Ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSAs) are special areas in the ocean that serve important purposes, in one way or another, to support the healthy functioning of oceans and the many services that it provides.

Map of EBSAs in the ArcticCAFF has worked with Arctic experts to help identify Arctic EBSAs.

CAFF provided scientific and technical support to the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Arctic Regional Workshop to Facilitate the Description of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSA5), which was held from 3 to 7 March 2014, in Helsinki, Finland. Made possible by the generous financial support of the Government of Finland, the workshop employed a robust scientific assessment process to describe 11 areas meeting EBSA criteria in the Arctic region.

EBSAs are geographically or oceanographically discrete areas that provide important services to one or more species/populations of an ecosystem or to the ecosystem as a whole, compared to other surrounding areas or areas of similar ecological characteristics, or otherwise meet the following criteria:

  • 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

These scientific criteria for identifying ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in need of protection in open-ocean waters and deep-sea habitat were adopted in 2008, the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). CBD COP 10 emphasized that the identification of EBSAs and the selection of conservation and management measures is a matter for States and competent intergovernmental organizations, in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The 11 EBSAs in the Arctic that have been identified in this process include:


Arctic EBSAs and the assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria

Summary chart of Arctic EBSAs and the assessment of the area against CBD EBSA criteria





Arctic States

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