The Marine Directors of the European Union and all EU Member States have jointly developed a Common Implementation Strategy for supporting the implementation of the MSFD, 2008/56/EC, amended by Commission Directive (EU) 2017/845 of 17 May 2017.

The Joint Research Centre provides support to the MSFD processes and activities to improve the implementation of the Directive, including the development of thematic technical reports, such as guidance documents, technical background reports and analyses related to EU Member States reporting.

Thresholds for MSFD Criteria: state of play and next steps (2022)
The MSFD requires that Good Environmental Status (GES) should be achieved in EU marine waters as described by eleven environmental Descriptors, each of them assessed by several GES Criteria. At the core of the GES assessment lies the need for threshold values (TVs) which enable a quantitative assessment of environmental status for the indicators and elements used for each GES Criterion. In this JRC report, we review the availability of agreed threshold-setting approaches/methods and TVs for all Criteria of the eleven MSFD Descriptors. We showcase the progress made with regards to the establishment of thresholds, discuss the relevant ongoing developments, and highlight the remaining gaps in both threshold-setting methods and TVs. We also suggest ways forward to improve the availability of thresholds for the MSFD Criteria.
Review and analysis of EU Member States' 2018 reports (2021)

Following the initial assessments, performed in 2012, EU Member States have reported from 2018-2020 under Article 17 of the MSFD for updating Articles 8 (Assessment), 9 (Good Environmental Status) and 10 (Targets) of the Directive, for the last 6-year reporting cycle (2012-2018). The JRC has reviewed, from a technical, scientific perspective, the EU MS reports in order to evaluate the consistency and comparability among MS and marine regions, highlight gaps and limitations in current assessments, identify items that need further work and provide recommendations for improvement in the next MSFD reporting cycle.

11 reports summarise the outcome from that review process:

Review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU (2016)

The scientific and technical review of the Commission Decision 2010/477/EU and MSFD Annex III, launched by the Commission and Member States in 2014 following a mandate of the MSFD Committee, aimed at improving MSFD implementation and achieving greater consistency and coherence in determining and assessing GES. The discussions to support the review process were captured in descriptor-specific 'review manuals' published by JRC and ICES in 2015, which also identified a number of technical issues that required further work.

The review process resulted in a revised GES Decision (EU 2017/848) and MSFD Annex III, which makes provision for specific threshold values and methodological standards to be agreed at Union level, whilst others are to be developed through regional or subregional cooperation.

JRC In-Depth Assessment of the EU Member States' Submissions for the MSFD Initial Assessments under Articles 8, 9 and 10 (2013)

In 2012, for the first time, Member States reported on the state of the environment in their marine waters (Art. 8), on the determination of "Good Environmental Status" (Art. 9) and on the targets set to reach GES by 2020 (Art. 10). Complementing MSFD Article 12 notifications and Commission's assessment, an in-depth assessment of the Member States initial reports (MSFD Art. 8, 9 and 10) was undertaken by the Joint Research Centre in order to:

  • evaluate the comparability and coherence of assessment methods with those conducted in the frame of other European and international legislations;
  • provide recommendations for improved implementation of the MSFD in the second cycle (2018);
  • support a possible revision of the Commission Decision on Criteria and Methodological Standards (2010/477/EU).
Preparation for Commission Decision 2010/477/EU by Task Groups (2010)

In the preparatory phase of the MSFD implementation process, Task Groups of independent scientific experts were established for each of the 11 MSFD Descriptor, 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. These Task Groups carried out their analyses and drafted their Reports during 2009 and 2010 in preparation for the Commission Decision on criteria and methodological standards on Good Environmental Status of marine waters (2010/477/EU). The reports provide guidance on the interpretation and application of each descriptor, addressing the key attributes and indicators, spatial and temporal scales, and methodological standards for its assessment.

The report prepared by the Management group (Task Group chairs, and representatives of the JRC and the ICES) provides information on a number of issues that are common to all the Descriptors.

Harmonised monitoring methods for MSFD Descriptors 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10
The JRC is working toward the identification of best methodological approaches to monitoring for MSFD Descriptors, with a view to proposing harmonised methods for monitoring, including spatial and temporal sampling strategies, and improving the consistency of monitoring data across Member States and Marine Regions.