UK Marine Strategy

What is the UK Marine Strategy?

The UK Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 implement the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The MSFD directs member states to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of their waters by 2020. The MSFD is the strongest tool for implementing ecosystem based management of our marine environment.

GES is defined in the MSFD as: “The environmental status of marine waters where these provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive” (Article 3).

To assist member states in interpreting what GES will look like, 11 descriptors were devised, illustrating their condition once GES has been achieved:

  • Descriptor 1: Biodiversity is maintained
  • Descriptor 2: Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem
  • Descriptor 3: The population of commercial fish species is healthy
  • Descriptor 4: Elements of food webs ensure long-term abundance and reproduction
  • Descriptor 5: Eutrophication is minimised
  • Descriptor 6: The sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem
  • Descriptor 7: Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect the ecosystem
  • Descriptor 8: Concentrations of contaminants give no effects
  • Descriptor 9: Contaminants in seafood are below safe levels
  • Descriptor 10: Marine litter does not cause harm
  • Descriptor 11: Introduction of energy (including underwater noise) does not adversely affect the ecosystem

To achieve GES of UK waters by 2020 a marine strategy was developed and adopted by UK Governments. The UK marine strategy is revised and updated every 6 years.

What stage is the UK currently at?

In May 2019 an assessment of progress towards GES was published by UK Governments, the assessment showed that of the 15 indicators for determining GES of UK waters, only 4 have been met: eutrophication, contaminants, contaminants in seafood, and changes in hydrographical conditions. 5 have been partially met: cetaceans, seals, pelagic habitats, food webs, and noise pollution. 6 have not been met: birds, fish, litter, benthic habitats, non-indigenous species, commercial fish and shellfish.

As part of this assessment, a six-week consultation has also been launched. The consultation sets out proposals for updating the UK Marine Strategy Part 1, published in 2012. The consultation document also sets out revised targets and indicators that will be used over the next 6 years to progress towards achieving GES.