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News article22 July 2021Directorate-General for Environment2 min read

Protecting seas and oceans: Commission consults to improve EU rules

As human activities on land and at sea continue to exert pressure on the sea and marine life, the Commission is reviewing the EU rules that protect the marine environment. Building on the initiatives announced under the European Green Deal, most notably the Zero Pollution Action Plan and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, this review seeks to ensure that the Europe’s marine environment is governed by a robust framework, that keeps it clean and healthy whilst ensuring its sustainable use.

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

Healthy seas and oceans are essential to our wellbeing and to achieve our climate and biodiversity goals. However, human activities are negatively affecting life in our seas. Biodiversity loss and pollution continue to threaten marine life and its habitats, and climate change poses enormous threats to the oceans and to the whole planet. We need to step up protection and care of our seas and oceans. That is why we need to take a close look at our current rules and, if need be, change them before it is too late. Your views on the marine environment are crucial in this process.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the EU’s main tool to protect the marine environment. It aims to maintain healthy, productive and resilient marine ecosystems, while securing a more sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of current and future generations. It analyses pressures on the seas and oceans and brings them together under one umbrella to tackle the cumulative impacts of human activities in one strategic framework. A Commission Report on the Marine Strategy published in June 2020 revealed that, while the EU's framework for marine environmental protection is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious worldwide, persistent challenges remain. These include excess nutrients, underwater noise, plastic litter, and other types of pollution as well as unsustainable fishing practices.

The review of the Directive will look in more detail at how it has performed so far and will assess the relevance of this instrument in the context of the European Green Deal. The online public consultation seeks to gather the views of citizens, institutions and organisations from the public and private sectors on how to overcome these challenges. Citizens and organisations are invited to share their views on the potential objectives and actions of the new Marine Strategy Framework Directive until 21 October 2021. The MSFD will be reviewed by mid-2023 and where necessary, amendments will be proposed.


The marine environment is subject to multiple pressures and impacts from human activities at sea and on land. These activities have resulted in pollution, seabed damage, overexploitation, biodiversity loss, spread of non-indigenous species, marine litter, underwater noise, ocean warming and acidification.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive requires EU Member States to set up regionally coordinated strategies in order to achieve clean, seas and healthy marine stocks. Several indicators such as biodiversity, fisheries, eutrophication, contaminants, litter, and underwater noise determine this overarching goal, or ’Good Environmental Status’. ‘Good Environmental Status’ was not achieved in all marine regions for all of the Directive’s indicators by 2020. The Directive is a key piece of legislation that protects and preserves marine biodiversity and its habitats. It is therefore an important tool to achieve biodiversity and zero-pollution goals.

For More Information

Europe’s Oceans, Seas and Coasts

Review of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and link to public consultation

Action Plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems

Public consultation on EU water legislation – taking place in parallel 


Publication date
22 July 2021
Directorate-General for Environment

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