Skip to main content
News article17 December 2021Directorate-General for Environment2 min read

Marine environment: EU conference urges stronger rules to protect our seas

The time is right to review existing EU laws on the protection of the marine environment, according to stakeholders meeting at a conference on the future of our seas today. The European Commission organised the conference to listen to expert views in the context of the ongoing review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, a key piece of EU legislation protecting our seas. 

The Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, said:

Like many Europeans, I share a strong connection to the sea. Healthy seas and oceans are essential for human and planetary well-being. They regulate our climate and provide us with oxygen, food, transport and essential materials. I am grateful for the expert views shared today, which will help us to review our EU laws and ensure that they can better protect fragile marine ecosystems.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive has driven ambition in EU countries to achieve a more integrated and improved protection of the marine environment, giving policymakers the information they need to take informed decisions. It has contributed to raising awareness and taking action on issues that were not or little known before, such as seabed integrity, marine litter or underwater noise. It has led to the set-up of comprehensive monitoring programmes by all coastal Member States and the adoption of thousands of measures across the European Union to prevent or mitigate the impact of human activities. Finally, the Directive has also brought consistency within and across European marine regions for a shared understanding on how to achieve clean, healthy and productive seas.

Despite progress, Member States did not achieve the goal of Good Environmental Status across all EU marine waters by 2020, and substantial efforts are still required in some marine regions. Certain human activities such as unsustainable fishing, resource extraction and shipping threaten marine life and destroy habitats. Eutrophication, pollution, litter and underwater noise threaten fragile ecosystems. The European Green Deal, through initiatives including the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Zero Pollution Action Plan, helps accelerate action towards achieving Good Environmental Status of marine ecosystems.


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the EU’s main tool for marine environmental protection. It considers all pressures on the seas and oceans and brings them together under one umbrella to tackle the cumulative impact of human activities in one strategic framework. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires EU Member States to set up marine strategies with a view to achieving “Good Environmental Status”. This motivates close cooperation between Member States and across marine regions on a number of issues including biodiversity, eutrophication, contaminants, litter and underwater noise. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive must be reviewed by mid-2023 and, where necessary, amendments to the Directive will be proposed.

For more information

Europe's oceans, seas and coasts

Review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Future of our seas



Publication date
17 December 2021
Directorate-General for Environment

EU Environment newsletter

Green landscape with person on bike, tree and buildings in the distance.

EU Environment newsletters deliver the latest updates about the European Commission’s environmental priorities straight to your inbox.