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Challenges for implementation

There are a number of challenges for the implementation of the ecosystem approach through the MSFD in the project area, many of which are applicable elsewhere:

  • The project area includes multiple jurisdictions with a complex range of political, administrative and management boundaries (see Figure 4).
  • Marine governance arrangements are ambiguous, with considerable legal uncertainties and uncertainty regarding institutional responsibilities leading to policies and regulations having unclear boundaries. xii
  • Fisheries are currently managed separately on a sectoral-basis under the CFP (and are often excluded from national marine spatial planning regimes), creating challenges for policy coordination with national marine strategy measures.
  • Regionally coordinated marine spatial planning is not in place, although it is becoming established through various national and EC-led initiatives. The UK is developing a series of fully integrated marine plansxiii. In France, marine spatial planning is moving forward on a more sectoral basis, including the delineation of marine energy zones and spatial protection measures for biodiversity (marine parks).
  • Stakeholders are widely distributed, covering multiple countries, languages and cultures. Despite clear cultural links, the Celtic Sea does not have as strong an identity as other areas such as the Baltic or North seas.
  • The only transnational stakeholder forum for the whole Celtic Sea project area is the PISCES group, which is not statutory and has no formal management role.
  • The commercial fishing sector is disparate with many individual operators, making organised participation challenging.
  • Some sectors can be more challenging to communicate with than others. For example, anglers often act independently, while tourism and marine leisure can have multiple associations (e.g. marine federations, yachting associations and marina operators). These sectors are subject to minimal central regulation, making it harder to fully understand levels of involvement and interaction.
  • The delivery of the MSFD depends on appropriate funding for the necessary scientific research, observation and monitoring to deliver each element.

“Cultural and linguistic barriers are a fundamental barrier to implementing the ecosystem approach.” (Ports sector)


  1. xii.   Van Leeuwen, J., van Hoof, L., van Tatenhove, J (2012) Institutional ambiguity in implementing the European Union Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Marine Policy 36: 636-643.
  2. xiii.   Under the UK Marine & Coastal Access Act 2009.


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