The area of the Charlie-Gibbs North High Seas Marine Protected Area covers the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), comprising the waters superjacent to part of the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. The area also encompasses the water column above a section of the Reykjanes Ridge, to the north of that fracture zone, where bottom trawling and fishing with static gear, including bottom set gillnets and longlines, has been prohibited since 2004. It is an area that covers 177,700 km2.
The water column of this area above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is located beyond the limits of national jurisdiction of the coastal states in the OSPAR maritime area and Canada. According to UNCLOS these waters are considered as High Seas, which are open to all States. The MPA overlays a subarea of the extended continental shelf submission of Iceland.
The most important physical feature of this area is the meandering sub-polar front which represents a distributional boundary for many pelagic taxa, a meeting of southern and northern species, resulting in elevated natural biological diversity. Of the species that occur there, a number are of particular concern to the work of the OSPAR Commission due to their status as threatened and/or declining. These include deep water sharks, such as the gulper shark, as well as blue whales, leather back turtles, Portuguese dogfish and the orange roughy.
In 2003, the OSPAR Commission agreed to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the North-East Atlantic with the aim that this should become an ecologically coherent network of wellmanaged sites. OSPAR agreed that the OSPAR Network of MPAs should comprise sites that are established as MPAs within the jurisdiction of OSPAR Contracting Parties as well as sites in the maritime area outside the jurisdiction of the Contracting Parties (area beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ)). In the OSPAR Biodiversity and Ecosystems Strategy, OSPAR agreed to identify, on the basis of reports from Contracting Parties and observer organisations, possible components of the OSPAR Network in ABNJ in order to achieve the purposes of the network.
Aims of MPA:
protect, conserve and restore species, pelagic habitat and ecological processes which are adversely affected as result of human activities;
prevent degradation of and damage to species, pelagic habitat and ecological processes following the precautionary principle;
protect and conserve a special and representative section of the water column above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which in itself is a major portion of the bathyal habitat of OSPAR Region V.