Task groups
This report presents the findings of the task group addressing Descriptor 3 with the aim of establishing the criteria and methodological standards that Member States would need to assess the state of their marine and coastal waters and to achieve Good Environmental Status.
In-depth assessment
Review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU
The review of the Com. Dec. 2010/477/EU for Descriptor 8 has been performed by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
Regional Sea Conventions Objectives
OSPAR (PS) has one Ecological Quality Objective (EcoQO) related to Descriptor 3 . This is to maintain the spawning stock biomass (SSB) above precautionary reference points for commercial fish stocks where these are agreed by the competent authority for fisheries management. This EcoQO is strongly linked to the requirement of Descriptor 3 for stocks to remain within safe biological limits specifically in relation to reproductive capacity [OSPAR Fact sheet on EcoQO 'Fish stocks at biologically safe levels'].

HELCOM (PS) has The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) which urges the 'competent fisheries authorities to take all the necessary measures to ensure that, by 2021, populations of all commercially exploited fish species are within safe biological limits, reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), and are distributed through their natural range, and contain full size/age range' [ Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) ].

The text is close to the MSFD Descriptor 3 definition in that it requires all species to be within safe biological limits but it also states that fish populations should reach the MSY although it is not completely clear whether this refers to the exploitation rate (F) or biomass SSB. The text also states that all stocks should be distributed throughout their natural range and that they should contain full size/age range. The natural distribution range is relevant to Descriptor 1 while the size/age range relate to criterion 3.3 of the Commission Decision [2010/477/EU pdf]. 

In the context of the Mediterranean Sea, the Barcelona Convention is currently developing the Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) for the management of the marine environment. This framework is functionally equivalent to the MSFD's framework, and the process could be considered a sort or extension/integration of MSFD at the pan-Mediterranean scale, with the added value of the participation of third countries. However, instead of applying to all commercially exploited stocks it applies to selected stocks. The development of indicators related to exploited populations is expected to be carried out in collaboration with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).

Black Sea the Strategic Action Plan (SAP) under the Bucharest Convention has defined the following Long-term Ecosystem Quality Objectives (EcoQOs):

  • EcoQO 1- Preserve commercial marine living resources.
  • EcoQO 1a - Sustainable use of commercial fish stocks and other marine living resources.
  • EcoQO 1b - Restore/rehabilitate stocks of commercial marine living resources.

For each EcoQOs targets are listed, including outputs, time to implement, legal, institutional and policy reforms required, indicators of success, priorities and uncertainties. These may be consulted directly in the RSC website.