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North Pacific Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs)

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areas described to meet the EBSA criteria
Figure 1.  Areas described to meet the EBSA criteria.  Blue line indicates the boundary of the area considered by the workshop.  Polygons in red indicate those areas described against EBSA criteria by the workshop.  Polygons in yellow indicate those features that are inherently not spatially fixed, and described against EBSA criteria by the workshop.

The Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) organized the workshop "North Pacific Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas" held in Moscow, Russia, from 25 February to 1 March 2013. The workshop is the fifth in a series of regional workshops, with a primary objective to facilitate the description of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) through the application of scientific criteria adopted by CBD.

Two other regional workshops in the Pacific region were held prior to the North Pacific regional workshop; thus the southern boundary of the North Pacific region was pre-determined (Fig. 1.) Only two countries, the Russian Federation and Mexico, volunteered to include their EEZ waters for EBSA scientific evaluation by the CBD process. The rest of the countries have their own national process of defining marine protected areas or EBSAs.

The seven major scientific criteria adopted by the CBD to identify EBSAs are as follows:

  • Uniqueness or rarity
  • Special importance for life history stages of species
  • Importance for threatened, endangered, or declining species and/or habitats
  • Vulnerability, fragility, sensitivity, or slow recovery
  • Biological productivity
  • Biological diversity
  • Naturalness

The participants concluded that 20 areas in the North Pacific region met most of the scientific criteria for EBSAs. These EBSAs occur in the following zones (see Fig. 1):  the Russian EEZ (EBSAs #1-9), the Mexican EEZ (EBSAs #10-15) and the international Zone (EBSA #16 for the Juan de Fuca Ridge Hydrothermal Vents, EBSA #17 for the seamounts in the NE Pacific Rim outside the central Gulf of Alaska and Canada, EBSA #18 for the Emperor Seamount chain and seamounts north of Hawaii, EBSA #19 for the Central Pacific transition zone and bordering currents that also encompasses many important feeding areas for loggerhead turtles, leatherback turtles, and white sharks, and EBSA #20 for the Albatross Arc that covers important feeding areas for black-footed and Laysan albatrosses).

The results of the workshop will be submitted to forthcoming meetings of the Convention's Subsidiary Bodies and the 12th Conference of the Parties. The participants were from the CBD Secretariat and national representatives from Canada, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, and the Russian Federation. Other organizations that participated were from NOAA, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Northwest Pacific Action Plan, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization, the North Pacific Fisheries Commission, and various Russian organizations including the Russian Academy of Sciences and World Wildlife Fund-Russia. China was invited but was unable to attend. Dr. Loh-Lee Low attended for NOAA as the United States is not yet a member of the Convention.

By Loh-Lee Low

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