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Guide to implementing the ecosystem approach through the MSFD


The PISCES guide was developed by multi-ntaional, multi-stakeholder collaboration and explores what is needed to implement the ecosystem approach in the context of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Guide provides recommendations to stakeholders and government on all steps of MSFD implementation and principles for applying the ecosystem approach.

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

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the ecosystem based approach to marine management?
  • What principles should be taken into consideration in the implementation of MSFD?
  • How can stakeholder engagement be used most effectively in decision making?

Implementation Context

The PISCES project (Partnerships Involving Stakeholders in the Celtic Sea Ecosystem) brought together a multi-sector, multi-national group of stakeholders from the Celtic Sea area to explore what is needed to implement the ecosystem approach in the context of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. This resulted in the development of the PISCES guide to implementing the MSFD through an ecosystem approach. The Guide sets out the views of stakeholders and their aspirations for the development and implementation of marine policy. The Guide is aimed at other stakeholders (sea users) and government decision makers and considers, in practical terms, each stage of MSFD implementation.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Understanding the ecosystem approach to marine management
  • Understanding marine governance
  • Providing practical support for MSFD implementation


The PISCES Guide was developed using a range of stakeholder engagement techniques alongside more conventional desktop study and literature reviews. Workshops were held across the Celtic Sea Region, focusing on what the ecosystem approach means, benefits and challenges to using the ecosystem approach, drafting and refining principles, identifying actions, sharing best practice in marine management and information about voluntary initiatives to improve sustainable management of the Celtic Sea. This was complemented by interview and survey data and the inputs of a project expert advisory group.

Main Outputs / Results

The PISCES Guide contains four main elements – first, it distils the views of participating stakeholders into a set of “key messages” on the ecosystem approach and the involvement of stakeholders in implementing MSFD. Secondly, it provides a stakeholder interpretation of ecosystem approach principles (the eleven “PISCES Principles”), which are closely interlinked with a step-by-step guide to implementing the ecosystem approach in the context of the MSFD. Finally, the Guide sets out a series of recommendations to both stakeholders and government on the actions they should take at each stage of the MSFD cycle.


The PISCES Guide has been written in such a way that it is relevant for the implementation of other marine policies (besides MSFD), other locations and other stakeholder engagement processes. Therefore the Principles are highly transferable to other locations and marine management processes.

Responsible Entity

WWF with the Environment Council (UK), Seaweb (FR) University College Cork (IE)

Costs / Funding Source

€2.1 million / EC LIFE+

Contact person

Dr Lyndsey Dodds

Project manager