Identified gaps on MSFD assessment elements


The first part of the study presents for each of the eleven MSFD descriptors the methodologies used in the Initial Assessments (IAs) and Good Environmental Status (GES) draft reports of the European Mediterranean and Black Sea countries, for which reports have been submitted. The second part aims to assess an indicative gap score for each descriptor, by considering the main kinds of gaps highlighted by the countries in their IAs and GES reports.

Application in MSP: 
Taken into account in an MSP process
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • Which are the steps for implementation of MSFD?
  • Where the criteria and the indicators, as well as the generic methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters are specified?
  • Which elements should be taken into account for analysis of MSFD descriptors?

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.

The implementation of the MSFD is composed by five successive steps, which follow a six-year iterative process:

  1. Initial Assessment of the state of the marine waters - 2012
  2. Characterization of the Good Environmental Status - 2012
  3. Definition of Environmental Targets - 2012
  4. Implementation of a Monitoring Program - 2014
  5. Program of Measures – 2015 (elaboration) and 2016 (implementation)

The MSFD is organized under 11 descriptors, defined in Annex I of the MSDF:

Descriptor 1: Biological diversity
Descriptor 2: Non-indigenous species
Descriptor 3: Population of commercial fish/shell fish 
Descriptor 4: Elements of marine food webs
Descriptor 5: Eutrophication
Descriptor 6: Sea floor integrity
Descriptor 7: Alteration of hydrographical conditions
Descriptor 8: Contaminants
Descriptor 9: Contaminants in fish and seafood for human consumption
Descriptor 10: Marine litter
Descriptor 11: Introduction of energy, including underwater noise

Criteria and indicators, as well as generic methodological standards have been specified by the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU from 1st September 2010[1]. For the three first steps to be produced for 2012 (Initial Assessment, characterization of the Good Environmental Status, and definition of Environmental Target), the Member States have used existing assessment elements or have developed or adopted other ones that fit the specific requirements of the directive. Methodological procedures have been outlined in the framework of the MSFD task groups (JRC 2010), in the framework of the Regional Sea Conventions or of international commissions.

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.


In the analysis, the information collected in the framework of task 5.1 for the European and Mediterranean countries (France, Spain, Greece, Romania and Cyprus) is considered. This information has been extracted from the draft national reports on MSFD Articles 8, 9 and 10, produced in 2012 for the first step of the MSFD implementation (Initial Assessments and GES definition reports).

The analysis is organized per descriptor. For each of the eleven descriptors, the following elements are included:

  • List of the criteria and indicators specified by the Commission decision 2010/477/EU of the 1st September 2010.
  • Analysis produced in the framework of PERSEUS by JRC-IES and presented by the keynote speakers during the regional sessions of the PERSEUS Umbrella Workshop, which was held on 22 January 2013 in Barcelona: for each descriptor, the information available in the D5.1 was synthesized in one slide and organized in three blocks: main methodologies used by member countries, main gaps and criteria level gaps found in the review of the Initial Assessments. Each block includes specific information by countries: Spain (Sp), France (Fr), Greece (Gr), Cyprus (Cy) and Romania (Ro). Methodological elements and gaps reported by the countries are highlighted in green and red squares, respectively, allowing visual identification of the most common characteristics shared by the considered countries. Main findings are also represented in pie charts, including the percentage of countries sharing a specific issue.
  • General analysis of the descriptor scope, of the methodologies and of the data availability. 
  • Developing further analysis by indicating the information available for each country at criteria and indicator level. 
  • Synthesis of the main issues highlighted in the analysis of the descriptor. An overall analysis is provided as well, underlining the main findings of the review among the 11 descriptors.


Main Outputs / Results

A report titled “Identified gaps on MSFD assessment elements. Deliverable Nr. 5.2”. Download it



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

Contact Person

Dr. Evangelos Papathanassiou

Coordinator of PERSEUS


Responsible Entity

Institut Français de Recherche Pour L'exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER)


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] 2010/477/EU: Commission Decision of 1 September 2010 on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters (notified under document C(2010) 5956) Text with EEA relevance, OJ L 232, 2.9.2010, p. 14–24.