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The European Commission's Environment DG recently released a paper stressing the links between the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Habitats and Birds Directives (HBD).

O 01/02/2013

UE drapeau - UE

The aim of this paper is to identify and clarify interactions, synergies, differences and potential areas for greater coordination between these directives, which are all concerned with aspects of biodiversity conservation in the marine environment.

Amongst the main distinctions between these directives, the ultimate objectives to be achieved, whilst complementary are defined differently: 

  • Adopted in 2008, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) sets an ambitious target for Member States to take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain Good Environmental Status (GES) in the marine environment by the year 2020 at the latest. 
  • "Good environmental status' means the environmental status of marine waters where these provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive within their intrinsic conditions, and the use of the marine environment is at a level that is sustainable, thus safeguarding the potential for uses and activities by current and future generations"iA major measure to help achieving the targets of the HBD is to designate and protect sites for the species and habitat types covered by the HD. Together, these sites make up the Natura 2000 network.

The two concepts of good environmental status (GES) and favourable conservation status (FCS) are not necessarily equivalent but can be mutually supportive: 

  • Good Environmental Status (GES) is broad in scope dealing with large marine areas, incorporates sustainable use, and is concerned with biological diversity, water quality, ecosystem structure and function, and impacts on these elements. GES is to be determined at the level of a marine region or sub-region, on the basis of 11 qualitative descriptors (set out in Annex 1 of the Directive). Adaptive management on the basis of the ecosystem approach shall be applied with the aim of achieving or maintaining GES.
  • Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) is about the status of particular species and habitat types under the Habitats Directive. Even though Natura 2000 sites are important to achieving FCS, Conservation status is an assessment across the entire natural range of the species or habitat type within each biogeographical or marine region. It is not confined to measuring the condition of the species/habitat types within Natura 2000 sites.

In this sense, the assessments of FCS and GES at the level of individual species and habitat types are broadly similar, as they are assessed at similarly large scales using comparable criteria.

Even though the types of measures to be used to achieve the objectives of the Directives are different, the measures implemented under the HBD can and shall make an important contribution to achieving the wider objectives of the MSFD through their specific mechanisms. Similarly the MSFD can help to ensure that Natura 2000 sites are not compromised because of degradation outside of the protected sites. The MSFD incorporates the conservation ethos of HBD and as a framework directive the detail of measures is left to the marine strategies.

The document issued by the European Commission's Environment DG addresses some Frequently Asked Questions about links between the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the Nature Directives. It will give you a comprehensive overview of interactions, overlaps and potential areas for closer coordination.

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