Marine Strategy Framework Directive

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West Cork Coastline (Image Credit: Orla-Peach Power)

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is based on achieving Good Ecological Status (GES), but specifically for marine waters. Adopted on 17 June 2008, and written into Irish legislation in 2011 the Directive further aims to have GES established by 2020 (www1; Marine Institute, 2013). In order to achieve GES by 2020, each Member State is required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (www2). Through State, academic, and private consultancy advice and research, the MFSD aims to apply an ecosystem based approach to the management of human activities, while still maintaining sustainability of marine resources for future generations.

Marine Strategy Requirements

For this reason, marine strategies include (www2):

  • The initial assessment of the current environmental status of national marine waters
  • The environmental impact and socio-economic analysis of human activities in these waters
  • The determination of what GES means for national marine waters
  • The establishment of environmental targets and associated indicators to achieve GES by 2020
  • The establishment of a monitoring programme for the ongoing assessment and the regular update of targets
  • The development of a programme of measures designed to achieve or maintain GES by 2020
  • Furthermore, the process is cyclical and the second cycle starts again in 2018
Key Factors

Several factors are considered under the MSFD as part of this ecosystem based approach :

Biodiversity Invasive Species
Eutrophication Exploitation of Fish stocks
Food Webs Emerging Contaminants (i.e. Hormone MedicationsAgricultural Run OffUntreated Sewage etc.)
Marine Litter  Seafloor Integrity







Tackling these factors, will help alleviate many of the major pressures being places upon the coastal marine environment. However, before any ecosystem based approach can be undertaken member states must conduct an initial assessment of each of the above factors. In light of this,  an initial assessment was carried out in a 500,000km2 area surrounding Ireland’s coastline. Generally speaking, the major issues identified during assessment were the exploitation of fish stocks by commercial fishers and nutrient enrichment (Marine Institute, 2013). European member states re-evaluate this process every 6 years, with the definition of GES being constantly improved. This process, subsequently allows for new information to be incorporated so all targets, characteristics, and indicators can be further improved and reviewed.


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