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Our Oceans, Seas and Coasts


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive reporting

The Marine Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status of the EU's marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. Seas in Good Environmental Status are clean, healthy and productive. The Directive enshrines in a legislative framework the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use.
According to the Directive, each Member State must implement a marine strategy for its marine waters, in cooperation with other Member States sharing the same marine region, reviewed every 6 years.
Those strategies include 5 steps:

  1. an initial assessment of their marine waters,
  2. the determination of the good environmental status of their marine waters,
  3. the setting of environmental targets,
  4. the establishment and implementation of coordinated monitoring programmes, and
  5. the identification of measures or actions that need to be taken in order to achieve or maintain good environmental status.

Steps 1 to 3 (initial assessment, good environmental status and targets):
In 2012, for the first time, Member States reported on the state of the environment in their marine waters, on what they consider as being a "good environmental status" and on the objectives and targets they have set themselves to reach it by 2020. The result showed that more efforts were urgently needed if the EU is to reach its 2020 goal.  The Commission assessed those first elements against the Directive's requirements. 
The findings of the report, and the way forward, were discussed in Brussels on March 3-4 at the HOPE ("Healthy Oceans- Productive Ecosystems") conference. It gathered governments, NGOs, academia and other stakeholders working with or in relation to the European marine environment. Read more here.
Further detailed information can be retrieved here:

Step 4 (monitoring programmes):
On 16 January 2017, the Commission adopted a report assessing monitoring programmes submitted by most Member States in 2014 and 2015 to verify compliance with the Directive.

The Commission's report and its accompanying Staff Working Document contain the Commission's findings and provides guidance on changes needed, globally and for each Member State, including per descriptor. Further information can be retrieved here:
  • Some Member States have replied to the Commission's guidance on their monitoring programmes. Member States' replies are available here

Step 5: programmes of measures

By March 2016, Member States had to set up and implement programmes of measures to achieve good environmental status in their marine waters. This requirement is set in Article 13 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The programme should address each of the MSFD descriptors, and the individual measures should as a whole aim to ensure that environmental targets are addressed and good environmental status (GES) is achieved or maintained by 2020.

On 31 July 2018, the Commission adopted its report assessing these programmes, identifying whether they constitute an appropriate framework within the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and whether they address the pressures that the EU seas and oceans are facing.

The Commission concluded that while considerable efforts have been made by Member States, not all pressures are covered properly by the measures. The Commission therefore provides recommendations to Member States to guide them in accordance with Article 16 of the Directive.

Increase in marine protected areas reduces pressure on marine habitats and species

Marine Protected Areas report and annexes.

A new Commission report shows significant progress in establishing protected areas in Europe's seas, with benefits for the economy and the environment. Under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the EU has committed to ensure the conservation of 10% of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. In 2012, 5.9 % of Europe's seas had already been designated as marine protected areas, and work is continuing with a view to achieve 10 % coverage by 2020. This objective is also reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Many marine species across Europe´s seas are experiencing a decrease in population size and loss of habitat. Protected areas seek to reverse this trend by safeguarding ecosystems and species and rebuilding fish stocks, as well as ensuring the delivery of important ecosystem services such as coastal protection, flood management and tourism. The Commission will continue supporting Member States to designate, manage and control marine protected areas through financing mechanisms such as the LIFE Programme and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, while promoting inclusive governance structures for and research on marine protected areas.