Seas At Risk has called on the European Commission to show more ambition in regards to the ongoing implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

Seas At Risk has called on the European Commission to show more ambition in regards to the ongoing implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

The Directive, published in 2008, is the first piece of European legislation specifically designed to protect the marine environment and achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) within European waters by 2020.

The assessment of GES will be done on the basis of a set of 11 “descriptors”, ranging from the state of biodiversity and food webs to the impacts of human activities such as fishing, pollution and marine litter.

Seas At Risk is an observer to the Working Group on GES – a body of different organisations and institutions set up to assist with the implementation of the MSFD.

SAR submitted comments today to the European Commission on a draft document evaluating the criteria and methodological standards for assessing the descriptors of GES. These criteria will form the basis for the initial assessments of the status of the marine environment and result in a subsequent programme of measures, to be devised by each Member State in order to achieve GES.

Amongst numerous recommendations made on the draft document, SAR called for more ambitious and stringent criteria for the assessment of GES, on the basis that some of the criteria –commercial fish stocks, sea floor integrity and marine litter for example – seemed to have been set at low levels of ambition due to socio-economic considerations, rather than scientific evidence or the application of the precautionary principle.

SAR also outlined the necessity of far reaching and intensive monitoring programmes – such as the assessment of quantities of marine litter across European waters and coastlines - in order to fully account for the state of the marine environment.

The setting of criteria and methodological standards by the Commission is the first of a set of requirements imposed on the Commission and Member States. While criteria must be in place by the 15th of July 2010, they form the basis for the next, crucial phase of implementation.

By 2012, Member States must carry out an assessment of the current environmental status in their marine waters; they will have to determine what they understand as being “good environmental status”; and they must establish environmental targets and associated indicators for 2020.

Seas At Risk will continue to follow the implementation process and press for an ambitious and robust interpretation of the provisions of the Directive throughout its course, in order to sustain and protect Europe’s marine environment.

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