Maritime Strategy Framework Directive: Summary
The marine environment is a precious heritage that must be protected, preserved and, where feasible, restored in order to maintain biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and to ensure clean, healthy and productive seas. The marine ecosystem is threatened by various pressures, notably pollution, eutrophication, overfishing, introduction of exotic species, climate change and other human related activities.
For this reason, in the July 2008, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) (MSFD) entered into force. The Directive establishes a legal framework for the protection and management of European seas and ensures their long-term sustainable use. The main objective of the Directive is to achieve and/or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.
To this end, EU member states are obliged to develop a strategy for their marine waters by implementing appropriate measures and monitoring programs to protect, conserve and monitor the marine environment, preventing degradation or, if possible, restoring marine ecosystems in areas where it has been adversely affected.
To protect and conserve the marine environment and ecosystem functioning, Member States should also establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), within the framework of the program of measures of MSFD, in order to achieve and maintain GES. This is also in line with the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and other Regional and International Conventions.
Additionally, in September 2010, the EU adopted the Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters (2010/477 / EU). This Commission Decision establishes a set of criteria and indicators for each of the 11 Descriptors of Annex I of the MSFD which assesses the extent to which they achieve Good Environmental Status in marine waters.
The 11 Descriptors of MSFD
To ensure that human pressures and impacts are maintained at levels which do not deteriorate the marine environment and are in line with the achievement of GES, while enabling the sustainable use of marine goods and services by present and future generations as mentioned above, the Commission has established specific methodological standards, criteria and indicators for each of the 11 Descriptors of GES. This also ensures consistency among the Member States in fulfilling their obligations under the MSFD. The 11 Descriptors which are provided for by Annex I of the MSFD for the determination of GES are as follows:
Biological diversity is maintained. The quality and occurrence of habitats and the distribution and abundance of species are in line with prevailing physiographic, geographic and climatic conditions.
2. Non-indigenous species
3. Commercially exploited fish and shellfish
The non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystem.
4. Food webs
Populations of all commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within safe biological limits, exhibiting a population age and size distribution that is indicative of a healthy stock.
All elements of the marine food webs, to the extent that they are known, are in a normal abundance and diversity and levels capable of ensuring the long-term abundance of the species and the retention of their full reproductive capacity.
6. Sea-floor integrity
Human-induced eutrophication is minimised, especially the adversely effects of it, such as loss in biodiversity, ecosystem degradation, harmful algae blooms and oxygen deficiency in bottom waters.
7. Hydrographic Conditions
Sea-floor integrity is at a level that ensures that the structure and functions of the ecosystems are safeguarded and benthic ecosystems, in particular, are not adversely affected.
Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect marine ecosystems.
9. Contaminants in Fish
Concentrations of contaminants are at levels not giving rise to pollution effects.
10. Marine Litter
Contaminants in fish and other seafood for human consumption do not exceed levels established by Community legislation or other relevant standards.
11. Energy, including underwater noise
Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment.
Introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment.
The implementation of the MSFD in Cyprus
The Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (DFMR) which is the Competent Authority for the implementation of the MSFD in Cyprus participated in activities for the implementation of the MSFD at European level, including meetings of the Marine Directors, the Marine Strategy Coordination Group, the Working Group on the Exchange of Data, Information and Knowledge (WG DIKE) and the Working Group on Good Environmental Status (WG GES).
Additionally, for the achievement of good environmental status, the DFMR has prepared, with the support of consultant services (through public tender process), the reports required by Articles 8, 9 & 10 of the MSFD as follows:
1. The Initial Assessment of the Marine Environment of Cyprus in accordance with the basic features and characteristics, taking into account anthropogenic pressures and impacts.
The Initial Assessment of the Marine Environment includes the following:
· Analysis of the current environmental status of marine waters based on the physical, chemical and biological functions,
· Analysis of the predominant pressures and impacts of the marine environment,
· Economic and social analysis of sea water usage and the cost of degradation of the marine environment.
2. The Determination of Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Marine Environment of Cyprus, based on the characteristics set out in Annex I of the MSFD and in Decision (2010/477/EU) concerning the criteria and methodological standards for GES.
In this context, the initial assessment describes and evaluates the status of marine waters of Cyprus based on the data and information in accordance to the Table 1 of Annex III of the MSFD. This includes information on the predominant habitat type, the ecological importance of the species found in Cyprus marine waters and the physicochemical characteristics of the waters and the seabed.
The marine environment is influenced by various pressures and impacts which are analyzed in accordance to Table 2 of Annex III of the Directive. These pressures and impacts are associated with human activities and thereof associated with physical loss, marine pollution and interaction with hydrological processes.
The initial assessment of the marine environment also covers the economic and social prospects of the maritime sectors, while maintaining the relationship between economic sectors and the pressures and impacts as listed in Table 2 of Annex III of the MSFD.
Good Environmental Status is defined as: "the environmental status of marine waters where these waters provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive within their intrinsic conditions, and the use of the marine environment is level that is sustainable, thus safeguarding the potential for uses and activities by current and future generations"
3. Establishing Environmental Targets and Associated Indicators in order to achieve GES.
We should note that after the European Commission evaluation of the Initial Assessment report, the determination of GES report and related targets and associated indicators report, based on Article 12 of the MSFD, the DFMR has,
i. Revised the above reports, which are summarized in the new report «Revision of Reports prepared in 2012 for the implementation of Articles 8,9 and 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56 / EC)».
ii. Establish a monitoring program (Report on the Monitoring Programmes of Cyprus in the Framework of the Implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56 / EC) for the ongoing assessment of the environmental situation and environmental objectives.
GES is determined at the level of the marine region or subregion according to Article 4, based on qualitative descriptors in Annex I. To achieve the objective of GES, there is a need to apply an ecosystem approach to management of human activities.
Finally, a proposed draft program of measures is currently being developed with the assistance of consultation services (through public tender process), and other Governmental Departments. It is anticipated that the program of measures will be available for public consultation in early September 2015.