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Step-by-step implementation of the MSFD

Step 1 – Initial assessment, definition of Good Environmental Status (GES) and determination of targets and indicators

By 2012, EU countries were required to report on (i) the results of the initial assessment of their marine waters including an economic and social analysis of the uses and the costs of degradation; (ii) definition of GES; and (iii) targets and indicators. A review of the outputs of this step is required by July 2018 (see Step 5).

There are certain circumstances where it is accepted that GES may not be achieved or a longer timeframe for achievement may be permitted: for example, if measures need international action, the costs of measures is disproportionate, or for reasons of overriding public interest.

Step 2 – Development and implementation of monitoring programmes

By 2014, EU countries are required to develop and implement monitoring programmes for the “ongoing assessment of the environmental status of their marine waters”. Monitoring programmes must consider transboundary impacts and features, and be compatible with others already in place, including those under other EU legislation (e.g. Natura 2000). Countries must cooperate to ensure programmes are consistent across borders.

Step 3 – Development of programmes of measures

By 2015, each EU country must develop a programme of measures to reach or maintain GES by 2020. By 2013, countries must report on their existing spatial protection measures (e.g. marine protected areas); additional spatial protection measures should be included in the programmes of measures.

Programmes of measures could include input controls (controlling the amount of human activity), output controls (controlling the amount of disturbance to ecosystems), spatial/temporal distribution controls (controlling where and when an activity occurs), management coordination measures (e.g. guidelines for co-location of activities), economic incentives (measures which are in the economic interest of those using the ecosystem), mitigation and remediation tools (guiding human activities to restore damaged ecosystems), and communication, stakeholder involvement and raising public awareness.

Countries must identify existing measures (e.g. EU Water Framework, Birds & Habitats, Urban Waste Water Treatment and Bathing Water Directives) and, if these are not enough to meet targets, identify and analyse additional measures.

Step 4 – Implementation of programmes of measures

Countries must ensure that programmes of measures are fully operational by 2016. Where justification exists for not achieving GES within the timetable (because measures need international action, result in disproportionate costs or for reasons of overriding public interest) countries must still take measures to prevent further deterioration and must ensure GES is not permanently compromised.

Step 5 – Evaluation and adaptation

The MSFD implementation process is cyclical and the key components of marine strategies will be reviewed and adapted as necessary every six years. As part of this, the MSFD requires EU countries to submit an interim review of the outputs of Step 1 by July 2018.

Through conversations with the governments in the Celtic Seas we identified that the area the Celtic Seas Partnership can add most value is by working with stakeholders to develop measures that can feed into and support the government process. Find out more about how we’re developing management measures with stakeholders