Task groups
This report presents the findings of the task group addressing Descriptor 4 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
List of key issues derived from the in-depth assessment for D1, 4 and 6, suggestions and potential actions to be dealt with.

Issues on implementation


Potential actions/actors

Low integration with WFD and BD, relatively higher with HD.

Better exploitation of methods, data and features derived from other legislations.


Low/Moderate integration between MSFD and RSC.

Active involvement of the RSC or the MS on regional level in the establishment of coherent and comparable with WFD and RSC' indicators, methods and thresholds.

Links between MSFD-WFD-RSC / MS & RSC

Reporting on biodiversity (from species to ecosystems) considering a minimum list of state characteristics common for neighbour MS.

Adaptation of methodologies, indicators, state characteristics on regional level.

RSC could supervise the adaptation / RSC & MS

Heterogeneity in definition of GES and targets both at European level and at RSC level.

Links between definition of GES and targets, through predefined methods.


HELCOM could be considered as a good practice of MSFD-RSC integration.

HELCOM approach to be adopted or to inspire other RSC, if applicable.


Gaps in biodiversity knowledge

Encourage bilateral and regional cooperation to set a more comprehensive background on biodiversity taking into account the environmental similarities.

Scientific and pilot project at regional and sub-regional level / MS and RSC and the Commission

Issues on methods


Potential actions/actors

High heterogeneity in the number and type of methodological approaches, thresholds and limits in MS reports.

Common agreed and comparable methodological standards on a regional or EU scale.

Starting for the frequently used methods / MS & RSC

Inconsistency on indicators reported per criterion.

Core set of biodiversity indicators to ensure the minimum level of coherence, without degrading the value of MSFD.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

High heterogeneity in the indicator definition: generic indicators (e.g. 1.2.1) to methodological-like description (e.g. 1.6.3).

Improve the interpretation of indicators by linking them with specific methods on a pan-European or regional level, if possible.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Definition of GES and targets are based on state or impact indicators. Lack of pressure-based indicators for biodiversity.

Define pressure indicators for biodiversity based on MS initial assessment.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Issues on reporting


Potential actions/actors

Differences between paper reports and electronic sheets; missing or not adequately reported information; similar information is reported under different fields; Different level of detail in the reported information.

Electronic reports should reflect paper reports to facilitate the assessment of Art 8, 9 and 10 implementation and not to be presented as a second report that completes or covers the first one. The required information in the electronic reports could be significantly reduced and the process could be automated by using drop-down boxes with specific option.

Updated guidance on reporting with reduced and more specific fields/ ENV

Inconsistency in reports regarding Article 8, 9 & 10 implementation, the use of pressures and impacts in them and their link with criteria and indicators.

Clear links between pressures and impacts (Annex III, Table 2 of MSFD) and criteria and indicators (COM DEC 2010/477/EU) and thereafter between Art. 8, 9 and 10, taking into account the connection with Table 1 in Annex III of MSFD.

JRC led network of experts / COM Decision revision

Improving the efficiency and homogeneity of reporting sheets; improve data access and data management for the MS evaluation of MSFD implementation (Art. 12).

Coherence in reporting to allow for accurate and meaningful IDA.

Improve electronic forms, data & metadata availability / MS & ENV

Review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU
Currently there are several groups analysing the shortcomings and proposing ways forward (i.e. needs for further concrete guidance and proposals for amending the Decision 2010/477/EU) based on scientific knowledge and experience in the implementation process. The different Regional Sea Conventions are actively involved in the process.
In August 2014, ICES facilitated an open Workshop to review the 2010 Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters - Descriptor 4 Food webs. The main findings and recommendations are now available:
In February 2015, the second Workshop facilitated by ICES to review the 2010 Commission Decision (2010/477/EC) on criteria and methodological standards on GES of marine waters for Descriptor 4 - FOOD WEBS met in Copenhagen to provide further input to the review and respond to comments from the Member States, scientists and other stakeholders on the previous version of the D4 Manual: