The Marine Strategy Framework Directive – Priority measures for achieving Good Environmental Status

Melissa Moore
Senior Policy Officer, Marine Conservation Society

Also representing Joint Links. This presentation reflects collaborative work by Joint Links NGOs and also builds on work by other eNGOs across Europe. Joint Links consists of Wildlife and Countryside Link, Scottish Environment LINK, Wales Environment Link, and the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force?

T: 01989 566017
W: and

The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) has entered a crucial implementation phase as countries are now developing their programmes of measures (PoMs), which are needed to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in marine waters by 2020. These measures need to be ambitious and strong to address the degradation of our seas. Today, less than 20 % of all biodiversity features in EU seas whether looking at marine species or habitats are considered as being in Good Environmental Status. Effective public participation and consultation is also needed in the development of these PoMs as a prerequisite for their success.

This presentation provides Joint Links thinking so far on what measures we will be recommending as a priority in the upcoming Government consultation. We also hope the presentation will inspire delegates to get involved in the consultation themselves and recommend their own measures. The presentation focuses on the following MSFD Descriptors D 1 Biodiversity, D2 Non indigenous species, D3 Commercial fish, D6 Seafloor Integrity, D10 marine litter and D11 underwater noise.

We will highlight existing measures that we consider a priority such as the completion of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas, but also the development of new measures to support the conservation of mobile species for example. We welcome Government’s existing measures to achieve GES, but are very concerned that at present, despite the state of the marine environment as detailed in Charting Progress II, the UK Government do not intend to propose any new measures in its consultation. However, Defra have informed us they will consider new measures proposed (and supported) by stakeholders in response to the consultation and we hope they adopt these in order to achieve Good Environmental Status.

MSFD background notes

The MSFD is the first all-encompassing piece of European legislation specifically aimed at the protection of the marine environment. Its ultimate objective is to achieve a GES in all European waters by 2020 at the latest. The Directive requires the implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to the management of activities having an impact on the marine environment. The key deliverable stemming from the implementation of the Directive will be a range of “Marine Strategies” which every EU Member State must produce. These have to be developed in three steps:

  • In 2012, Member States had to report on the environmental status of their marine waters, descriptions of what Good Environmental Status means for their marine waters and provide an associated set of environmental targets and indicators
  • See

  • 2014 saw the adoption of national monitoring programmes.
  • By 2015 at the latest, Member States have to develop programmes of measures designed to achieve or maintain GES. The PoMs should enter into operation by 2016. UK Government hopes to consult on its PoMs in January 2015.

The implementation of the Directive so far shows many weaknesses. In February 2014, the Commission published its review of the 2012 reports by Member States, as required by Article 12 of the MSFD. The ‘Article 12 report’ stated that “The EU is still very far from enjoying healthy oceans and seas. Meeting this objective by 2020, in less than seven years, implies renewed and intensified efforts and rapid and important change in the way Member States, the European Commission, Regional Seas Conventions and other relevant organisations work together”. It is hence very important that countries develop strong PoMs to be consulted and submitted to the Commission in 2015.

Descriptors for determining Good Environmental Status:

D1 Biological diversity is maintained. The quality and occurrence of habitats and the distribution and abundance of species are in line with prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions.
D2 Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems.
D3 Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.
D4 All elements of the marine food webs, to the extent that they are known, occur at normal abundance and diversity and levels capable of ensuring the long-term abundance of the species and the retention of their full reproductive capacity.
D5 Human-induced eutrophication is minimised, especially adverse effects thereof, such as losses in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algae blooms and oxygen deficiency in bottom waters.
D6 Sea floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.
D7 Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine ecosystems.
D8 Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects.
D9 Contaminants in fish and other seafood for human consumption do not exceed levels established by Community legislation or other relevant standards.
D10 Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.
D11 Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment.