The Marine Directive, which came into force in 2008, requires Member States to implement measures to achieve the goal of having all EU seas in ‘good environmental status’ by 2020.

However, the report, which was prepared based on the Commission's assessment of Member States' measures in place and planned, concluded that ‘achieving good environmental status by 2020 across all European marine regions remains unlikely’.

This is due to several weaknesses in the programmes of measures (PoMs), and gaps in coordination between countries, explains Seas at Risk, an organization of environmental NGOs.

Over the last years, Member States have put a lot of effort to ensure that the seas’ resources are used and managed sustainably, relying a lot on regional cooperation. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the measures taken so far are not yet sufficient to achieve good, healthy and productive seas by 2020. I therefore urge Member States to take heed of the recommendations made by the Commission to move a step closer to achieving this goal,

...said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

While the Commission commends Member States for their endeavours, it points to shortcomings in their approach to tackling pollution and the loss of marine biodiversity, such as fragmented efforts to address transboundary problems.

Only one-quarter of the measures put forward by Member States are new, while others are actions that were already due to be undertaken by Member States, many of which are not yet actioned. Less than half of Member States believe that their measures will lead to clean and healthy seas by 2020, setting themselves up for failure before even trying.

...For certain pressures of transboundary nature, the lack of regional or EU coordination potentially leads to a fragmented and ineffective approach to tackling the pressure. In the case of plastic marine litter, the problem is now being addressed through action at EU level, notably through the European strategy for plastics in a circular economy and its subsequent actions,

...the report reads.

Recommendations

For tackling pressures, the report advised that Member States should:

  • cover pressures and associated human activities better, including: the introduction of non-indigenous species from shipping because of bio-fouling, recreational fishing, nutrient enrichment from atmospheric sources, cumulative impacts from individual projects on hydrographical conditions, contaminant inputs from atmospheric sources, the introduction of macro- and micro-litter into the marine environment from coastal and offshore activities, and the generation of underwater noise (as well as heat and energy if feasible) in the marine environment from various sources;
  • ensure that prevalent pressures in the same marine region or subregion are covered by all Member States in the region;
  • implement measures that regulate or guide those activities that impact on the marine environment, in addition to more horizontal measures that improve governance, coordination and promote awareness-raising;
  • report data collection and monitoring efforts under their monitoring programmes for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Article 11) and not under the programme of measures (Article 13). However, when knowledge is too scarce to design effective measures, it is useful to indicate actions taken via research initiatives to address these gaps;
  • improve the links between the groups of measures reported for pressure descriptors and their potential benefits for the state descriptors, to enable a comprehensive overview of the impacts;
  • define the spatial scope of measures in detail;
  • expand the spatial scope of measures to cover marine waters beyond coastal waters, where relevant pressures are present.

In April 2018, a joint position paper by several environmental NGOs made it clear that political will from EU governments is crucial for healthy seas, which require three key steps:

  • Eliminate pollution input to the sea.
  • Stop overfishing.
  • Prevent the destruction of marine biodiversity by human activities.

Find the report herebelow: