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News article11 March 2022Directorate-General for Environment2 min read

Marine protection: Commission advises Member States how to improve national marine strategies

Today the European Commission has published recommendations for EU Member States to improve their national marine strategies. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires EU Member States to submit national marine strategies with a view to achieving “Good Environmental Status” of EU marine waters. The Commission has assessed the national strategies updated in 2018 and adopted recommendations for each Member State as well as regional recommendations for three of the four marine regions covered by the Directive (the Baltic Sea, the North-East Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea).

Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginius Sinkevičius said:

Protecting our seas and oceans is a one of the key parts of the European Green Deal, and national marine strategies are essential to achieve a clean and healthy marine environment. These recommendations show that Member States are now better equipped to assess the state of their marine environment, and are increasing their cooperation with other countries in each marine region. Yet, there is room to be even clearer on the objectives. I am confident that by incorporating these recommendations including the specific regional recommendations into the next cycle of Member States’ marine strategies, we can improve the quality of European seas.

The recommendations aim to identify how to improve national marine strategies when they are next updated in October 2024. They focus on assessing and determining Good Environmental Status, and establishing environmental targets. Compared to the previous reports in 2012, the technical assessment found that Member States are better at determining their level of ambition. However, this level of ambition needs to be more clearly quantified, and environmental targets need to specify the progress needed to achieve this objective. Member States are also now better equipped to assess the state of their marine environment, however they are unable to fully determine whether they have reached Good Environmental Status. The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has produced additional analyses that support these conclusions.


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the EU’s main tool to protect the marine environment. It considers all pressures on the seas and oceans and brings them together under one umbrella to tackle the cumulative impact of human activities. The 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, if necessary, amendments to the Directive will be proposed. Full implementation of the Directive is essential to achieve the objectives of the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the Zero Pollution Action Plan.

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Publication date
11 March 2022
Directorate-General for Environment

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