Can Competent Authorities Cooperate for the Common Good: Towards a Collective Arrangement in the North-East Atlantic

  • David Johnson
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security book series (NAPSC)


The OSPAR Commission implements the regional seas convention for the North-East Atlantic and has been at the forefront of delivering the ecosystem approach through the development of robust measures to deal with marine pollution. For purposes of assessment the OSPAR Maritime Area is divided into five Regions, Region I representing ‘Arctic Waters.’ OSPAR Region I includes the transition between the Boreal and true Arctic biogeographic zones, incorporates the presence of the North Atlantic Current as well as the northward flowing Norwegian Coastal Current, and is characterised by seasonally high primary productivity and high natural variability. The starting point for a ‘collaborative arrangement’ between relevant competent authorities, with the aim of ensuring a highest level of conservation of selected areas in the North-East Atlantic beyond national jurisdiction, was explored at an informal Workshop in Madeira in March 2010. The Ministerial Meeting of OSPAR, held in Bergen in September 2010, agreed unprecedented protection of six extensive marine protected areas (MPAs) in Region V, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and isolated seamounts. Whilst being required to protect biodiversity, OSPAR does not have competence for those activities that are arguably the most likely to have the most impact in these remote areas, namely fisheries, international shipping and seabed mining. Most multilateral environmental agreements have adopted key principles that enshrine sustainable development and governance ideals. Regimes of this sort, designed to limit pressures and impacts of human activities, have elements in common with built in checks and balances designed to govern exploitation. By focussing on a defined geographic area and recognising the value of its natural capital, it has proven possible to scope complementary and mutually reinforcing management measures. OSPAR, the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) [18] and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) have started to consider this in respect of one MPA – the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone. The intention is to broaden the discussion to include other competent authorities. A combined regime of this nature demands transparency and trust between competent authorities. It becomes incumbent on States in agreement within one competent authority to influence and work within other competent authorities. It also requires that States reach a common position internally between those dealing with different sectors within their administrations. Given that such a solution is unprecedented, there is merit in establishing a pilot case to focus the best scientific and legal minds. Ultimately, however, such a solution becomes a matter of political will and decision.


Competent Authority International Maritime Organisation North Atlantic Current Arctic Council Multilateral Environmental Agreement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OSPAR CommissionLondonUK

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