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Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) was introduced in 2008 by the European Union to promote sustainable use of Europe’s seas and conserve marine ecosystems.

Click here to watch the animation in French

The MSFD was developed and is being managed by the Directorate-General for the Environment (DG Environment) at the European Commission. DG Environment is one of the more than 40 Directorates-General that make up the European Commission and its objective is to ‘protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations’.

We spoke to Astrid Schomaker from DG Environment (former Head of Unit, Marine Environment & Water Industry) to tell us about MSFD, including why it was introduced…

Marine Strategy Framework Directive cycle

MSFD-process-diagramMSFD is a cyclical process with each cycle taking 6 years. It requires EU countries to develop marine strategies following a specific timeline. The process follows a logical sequence of looking at the current state of the marine environment and setting targets, developing monitoring to measure progress against the targets, identifying measures that are needed to achieve the targets and then ongoing monitoring, evaluation and adaptation. For the first step, EU countries must carry out an initial assessment of the marine environment and define what ‘Good Environmental Status’ looks like for them. This includes setting targets and indicators, making Good Environmental Status something that can be measured. Click for more information on the other steps of MSFD

Good Environmental Status

The main goal of the directive is to achieve Good Environmental Status in Europe’s seas by 2020. The directive defines Good Environmental Status as “marine waters that provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive”. There are 11 descriptors to guide evaluation of Good Environmental Status (see below). Good Environmental Status is not necessarily a pristine state; it allows for the sustainable use of marine resources.

Marine Strategy Framework Directive descriptors
MSFD descriptors

We asked Joachim D’Eugenio from DG Environment (acting Head of Unit, Marine Environment & Water Industry) to explain ‘Good Environmental Status’ and how EU countries go about defining it…

Ecosystem approach

The directive requires EU countries to use the ecosystem approach to develop their marine strategies. The ecosystem approach is a way of making decisions that allows us to manage our activities sustainably. It recognises that humans are part of the ecosystem and that our activities both affect the ecosystem and depend on it. Stakeholder engagement is at the heart of the ecosystem approach.

Joachim tells us why involving stakeholders in the implementation of MSFD is so important…

Marine Strategy Framework Directive regional coordination

MSFD divides Europe’s seas into regions and sub-regions. The Celtic Seas includes Irish, French and UK waters. Within a sub-region the countries included are required to coordinate the development of their marine strategies.

MSFD European marine regions

Astrid Schomaker tells us why regional coordination is so important in the implementation of the directive…

OSPAR is one of four European Regional Seas Conventions that has been signed by the countries surrounding the North-East Atlantic. The equivalent for the Baltic Sea is HELCOM, the Barcelona Convention covers the Mediterranean and the Bucharest Convention for the Black Sea. OSPAR provides a forum for coordination between governments to ensure that marine conservation efforts are joined up across the North-East Atlantic. It facilitates discussions and encourages agreement between countries to follow common approaches, coordinate their work and share best practice.

We asked Darius Campbell, Executive Secretary of OSPAR to explain its role in supporting the implementation of MSFD…

The clips featured on this page are taken from short interviews. To see the interviews in full visit our Marine Strategy Framework Directive vimeo channel

Visit the European Commission website for further information on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive