More coordinated legislation needed to ensure the Good Environmental Status of European seas

A range of legislation, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), is designed to ensure the ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) of EU seas by 2020. Researchers have assessed the MSFD in relation to existing maritime policies, concluding that coordination between directives is important to achieve GES.

Europe has over 200 policy initiatives for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Of these, the MSFD was approved in 2008 to protect, preserve and restore the quality of the marine environment across Europe. It was also developed to integrate other measures to protect the marine environment, as some policies, such as the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), target more specific pressures. The MSFD requires Member States to develop a marine strategy, which includes a Programme of Measures (PoM), to achieve GES. This study, which was part of the DEVOTES project, reviewed key maritime policies for achieving GES. The researchers examined how Member States use and integrate existing legislation and policies to implement their PoM, the potential opportunities and difficulties associated with this, and external barriers to achieving GES. The study used case studies of three Member States: Greece, Spain and the UK. The researchers say there are conflicting objectives within and between Member States in implementing the MSFD. For example, GES and its descriptor indicators are left to the individual interpretation of the Member States, which may lead to differences in implementation. The MSFD is reliant on existing legislation. For example, the PoM for each Member State should be based on existing requirements such as monitoring requirements under the Habitats and Birds Directives. Other directives with overlaps in requirements or aims include the WFD, CFP, the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD), Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) and the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (MSP), say the authors. Furthermore, different legal instruments can use different boundaries for different marine regions, which was identified as a major barrier to achieving GES. This can, for example, cause difficulties in reporting fishery stocks for different geographical areas under the CFP, or assessing the chemical status of waters in the case of the WFD. Blue growth initiatives, which aim to develop social and economic growth within European seas, were identified as another challenge to achieving GES. The researchers say blue growth may conflict with MSFD objectives by emphasising economic growth over environmental protection. Shipping, oil and gas exploration, renewable energy, off-shore aquaculture, the cruise industry, carbon capture and storage and seabed mining are all new or rapidly developing sectors, which may negatively affect marine ecosystems. It is important that these developments consider ecological impacts through environmental impact assessments (EIA). EIA is an integral part of granting development consent to individual projects that are likely to have significant impact on the environment. It is important to consider the cumulative effect of these developments. The Strategic Impact Assessment and Marine Spatial Planning Directives provide for a comprehensive, systematic and transparent assessment of environmental, social and economic impacts as well as appropriate planning to address any possible negative impacts from economic development.

The case studies also demonstrate that Member States are producing their PoM in different ways, and are at different stages. For example, the UK finalised its PoM in December 2015, primarily using existing policy to meet the needs of the MSFD, which the researchers suggest may be insufficient to achieve GES. The UK PoM relies on current programmes and targets to monitor marine habitats — such as those under the WFD — and it is uncertain how effectively these measures can be scaled up to meet the requirements of the MSFD at a sub-regional level. By contrast, the public consultation process for the Spanish PoM was completed in spring 2016 and identified existing measures from current EU and national legislation, but also developed 95 new measures. However, the PoM has not yet been formally notified in Spain. Greece has not made its PoM public yet, possibly demonstrating the difficulties faced by certain countries in documenting the required measures within deadlines. Greece is currently facing major fiscal and societal challenges; as such, the researchers say that it is not surprising that they are failing to meet the MSFD timeline. They say it is expected that the Greek PoM will also largely use existing environmental measures from current EU policies. Finally, the researchers provide recommendations to overcome gaps and barriers in legislation and meet GES. In particular, they recommend increased coordination between related policy instruments. This could include common definitions, targets and data collection. They also say an overreliance on measures within existing legislation may be to the detriment of environmental protection. The researchers say Member States should consider new measures, where necessary, to achieve GES under the MSFD, although they acknowledge that this represents a challenge.

Source: Boyes, S.J., Elliott, M., Murillas-Maza, A., Papadopoulou, N. & Uyarra, M.C. (2016). Is existing legislation fit-forpurpose to achieve Good Environmental Status in European seas? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 137(1): 105–119. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016. 06.079. This study is free to view at: http://www.sciencedirect.c om/science/article/pii/S002 5326X16304830

Contact: s.j.boyes@hull.ac.uk

EU report published: Impacts of noise and use of propagation models

“Impacts of noise and use of propagation models to predict the recipient side of noise” has now been published by the Commission: http://mcc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/document.py?code=201601081529

The report provides insight into  a  roadmap towards defining thresholds for Good Environmental Status (GES), and the use of sound maps for GES assessment. This report presents a high-level summary of the EC supported project findings.

EC Conference on maritime spatial planning and marine environment

Location: Brussels, Belgium
Date:07/12/2015

The European Commission is organising a conference on maritime spatial planning (MSP) as a tool to address challenges and develop opportunities in maritime economic activities and environmental protection, in the context of growing and competing uses of marine space.

The main purpose is to share experiences of MSP with representatives of maritime industries, national authorities and NGOs and to take stock of the expectations and requirements of the stakeholders.

For enquiries about the event, please contact MARE-MSP-CONFERENCE-2015@ec.europa.eu

More information will be available soon!

Europe’s seas: productive, but not healthy or clean

Source: EEA

The European Union’s Blue Growth agenda aims to harness further the potential of Europe’s oceans, seas and coasts for jobs, economic value and sustainability. A new report published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that, despite some improvements, the way we use our seas remains unsustainable and threatens not only the productivity of our seas, but also our wellbeing. Human activities and climate change are increasingly putting a number of pressures on Europe’s seas, the cumulative effects of which threaten the functioning and resilience of marine ecosystems.

In line with the development of the European Union’s (EU) Blue Growth objectives, which aspire to greater and sustainable use of the seas’ potential, the EEA’s new ‘State of Europe’s seas’ report examines whether the EU is meeting its policy goals for the quality of the marine environment.

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SOER 2015 — The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Source: EEA

The synthesis report informs future European environmental policy in general and its implementation between 2015 and 2020 in particular. It includes a reflection on the European environment in a global context, as well as chapters summarising the state of, trends in, and prospects for the environment in Europe.

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DEVOTES recommendations for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive

DEVOTES (Development of Innovative Tools for Understanding Marine Biodiversity and Assessing Good Environmental Status) is one of the R&D projects, funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme, that provides scientific support for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; EU Directive 2008/56/EC). The DEVOTES report highlighted here summarises two years of research to support the implementation process.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; Directive 2008/56/EC, hereafter ‘Directive‘) is a major step forward for European and indeed global marine environmental management and is an ambitious piece of legislation which extends environmental control out to the 200nm limit. It is globally-leading as no other areas have similar legislation and will allow the integration of other holistic and framework directives such as the Water Framework Directive, Natura 2000 and now Maritime Spatial Planning Directive and the Integrated Coastal Zone Management recommendation. 

The MSFD has all the right aims, in linking the causes of marine changes, the human activities and pressures to their consequences and the means of controlling and managing those causes and consequences. If applied properly, the Directive will ensure the protection of the natural system while also allowing the seas to produce ecosystem services and deliver societal benefits. Hence it is a major step forward from previous Directives by allowing the focus of the assessment and monitoring on the functioning of marine ecosystems rather than just the structure. Finally, it will enforce a regional approach by emphasising that marine management, monitoring and assessment has to be transnational and so it will build on the Regional Sea Conventions and their four decades of work. Because of all of this, it is inevitable that the Directive and its implementation have many challenges.
The outcomes of the first phase of implementation of the MSFD reinforce the role of R&D projects in supporting the Directive. The DEVOTES FP7 project, funded by the European Commission, was set up to contribute to address those challenges and to support the implementation of the MSFD from a scientific perspective. Two years of applied research allows the DEVOTES project to provide scientific recommendations helping to clarify uncertainties and fulfil several gaps highlighted after the assessment of Article 12. The report provides indications and recommendations for the Directive and any criticisms are meant to be constructive and supportive of the successful implementation of the MSFD.
Further information: 

Report: DEVOTES recommendations for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive http://www.devotes-project.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/DEVOTES_Deliverable-1-5.pdf
Citation: Patrício J, Teixeira H, Borja A, Elliott M, Berg T, Papadopoulou N, Smith C, Luisetti T, Uusitalo L, Wilson C, Mazik K, Niquil N, Cochrane S, Andersen JH, Boyes S, Burdon D, Carugati L, Danovaro R, Hoepffner N. 2014. DEVOTES recommendations for the implementation of  the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Deliverable 1.5, 71 pp. DEVOTES project. JRC92131