Task groups
In 2010, a task group of experts (TG6) coordinated by JRC and ICES laid down a framework of criteria and methodological standards to assess seafloor integrity under MSFD using a Descriptor based on eight components (Substrate, Bioengineers state, Oxygen Concentration, Contaminants and Hazardous Substances, Species Composition, Size Composition, Trophodynamics and Life History Traits).
In-depth assessment
In the first cycle of the MSFD implementation, Member States demonstrated very different perspectives, approaches and level of detail while defining GES and selecting criteria and indicators for Descriptor 6. Four Member States (FR, IT, LT, SI) have included an indicator on the percentage of area occupied by biogenic substrate acted upon by human pressures (Indicator 6.1.2). However, only one (IT) has associated this indicator with a quantitative threshold value for GES. Three Member States (LT, LV, SE) have included a quantitative indicator, the Benthic Quality Index, to measure Indicator 6.2.2. The need for a common understanding of methodological standards that permit achieving a coherent evaluation of environmental in each region/sub-region was a major highlight of the report. These and other conclusions are presented in the EU report concerning the in-depth assessment for Art. 8, 9 and 10.

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
The Directorate-General for the Environment (DG Environment) has started a review process of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU which is being endorsed by the Member States through the MSFD implementation groups. The goal of this process is to develop guidance on commonly-agreed approaches and parameters permitting that each of the Descriptors is assessed in an effective, coherent and comparable way. 

Based on its scientific expertise and experience with EU marine environment policy, the MCC is actively participating in the on-going discussions and administrative processes. In September 2014 a workshop brought together international experts in seafloor integrity to analyse the shortcomings of the current Decision and propose concrete guidance for amending it. 

Three successive reports led by ICES and JRC, concerning the Descriptor 6 review needs are available:
Subsequent progress of the revision of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU is detailed in the minutes and some preparatory documents to the following meetings:
Attention is naturally drawn to the minutes of the latest meetings and associated documents.