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Marine Strategy Framework Directive

This European directive aims to reverse threats to Europe’s marine environment and ensure our seas remain clean, healthy and productive.

Many of the threats to Europe’s marine environment require cooperation and collective action to be tackled effectively.

Threats to our seas include:

  • damage to or loss of habitats and species
  • changes to ecosystems
  • pollution impacts
  • climate change effects

The European Union adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in July 2008. It requires Member States to take measures to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.

GES is defined at the scale of a marine region or subregion (e.g. North Sea). It is based on a series of ‘qualitative descriptors’, as listed in Annex 1 of the MSFD.

Member States must prepare and put in place marine strategies to:

  • protect the marine environment
  • prevent deterioration
  • restore damaged marine ecosystems, where possible

Another aim of the MSFD is to phase out marine pollution to protect the marine environment and its sustainable use as well as human health.

MSFD in the UK

The MSFD was transposed into UK law under the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010. An initial assessment of marine environmental status was completed by July 2012. This work helped to develop GES targets and indicators.

The UK Marine Policy Statement explains the high-level aims of the MSFD. National and regional marine plans then break these down into detailed activities.

Changes made to the Common Fisheries Policy seek to ensure that fisheries management better supports MSFD aims.

Scottish Natural Heritage has engaged in the above activities. We want to ensure that MSFD implementation achieves the best results for our marine environment.