taken into account in an MSP process in the fields of shipping, fisheries, protection of sensitive sea areas, etc. The guiding principles develop by OSPAR in order to facilitate MSP in the OSPAR maritime area are also presented. Finally, a gap analysis is presented, which assesses the main characteristics of “MSP in OSPAR” for each SIMNORAT country. 

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Cross-border cooperation
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Key words: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How does the OSPAR Convention take MSP into account?
  • How do Northern Atlantic countries coordinate OSPAR with MSP processes at national or subnational level?
  • How do these countries deal with OSPAR’s aims in their MSP processes?

Implementation Context

This paper has been developed under the SIMNORAT project. It is part of a group of activities which aims to develop and propose a conceptual methodology for transboundary MSP in the Northern Atlantic, with operational details on selected aspects


In order to conduct a gap analysis regarding the main characteristics of “MSP in OSPAR” for each SIMNORAT country (namely France, Spain and Portugal), a questionnaire was sent among SIMNORAT project partners.

The answers result in the sum of what was found in a literature review within each country and their knowledge of the process. Therefore, they do not reflect the overall undergoing projects or processes led by the planning authorities and they cannot be seen as exhaustive.

Main Outputs / Results

The results from the answers show that OSPAR Convention does not have a direct role on MSP implementation nor a legal framework for MSP. Despite this fact, OSPAR has an important contribution setting baseline information and guidelines in key aspects to the success of the development of a joint regional maritime spatial planning perspective, especially in what concerns the development of OSPAR region specific, tailor-made principles for maritime spatial planning. In this context, OSPAR establishes guidance towards the ecosystem-based approach through the impacts assessment of different activities and MSFD monitoring protocols, obligations, indicators and objectives. OSPAR also develops mechanisms for early transnational consultation on spatial plans highlighting the interactions that could promote integration, early stakeholder involvement and the introduction of MSP by all Contracting Parties. The benefit of the OSPAR proposal on a transboundary consultation procedure is that it creates the opportunity for the OSPAR Contracting Parties to comment on the environmental as well as on the social and economic effects of the proposed maritime spatial plans of each other.

OSPAR is also actively involved in, and supportive of, initiatives and projects in MSP undertaken by the European Commission under the Integrated Maritime Policy, for example pilot projects and workshops.

Therefore, in light of the transboundary nature of marine resources and activities as well as the importance of cross-border collaboration between neighbouring states, regional sea conventions such as the OSPAR Commission, serve as an efficient platform to encourage, facilitate a regional seas MSP approach, and provide comprehensive regional marine perspectives in cross-border cooperation, which is critical to sustainable development.


This methodology and gap analysis could be applied to other countries which signed the OSPAR Convention. 

Responsible Entities

CEREMA, UAVR, French Biodiversity Agency.

Costs / Funding Source

SIMNORAT was co-funded by the EC – DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE)

Contact person

Marcia Marques

Unviersity of Aveiro, Portugal