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Compilation of reviewed EU marine environmental status assessments


Approaches (methodologies) taken from the available MSFD Initial Assessments (IAs), not only in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea EU countries but also in selected northern EU countries, have been reviewed and compiled into a table.

Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which are MSFD Descriptors/Descriptor groups for Good Environmental Status?
  • What is the setup and organisation of marine environmental assessments?

Implementation Context

The overall scientific objectives of PERSEUS project are to identify the interacting patterns of natural and human-derived pressures on the Mediterranean and Black Seas, assess their impact on marine ecosystems and, using the objectives and principles of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive as a vehicle, to design an effective and innovative research governance framework based on sound scientific knowledge.

Work package 5 (Basin-wide promotion of MSFD principles) aims to strengthen networking and increase the SES capacity for ecosystem state assessment, definition of Good Environmental Status, monitoring and management based on the 11 MSFD descriptors, and to provide tools for the application of MSFD principles in non-EU countries of the SES.

Aspects / Objectives

The main objective of the study is to identify, develop and promote tools and methods to assess environmental status across the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea basins with emphasis on non-EU countries, in accordance with the principles and objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), 2008/56/EC.


The Report “Compilation of reviewed EU marine environmental status assessments” is part of the Subtask 5.1.1, regarding the review and analysis of the approaches used for MSFD environmental status assessments by the EU Member States. This subtask has analysed the existing marine environmental assessments for their setup and organization in order to identify the assessment elements linked to the different MSFD descriptors.

The Report includes an embedded Excel file[1] with a compilation of the information collected from reviewing the content of the existing marine environmental assessment strategies. Information available from EU countries in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea regions has been considered. Furthermore, selected Initial Assessments (IAs) documents from northern countries and environmental assessments in different Regional Sea Conventions have been also considered in the compilation to get a better overview of the process followed in different regions.

Brief conclusions on the outcome of the analysis are included in the Report, while the detailed analysis results and final conclusions are included in practice 103, identifying eventually converging/diverging strategies and highlighting their commonalities and/or differences across different EU countries in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea basins.

The compilation of information has been based on MSFD Descriptors/Descriptor groups for Good Environmental Status:


  1. Biological diversity is maintained. The quality and occurrence of habitats and the distribution and abundance of species are in line with prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions.
  2. Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems.
  3. Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.
  4. All elements of the marine food webs, to the extent that they are known, occur at normal abundance and diversity and levels capable of ensuring the long-term abundance of the species and the retention of their full reproductive capacity.
  5. Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.
  6. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine ecosystems. 
  7. Contamination
  8. Human-induced eutrophication is minimized, especially adverse effects thereof, such as losses in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algae blooms and oxygen deficiency in bottom waters.
  9. Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects.
  10. Contaminants in fish and other seafood for human consumption do not exceed levels established by Community legislation or other relevant standards. 
  11. Disturbances
  12. Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.
  13. Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment. 

Each available assessment is reviewed for its elements in relation to the MSFD descriptors. The aim of this compilation is to provide a database to be used in further steps, e.g. for identifying approaches used in the different countries, and also across different regions.


The review strategy includes 3 levels of information:  

1st level - Coverage of MSFD Descriptors

The basic approaches are grouped according to the MSFD descriptors/descriptor groups. This first level approach provides an overview about the existing material.  

For each of the three MSFD Descriptor groups the same questions are answered:

  • Has the Descriptor group (Biology/Contamination/Disturbance) been considered in the assessment strategy?
  • Have the 11 MSFD Descriptors been used for organization of the assessment?  

2nd level - Strategic approach for MSFD Descriptors and descriptor groups

Single Descriptors are analysed for the approach used in the different assessment strategies. The basic approaches for each descriptor are described very shortly, in few key words, in order to allow recognizing differences between the assessment strategies at this level.  

As a common basic guidance for the review of 2nd Level information, the following information has been addressed:

  • Data availability and sources
  • Assessment criteria and methodology sources 
  • Gaps and needs (they might be already included in the previous information) 

3rd level - Assessment strategy at Indicator level

The review at this level deals with the coverage of the Criteria and indicators described in the MSFD COM DEC 2010/477/EU. Detailed information on methodologies used for the IAs is provided at indicator level.

Main Outputs / Results

A report titled “Compilation of reviewed EU marine environmental status assessment”

An Excel file – it is set up in two different tables; the first one includes 1st and 2nd level information and the second one only 3rd level information. Tables are organized by countries (columns) and descriptors (rows).


The practice is fully applicable in other contexts, as it provides a framework and methodology for similar studies.

Contact Person

Dr. Evangelos Papathanassiou
Coordinator of PERSEUS


Costs / Funding Source

Funding Source: FP7-ENVIRONMENT, FP7-OCEAN-2011. Funding scheme: CP-IP-SICA - Large-scale integrating project for specific cooperation actions dedicated to international cooperation partner countries(SICA). Direct costs of this practice elaboration are unknown.


[1] Not publicly available.