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Atlantic Ocean

MSP EU Legend 5
This map was compiled from different international sources such as EMODnet, EEA or Marine Regions. Information obtained from these sources was cross-checked with data from national sources. While compilation was carried out by the European MSP Platform, validation and quality assurance remain the responsibility of the primary data sources.

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atlantic [at] (atlantic[at]maritime-spatial-planning[dot]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu)

General Introduction to the European Atlantic

The European (North East) Atlantic borders four Member States (Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal), covering a vast area and a diverse range of ecosystems. More broadly, these ecosystems are split into the Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast. Given the size of this region, there are great variations in physical and biological conditions. To the north, the Celtic Seas are characterised by relatively shallow waters and a gently sloping continental shelf. Along the coastline are several sea lochs, brackish estuarine systems and maerl beds that support cold-water fish species, seabirds and cetaceans such as dolphins and basking shark. In contrast the waters of the Bay of Biscay and Iberian Peninsula drop away steeply to a depth of over 5000m and support a wide range of cold-water corals, sponges and pelagic species.

In terms of sea uses, fishing is a major sector within the Atlantic, whilst coastal tourism and shipping are of great importance to all Member States bordering this area. In particular, the Gibraltar Strait and the English Channel act as major shipping gateways connecting Europe with the wider world. Whilst there is limited oil and gas production in the European Atlantic, this region has high potential for the development of offshore renewable energy given its favourable physical and climatic conditions for wind, tidal and wave energy devices. Since 2022, the offshore wind development has been speeded up with already several offshore wind farms in production and new calls in the four Member States. 

All five of the Atlantic Member States (including the UK) have defined their EEZ in the Atlantic. On 19 May 2006, France, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (hereinafter referred to as the “four coastal States”) collectively submitted, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, information on the limits of the continental shelf appurtenant to these four coastal States in the area of the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay, lying beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the territorial seas are measured, in accordance with Article 76, paragraph 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Portugal submitted a claim to extend its jurisdiction over the neighbouring continental shelf in May 2009, which is still under examination after reservation from Morocco in July 2015.

Countries and MSP in the European Atlantic 

France: MSP Adopted

Ireland: MSP Adopted

Portugal: MSP Adopted

Spain: MSP Adopted

Additional information