Origin of the Project

European Union’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD; 2008/56/EC) sets a target for achieving good environmental status in the marine environment for 2020 and suggests Member State cooperation to ensure coordinated development of marine strategies in the same marine region. Countries are currently in the process of preparing the initial assessments of their marine areas and, on the basis of qualitative descriptors set in MSFD, determining the characteristics of good environmental status.

Harmonization of initial assessments between countries sharing the same marine sub-region is essential in order to have a common understanding for further actions. Sharing information regarding assessment of pressures and their dynamics, and human activities in the region is particularly important. In terms of good environmental status, for the time being only limited amount of knowledge is available regarding several criteria of the 11 descriptors of good environmental status1. Joint cross-border attempts to fill in the gaps with available data and capacity building to apply new indicators for descriptors of good environmental status are essential.

Most importantly, joint actions are necessary for descriptors with poor coverage of suggested criteria and indicators. The lack of agreed assessment methodologies is especially evident in descriptors concerning invasive species, food webs, marine litter, and underwater noise.

Also, new methods and technologies must be developed and tested to build a cost-effective environmental monitoring of offshore areas. Sub-regional, cross-border monitoring and assessment scheme with shared responsibilities and infrastructures meeting requirements of MSFD would be beneficial for all countries and for the marine environment.

In order to develop a program of measures required to achieve good environmental status, a socio-economic analysis of the use of the sea and the cost of degradation of marine environment has to be conducted. Joint analysis that takes into account natural and historical differences in surrounding countries is required in order to give guidance toward cost-effective measures and policy instruments.

1 The qualitative descriptors for determining good environmental status (Annex 1 to the MSFD):
  1. Biological diversity in maintained.
  2. Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems.
  3. Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits.
  4. All elements of the marine food webs occur at normal abundance and diversity.
  5. Human-induced eutrophication is minimised.
  6. Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems are not adversely affected.
  7. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine ecosystems.
  8. Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not rising 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 no 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.
Central Baltic Keskkonnainvesteeringute Keskus
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