Saturday, February 18, 2012

Atlantic seamount becomes the first case added to international repository of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas

Montreal, 17 February 2012 – The Josephine Seamount, located in the Horse-shoe Seamount Group of the Atlantic Ocean has been added to the prototype online repository that scientifically describes ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) (available at

At the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nagoya, Japan in 2010, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) sets out a process to identify EBSAs based upon agreed scientific criteria.

The North-East Atlantic is a leading region for pro-active deep-sea marine conservation. In 2010 Ministers of OSPAR Commission Contracting Parties designated the world’s first network of High Seas Marine Protected Areas in the Wider Atlantic. In September 2011, the OSPAR Commission, together with the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, organized the first regional EBSAs workshop, in collaboration with Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Josephine Seamount is the westernmost seamount of the Horse-shoe Seamount Group and is a possible stepping-stone for species travelling between European slopes and the slopes of oceanic islands such as Madeira and the Azores. Highly rated for its biological productivity the Josephine Seamount is part of the Atlantic deep-sea sub-region, where warm temperate waters support dense gorgonian corals and habitat-forming sponge aggregations which, whilst present in high densities are highly vulnerable and have slow recovery rates. Professor Ricardo Santos, of the University of the Azores, who was instrumental in ensuring that scientific information for the Josephine Seamount was available to the OSPAR Commission, explained that: “This is the first seamount discovered as a result of oceanic explorations in 1869, so it is extremely fitting that it becomes the first case of scientifically describing EBSAs.”

The online repository has been developed under a process managed by the Convention on Biological Diversity with the assistance of partners such as Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC/UNESCO) and the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative. 

The Josephine Seamount is one of six sites that are fully protected by the OSPAR Marine Protected Area designation, but such protection is not a prerequisite for describing EBSAs. Professor David Johnson, Executive Secretary of the OSPAR Commission explained that: “The scientific description of EBSAs represents a starting point for planning where conservation and sustainable use should be more risk-averse than in other areas.”

The majority of those areas identified as candidate EBSAs (areas meeting EBSA criteria based on scientific assessment by the workshop) for the North-East Atlantic are large areas within which States and competent intergovernmental organisations may take enhanced conservation and management measures in accordance with international law.

This scientific description of EBSAs by the workshop, as well as the prototype repository, will be considered by CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), at sixteenth meeting, to be held from 30 April to 5 May 2012, and at the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, in October 2012.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity, said: “When fully developed, the EBSA Repository will allow scientific and technical information on areas and features of the marine environment, as well as the experience of applying EBSA criteria, to be shared. We welcome this important contribution by OSPAR to test the prototype system.”

Meeting this week the OSPAR Commission Biodiversity Committee welcomed the development of the CBD Prototype EBSAs Repository, as called for by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its tenth meeting, and noted that scientific details of the five other OSPAR High Seas Marine Protected Areas would also be entered in the next weeks.

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