Ecological Quality Objectives
The aim of the OSPAR convention is to protect the marine environment from the adverse effects of human activities and in doing so to safeguard human health and conserve marine ecosystems.
OSPAR’s understanding of the ecological quality of the marine ecosystem is supported by a system of Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQOs). Several EcoQOs were developed in a pilot project.
Where these EcoQOs are met, the marine ecosystem is considered to be in a healthy condition. Where EcoQOs are not met, the responsible authorities should take steps to protect the marine environment from any relevant adverse effect caused by human activities.
The EcoQOs cover different aspects of the ecosystem, including plankton, benthic organisms, fish, sea birds and marine mammals, and also habitats. Most objectives can be linked to specific human activities.
EcoQOs can take the form of targets (values where there is a commitment to attain them), limits (values where there is a commitment to avoid breaching them) or indicators (values which highlight a change in the ecosystem and can trigger research to explain what is happening).
A limited number of EcoQOs are now available for the North Sea. EcoQOs for additional issues and other regions of the North-East Atlantic are under development.