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Legislation Series: Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Marine Strategy Framework is an important directive aiming to address the deterring situation of the Mediterranean Sea by protecting its rich marine. In recent years, faced with the increasing pressure of the inevitable changes posed on the Mediterranean region by the rapid economic developments, the European Commission came up with a proposal adopted by the Council called the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

The current Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EG[1] (“MSFD”) was first adopted on 17 June 2008. Together with the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EG(“WFD”)[2] for the marine environment of Europe were meant to be the EU's "response" towards this growing issue.

The Environmental Action Program[3] was instrumental in the formulation of the ideas that were to drive the legal proposal of MSFD forward. Concretely through the development of a protection strategy for the marine environment and the corresponding ecosystems, both within the Mediterranean basin as well as on the Atlantic. Countries land-locked like Austria, Czech Republic, or Hungary, since they lack a gateway to the Mediterranean, do not directly fall within the countries following the regime of MSFD, and are not required to take specific measures when there are no significant risks to the marine environment (or in their case it is nonexistent). nonetheless, they must follow through with its proposed all reaching goals for healthier water sources. The countries who follow the regime of MSFD however must develop marine strategies to achieve what the directive defines as "good environmental status. These strategies should culminate in the execution of programmes of measures designed to achieve or maintain good environmental status.

Geographically speaking, the implementation of this directive goes beyond the Mediterranean, and that is because marine waters under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the EU Member States include waters in the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the North-east Atlantic Ocean, including the waters surrounding the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. Hence the diverse conditions, problems, and needs of these various marine regions or subregions making up the marine environment in the Community require different and specific targeted solutions. In this sense, the directive has been instrumental in taking into account at all stages of the preparation of marine strategies, but especially during the preparation, planning, and execution of measures to achieve good environmental status in the Community’s marine environment at the level of marine regions or subregions.

So far the data as a result of the implementation of the Directive indicates that the Monk seal populations, endangered have now stabilized, however roughly 40% of sharks, rays, and skates populations are declining. Also, 85% of turtles asserted were found to have ingested litter, while over 87% of fish and shellfish populations are overfished. Despite the Commission report on the first implementation cycle of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive of June 2020, indicating that the MSFD is a comprehensive EU framework, covering a vast alley of environmental matters and concerns, still, more needs to be done to encourage new avenues of solutions for issues such as overfishing, plastic litter, underwater noise, and excess nutrients.

[1] Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive). [2] Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy (Water Framework Directive); the WFD was adopted on 23 October 2000, to make the (until then prevailing fragmented and often contradictory) regulations concerning the protection of the resource water more suitable for the application. It aims to provide a legal framework for the European Member States and forms the foundation of the European water policy.

[3] Decision No 1600/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme (6th Environmental Action Program).

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