Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires Member States (MSs) to prepare national strategies to manage their seas to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.


The Directive sets out 11 high level descriptors against which GES will be measured; it is the responsibility of MSs to identify ways of measuring each descriptor and determining a baseline, targets and indicators for each descriptor.


The Directive came into force on 15 July 2008. Key requirements of the Directive are:

Rather like the Water Framework Directive, the MSFD assessment process is intended to be cyclical and it is likely that if GES cannot be met in a given location, measures will be put in place to achieve GES within the next ‘round’.


The MSFD does not seek to replicate existing legislation rather to build upon it and fill in any gaps that may exist. It will not, for example, seek to replicate the efforts of WFD or the CFP or indeed to undermine any regulations put in place by IMO.


Areas of potential interest for recreational boating are underwater noise, marine litter, non-indigenous species, human-induced eutrophication, concentrations of contaminants and possibly biodiversity (as it is linked to all 10 other descriptors). You can read the MSFD at this link and the descriptors are provided in Annex I of this document:


To date the Directive does not apply to Norway or Iceland.