A Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) is a zone that requires special protection by IMO from Maritime activity due to its significance for ecological, socio-economic and/or scientific reasons. PSSAs tend to be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities. The criteria for the identification of PSSAs and the criteria for the designation of Special Areas are not mutually exclusive. In many cases a PSSA may be identified within a Special Area and vice versa.

The National PSSA Task Force is currently in the process of discussing and planning to introduce a PSSA in Fiji. The Beqa Passage has been identified as an ideal candidate for a PSSA to stop international maritime activity and reduce the chance of an accident damaging its diverse ecosystem. MSAF, in collaboration with the Office for the London Convention/Protocol and Ocean Affairs, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), conducted a national workshop on PSSAs.

Procedures on designating a PSSA are outlined in resolution A.982 (24): Revised Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas. These guidelines include criteria to allow areas to be designated a PSSA if they fulfil a number of criteria, including: ecological criteria, such as unique or rare ecosystem, diversity of the ecosystem or vulnerability to degradation by natural events or human activities; social, cultural and economic criteria, such as significance of the area for recreation or tourism; and scientific and educational criteria, such as biological research or historical value. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is also a relevant document which must be considered.

Current PSSAs around the world

  • The Great Barrier Reef, Australia (designated a PSSA in 1990)
  • The Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago in Cuba (1997)
  • Malpelo Island, Colombia (2002)
  • The sea around the Florida Keys, United States (2002)
  • The Wadden Sea, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands (2002)
  • Paracas National Reserve, Peru (2003)
  • Western European Waters (2004)
  • Extension of the existing Great Barrier Reef PSSA to include the Torres Strait
    (proposed by Australia and Papua New Guinea) (2005)
  • Canary Islands, Spain (2005)
  • The Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador (2005)
  • The Baltic Sea area, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania,
    Poland and Sweden (2005)
  • The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, United States (2007)
  • The Strait of Bonifacio, France and Italy (2011)
  • The Saba Bank, in the North-eastern Caribbean area of the Kingdom of the
    Netherlands (2012)
  • Extension of Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait to encompass the south-west
    part of the Coral Sea (2015)
  • The Jomard Entrance, Papua New Guinea (2016)
  • Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the Sulu Sea, Philippines (2017)
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