EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The MSFD does not state a specific programme of measures that Member States should adopt to achieve GES, except for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The MSFD does however outline 11 high level descriptors of GES in Annex I of the Directive. With respect to the UK, key requirements of the Directive and associated timeframes are clearly set out.
  1. 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.
  2. Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems.
  3. Populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.  
  4. 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.  
  5. Human-induced eutrophication is minimised, especially adverse effects thereof, such as losses in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algal blooms and oxygen deficiency in bottom waters.
  6. 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.
  7. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine ecosystems.
  8. Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects.  
  9. Contaminants in fish and other seafood for human consumption do not exceed levels established by Community legislation or other relevant standards.
  10. Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.
  11. Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment.







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With respect to the UK, key requirements of the Directive and associated timeframes are provided in the table below:
Expected UK response 
July 2010
The Directive must be transposed into Member State regulations to provide a legal framework for national implementation
In the UK, the MSFD will be transposed through the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act (1972)
July 2012
An Initial Assessment of the current environmental status of each Member State’s marine waters and the environmental impact of human activities, based on the environmental characteristics and pressures from human activities given in Annex III of the Directive and an economic and social analysis of the use of the sea and of the cost of degradation of the marine environment


The Charting Progress 2: State of the UK Seas Report 2010 is expected to form the basis of the Initial Assessment. The OSPAR Quality Status Report 2010 will provide a basis for a regional level assessment.
July 2012
A determination of GES, based on the descriptors in Annex I and the characteristics and pressures in Annex III, and associated environmental targets and indicators
Establish what GES means for UK waters, within the Greater North Sea and Celtic Seas subregions, including setting targets and identifying an appropriate set of indicators
July 2014
Establishment and implementation of a coordinated monitoring programme for ongoing assessment and regular updating of targets, to measure progress towards achieving GES
The UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy coordinates marine monitoring across the UK and will provide information required to measure progress towards GES
July 2015
Development of a programme of measures designed to achieve or maintain GES, taking into account relevant existing measures under other Directives and international agreements
The UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 is an example of an existing measure that will contribute to GES through the establishment of MPAs and a coherent marine planning system
July 2016
Entry into operation of the programme of measures to achieve or maintain GES
Implementation of the programme of measures is expected to be coordinated, for waters in England, by the Marine Management Organisation, and through equivalent bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
July 2018
 Review and updating of the marine strategies, including the initial assessment, the targets, the monitoring programmes and the programmes of measures
This is the first of the six-yearly reporting cycle on progress in delivery of the MSFD
Achievement of GES