Special places of our ocean – Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas or EBSAs

22 December 2016

This brochure provides background information on EBSAs, which have been described through a series of regional workshops convened by the CBD Secretariat. It also sheds light on how EBSA information can be used to advance research, conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity, and sustainable use of marine resources.

EBSAs encompass many different types of marine ecosystems in different regions, and refer to areas that have been shown to hold the greatest richness of species and productivity of living organisms, possess rare or endemic species, or are home to unique communities of fauna and flora. Such areas often play a critical role in key ecological functions and processes. They have to meet one or more of the seven scientific criteria for EBSAs as adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity during its ninth meeting in 2008.

Even though the description of these areas is an important achievement, the term itself is often subject to skepticism and criticism. Many governmental sectors and business players see the EBSA process as an attempt of the conservation community to protect vast areas of the ocean. In this regard, the brochure is an information document to demystify EBSAs and to help decision makers and the general public to better understand what EBSAs are and what they are not. The social, ecological and economic benefits potentially derived from EBSAs are described. Two case studies on how EBSA description and information has been used are showcased. Thus, the brochure illustrates why and in how far this process is important for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity.

The EBSA brochure has been developed by Blue Solutions in close collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI), the Benguela Current Commission (BCC) and the Sargasso Sea Commission (SSC). It was launched at the Sustainable Ocean Night at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun in December 2016.

Please find the online version of the EBSA brochure here. Download

For further information on EBSAs, please visit