OSPAR and eutrophication

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The OSPAR Eutrophication Strategy aims to combat eutrophication in the OSPAR maritime area in order to achieve and maintain a healthy marine environment where anthropogenic eutrophication does not occur. The Contracting Parties committed themselves with the objective to reduce the input of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) at source (agriculture, industry and waste water), in the order of 50% compared to 1985. Another objective is to achieve a water quality which is not exceeding a level which is 50% above the minimum level corresponding to the pristine situation without human interference. The Eutrophication Committee (EUC) (part of the Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee (HASEC)) facilitates the eutrophication related work by evaluation of the extent of eutrophication problems in the OSPAR maritime area and identifying the actions needed to achieve non-problem areas.

The Common Procedure

To assist Contracting Parties towards the objectives of the Eutrophication Strategy OSPAR developed a common assessment framework: the Common Procedure for the Identification of the Eutrophication Status of the OSPAR Maritime Area. It characterises maritime areas with regard to eutrophication as:

  • Non problem areas: there are no grounds for concern that anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients has disturbed or may in the future disturb the marine ecosystem.
  • Potential problem areas: there are no reasonable grounds for concern that the anthropogenic contribution of nutrients may be causing or may lead in time to an undesirable disturbance to the marine ecosystem due to elevated levels, trends and/or fluxes in such nutrients.
  • Problem areas: there is evidence of an undesirable disturbance to the marine ecosystem due to anthropogenic enrichment by nutrients.

The Common Procedure comprises two phases: the Screening Procedure and the Comprehensive Procedure. In the Screening Procedure Contracting Parties screen their maritime waters in order to identify the areas characterised as non-problem areas. They give information on demographics, optical observations, nutrients, hydrodynamics, agriculture and industry. The Comprehensive Procedure is applied to those areas not identified as non-problem areas in the Screening Procedure and consists of a set of qualitative (e.g. concentration of nutrients and chlorophyll in seawater, oxygen deficiency, biomass and duration of blooms and kills in benthic animal species). OSPAR’s assessment work is supported by monitoring under the Eutrophication Monitoring Programme where Contracting Parties shall report the monitoring results on nutrient enrichment and direct and indirect eutrophication effects.

The assessment criteria are discussed in the article OSPAR eutrophication assessment.


  1. OSPAR Commission, The North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy, Strategy of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic 2010–2020, (OSPAR Agreement 2010-3), The OSPAR Eutrophication Strategy p.12-p.14 [1]
  2. OSPAR Commission, Terms of Reference for OSPAR Committees,Annex 4: the Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee [2]
  3. OSPAR Commission (2005), Common Procedure for the Identification of the Eutrophication Status of the OSPAR Maritime Area (Reference number: 2005-3) [3]
  4. OSPAR Commission (2005), Agreement on the Eutrophication Monitoring Programme (Reference Number: 2005-4) [4]

External links

OSPAR Commission, Work Areas, Eutrophication

The main author of this article is Knockaert, Carolien
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Knockaert, Carolien (2019): OSPAR and eutrophication. Available from http://www.coastalwiki.org/wiki/OSPAR_and_eutrophication [accessed on 5-07-2020]