Brussels, 1st September 2010
Europe's seas: Commission sets out criteria for good environmental status
The European Commission today adopted a decision outlining the criteria necessary to achieve good environmental status for Europe's seas. This will help Member States to develop coordinated marine strategies within each regional sea, ensuring consistency and allowing progress to be compared between regions. The definition of the criteria is a requirement under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which aims to achieve good environmental status in all EU marine waters by 2020.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We want our seas to be healthy and productive. Today's decision is a starting point in establishing precise objectives for the achievement of good environmental status. The adoption of the decision on criteria for good environmental status during the International Year of Biodiversity marks a further step in the development of the post-2010 EU biodiversity strategy."
The Commission decision
The Commission decision on the criteria for Good Environmental Status of marine waters focuses on different aspects of marine ecosystems including biological diversity, fish population, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and noise.
The criteria and associated indicators defined in the decision have been based on scientific and technical advice provided by independent experts and have to be used by Member States to determine the environmental status of the marine ecosystem. They build on existing obligations and developments in EU legislation, covering elements of the marine environment not yet addressed in existing policies.
However, while some criteria are fully developed and operational others require further refinement. The decision highlights the need to develop additional scientific understanding for assessing good environmental status to support an ecosystem-based approach to the management of Europe's marine waters. A revision of the criteria will therefore be necessary to take account of new scientific knowledge.
2020 target for good environmental status
Good Environmental Status means that the overall state of the environment in marine waters provides ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are healthy and productive. Use of the marine environment must be kept at a sustainable level that safeguards potential uses and activities by current and future generations. This means the structure, functions and processes of marine ecosystems have to be fully considered, marine species and habitats must be protected and human-induced decline of biodiversity prevented.
To achieve the EU's objective of good environmental status for all marine waters by 2020, Member States have to develop marine strategies which serve as action plans for applying an ecosystem-based approach to the management of human activities. Good Environmental Status must be determined at the level of marine regions or sub regions, on the basis of 11 qualitative descriptors of the marine environment specified in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Regional cooperation is required at each stage of the implementation of the Directive.
On the Marine Strategy Framework Directive:
On regional sea conventions: