A marine strategy for the European seas

The marine environment is a precious heritage that must be protected, conserved and wherever possible, restored. The ultimate goal is the maintenance of the biodiversity and a clean, productive sea with a rich biodiversity and dynamics; in other words, a sustainable marine environment for future generations. To achieve this, the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC) better known as MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) was adopted in 2008. This framework directive creates a European policy framework aimed towards a high level of protection to the marine environment. Previously there were only measures within a sectoral approach. This led to a fragmented array of policies, legislations etc., at the national, regional, European and international levels. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is the environmental pillar of the European Maritime Policy, the policy of the activities at sea.

Towards a good environmental status by 2020

Just like all the members of the European Union bordering the sea, Belgium has to develop a marine strategy to achieve the "good environmental status" by 2020. This strategy formulates how the good environmental status is achieved by means of eleven elements (the "descriptive elements"):
- the biological diversity
- invasive species
- commercially exploited species (fish, crustaceans and shellfish)
- the food chain
- the enrichment by nutrients (fertilisers)
- the integrity of the seabed
- the hydrography (currents, salinity, temperature etc., of the seawater)
- the pollution
- the food safety
- marine litter
- the underwater noise (one of the energy sources)


The Marine Strategy Framework Directive was transposed by Belgium into a Royal Decree of June 23, 2010. To meet the 2020 target, the time frame imposed by Europe has to be closely monitored:
• 2012:  
     o an initial assessment of the Belgian part of the North Sea,
     o a description of our good environmental status and the environmental objectives associated with it that must be achieved by 2020,
     o and finally, a socio-economic analysis of the activities at sea.
• 2014: preparation of a monitoring program
• 2016: implementation of the program of measures
• 2018: the first six-yearly review of the previous evaluation in terms of the results achieved
To achieve a successful implementation, the Marine Environmental Service coordinates the different steps in the implementation of this framework directive; the cooperation between the federal authorities and the regions takes place in the CCIM Steering Committee of North Sea and Oceans and the cooperation with neighbouring countries is coordinated in the OSPAR Convention.

More information

You can find information about the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in the Belgian part of the North Sea in the brochure "A Marine Strategy for the North Sea".
More information about the Framework Directive can be found at the website of the European Commission.