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Marine Strategy Framework Directive

A strategic framework for the marine environment in European waters 

Europe’s seas and oceans are a key resource for sustainable socio-economic growth. The European Union (EU) has the largest marine territory in the world and the resources which the marine environment provides underpin the economic prosperity and social well being of many Member States.
As a source of food and water it provides sustenance to populations whilst as a medium has over the centuries served to link commercial centres through maritime transport. New demands and technological innovation has increased the diversity of maritime activities particularly in the energy sector and aquaculture. The continued growth in these socio-economic activities is dependent on the health of the marine environment.
It is in this context that Europe wide Integrated Maritime Policy has been developed. A corner stone of this policy is Directive 2008/56/EC on establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy or better known as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD).r better known as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MFSD). 
What does the Marine Strategy Framework Directive call for?
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive came into force in June 2008. The MFSD sets out a legislative framework seeking the achievement of Good Environmental Status (GES) in Europe’s marine waters by 2020. The framework presented to manage human activities is based on the application of the ‘ecosystem-based approach’ to enable sustainable use of marine resources.
In order to achieve GES and in recognition of the transboundary nature of marine ecosystems the MSFD established four European Marine Regions which are further subdivided into sub-regions based on geographical and environmental criteria. Each Member State is required to develop a marine strategy for their territorial waters in cooperation with other member states sharing the same region or sub-region. Malta is located with the Ionian Sea and the Central Mediterranean sub-region.
Marine strategies are being implemented to protect and conserve the marine environment, prevent its deterioration, and, where practicable, restore marine ecosystems in areas where they have been adversely affected.
Achieving GES requires Member States to develop a Marine Strategy for the marine waters under their jurisdiction through the following steps
  • Preparation of an initial assessment of the environmental status of marine waters;
  • Determination of good environmental status, environmental targets and associated indicators;
  • Implementation of a monitoring programme for ongoing assessment of GES and targets; and
  • Development of a programme of measures designed to achieve GES.
Developing a marine strategy for Malta
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive was transposed into Maltese legislation through the publication of the Marine Policy Framework Regulations 2011, Legal Notice 73 of 2011 . In view of the different maritime users within Malta’s marine waters and the need for co-ordination to develop the national marine strategy, the Office of the Prime Minister assumes the duty of the Competent Authority which co-ordinates the strategic approach and policy direction for the implementation of the Directive. In accordance with these Regulations other bodies may be designated as the competent authority for different provisions and purposes.
The Office of the Prime Minister has delegated the implementation of the MSFD to MEPA .
Currently Malta has undertaken the initial assessment of environmental status of Maltese waters and an exercise in determining what GES is in our territorial waters. Further work is ongoing on developing the monitoring programme and programme of measures to achieve GES. This is being undertaken by actions led by MEPA and coordinated through an inter-ministerial working group.
To help Member States in the development of their strategies the European Commission has provided a detailed set of criteria and methodological standards to use for the purposes of determining GES at a national level. 
The implementation of the MSFD will also complement work undertaken in line with other European Directives such as the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the Water Framework Directive.
Further information
United Nations Environment Programme Regional Seas Convention 
At the European level click here 
At the Mediterranean level:
The Programme for the Assessment and Control of Pollution in the Mediterranean region (MEDPOL) Publications:
Other publications of interest: