The marine environment is subject to multiple pressures and impacts from human activities at sea and on land.
These activities have resulted in pollution, seabed damage, overexploitation, biodiversity loss, spread of non-indigenous species, marine litter, underwater noise, ocean warming and acidification.
The EU adopted the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) in 2008 in order to tackle these intertwining challenges.
Thus, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU marine waters and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. It is the first EU legislative instrument related to the protection of marine biodiversity, as it contains the explicit regulatory objective that “biodiversity is maintained by 2020”, as the cornerstone for achieving GES.
The Directive enshrines the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities having an impact on the marine environment, integrating the concepts of environmental protection and sustainable use.
In order to achieve its goal, the Directive establishes European marine regions and sub-regions on the basis of geographical and environmental criteria. The Directive lists four European marine regions – the Baltic Sea, the North-East Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea – located within the geographical boundaries of the existing Regional Sea Conventions. The main locations of the project, the Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast, is one of the four subregions in the NE Atlantic Ocean Region. Cooperation among these regions and subregions is required by the MSFD in order to carry out the assessments and to obtain GES.
Moreover, each Member State is required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (or Marine Strategy). Additionally, as the Directive follows an adaptive management approach, the Marine Strategies must be kept up-to-date and reviewed every 6 years. To help EU countries achieve a good environmental status (GES), the directive sets out 11 illustrative qualitative descriptors and this project will be focused in D1. Biological diversity, criteria D1C1 (by-catch) in particular.
The European Commission has launched on 2021 a review of the Directive, an obligation set by Article 23 of the MSFD.