OSPAR is a regional convention for the protection of the marine environment of the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.

It is a convention among fifteen countries:

• Twelve of them border the west coast of Europe (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland)
• Three lie in a river basin that flows into the Northeast Atlantic Ocean (Finland, Grand duchy of Luxembourg and Switzerland).

History of the OSPAR Convention

The OSPAR Convention dates from 1992 through the merger of two existing conventions: the Oslo Convention (prevention of marine pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft) and the Paris Convention (prevention of marine pollution from the mainland). In 1998, the OSPAR Convention was given a more holistic responsibility for marine environmental protection including the marine biodiversity.
With the approval of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, it is expected from OSPAR that it plays a key role, as the regional sea convention, in harmonising the environmental objectives and the action programs that are drawn up and implemented by the parties of EU convention.

Strategies developed

A number of committees are instituted to develop five strategies to monitor the marine environment (including the pressure on the marine environment from mainland and air) and to formulate the recommendations whether to mutually agree on the measures.

Strategy  Committee
Biodiversity and marine ecosystem  BDC (Biodiversity Committee)
EIHA (Environmental Impact of Human Activities Committee)
Eutrophication  HASEC (Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee)
Hazardous substances  HASEC (Hazardous Substances and Eutrophication Committee)
Offshore industry   OIC (Offshore Industry Committee)
Radioactive substances  RSC (Radioactive Substances Committee)
Joint assessment and monitoring (JAMP - Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme)  All committees

The OSPAR Commission

The OSPAR Commission is the annual meeting of the parties to the convention to guide and to approve the OSPAR policy. The five committees hereby provide the support. The OSPAR Secretariat in London coordinates the daily operations of the Convention. Ministerial meetings take place approximately every 10 years, usually following the publication of the environmental report - the Quality Status Report - that gives a detailed description of the quality of the Northeast Atlantic Ocean.

Both the Marine Environment service of the FOD Public health, Food chain safety and Environment and the Administrative Unit of the Mathematical Model of the North Sea and the Scheldt estuary (MUMM) are active in several of the Committees and their working groups, especially with regard to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.