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Step 3

Development of programmes of measures

Relevant to ecosystem approach principles 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10

MSFD requirements

By 2015, each EU country must develop a programme of measures to reach or maintain GES by 2020. By 2013, countries must report on designated spatial protection measures (e.g. marine protected areas); additional spatial protection measures should be included in the programmes of measures. 

Programmes of measures could include input/output controls, spatial/temporal distribution controls, management coordination measures, economic incentives, communication, stakeholder involvement and raising public awarenessxvi

Countries must identify existing measures (e.g. EU Water Framework, Birds & Habitats, Urban Waste Water Treatment and Bathing Water Directives) and, if these are not enough to meet targets, identify and analyse additional measures. Cost-effectiveness analysis, cost-benefit analysis, impact assessment and disproportionate cost analysis will help determine a final shortlist of measures. The Commission will then assess whether the programme of measures will meet the requirements of the MSFD and will provide guidance on any modifications it considers necessary.

EU countries must consider sustainable development and socio-economic factors. No detail is given as to how this might be achieved, except through the possible establishment of ”administrative frameworks” to help them “pursue their objectives in an integrated manner”. Marine strategies will also require Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) under the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive.

Implementation in the Celtic Sea project area

A wide range of measures will need to be identified by UK, Ireland and France. Those responsible for implementing measures will need to be identified. Targets across a range of descriptors, including biodiversity, litter and noise, give an indication of the areas where measures are most likely to be required by stakeholders.

Governments will need to implement measures, including marine protected area networks and upgrading public infrastructure (e.g. sewage and water treatment facilities and coast defences). Legislation, regulations, incentives and education programmes will also be required. The reformed CFP will be particularly significant for fisheries and habitat protection, and marine spatial planning is also likely to become an important process.

Integrating the various policy options and the timing of their implementation pose significant challenges. Progress on marine spatial planning is slow in the Celtic Sea, limiting the extent to which meaningful transboundary cooperation can take place. It is also unlikely that multiannual plans for fisheries (to be developed under the CFP) will be sufficiently developed by 2015 to inform the programmes of measures.

EU countries will need to consider sustainable development and socio-economic implications. They need a process that provides a transparent and objective means for justifying decisions on, for example, whether the environmental benefits of measures (e.g. relocating or adapting marine activities) justify their economic and social costs, and the case for any derogations (e.g. due to disproportionate costs or overriding public interest).

In developing programmes of measures, transboundary coordination will be vital, and challenging. OSPAR is expected to play a vital role in supporting coordination, as is the EU Marine Strategy Coordination Group (which brings together civil servants from EU countries working on MSFD implementation) and the informal trilateral meetings between the UK, Ireland and France, initiated in 2012 by Ireland.

Issues that are likely to require transboundary cooperation in the Celtic Sea include: measures that cannot be addressed through national legislation alone (e.g. related to noise, litter and fishing impacts), effective marine spatial planning, fishery management plans, and assessment of cumulative impacts of measures and development proposals (e.g. supporting infrastructure for offshore wind farms, underwater cables etc).

The changing demands on marine space and resources from different industries and uses are driven by the demands and requirements of wider society. In order to determine appropriate measures in the context of sustainable development, a wider view needs to be taken to identify how resource demands can be met in the most sustainable way (e.g. what would be the impact of sourcing materials from elsewhere if not from the sea).

How stakeholders could be affected by this step

Some stakeholders could be subject to regulation through additional measures (see Box 9). The extent to which voluntary measures may be considered as a means of meeting targets will strongly influence how stakeholders are affected; discussions continue on this.

To ensure that all activities are more sustainable in the longer term, there is also likely to be greater emphasis on effective mitigation and remediation of impacts in general (because of new indicators introduced by the MSFD, and because some activities not currently subject to such stringent processes may be in future).

Box 9: Examples of possible measures

  • Fisheries – technical measures to reduce fishing impact, spatial management, effort and capacity management, rights-based mechanisms, and eco-labelling.
  • Litter – improved waste disposal facilities in ports, improved screening for litter by water companies, legislation on micro-plastics, public litter campaigns, litter collection, fishing for litter, beach cleans.
  • Coastal water quality – upgrading of combined sewerage outfalls, upgrades in advanced methods of waste treatment (e.g. UV treatment).
  • Protecting especially important biological and ecological areas.
  • Reducing marine noise – restriction on noise sources when threatened or endangered species are in the areas. Major sources of noise are from oil and gas, shipping and marine construction (e.g. piling, blasting, seismic arrays, sonar etc.).
  • Restoration and after-care provisions for oil and gas, and offshore wind developments.
  • Shipping – use of non-toxic coatings, ballast water management measures.
  • Voluntary codes of practice (e.g. dealing with the operation of leisure craft in wildlife areas).

Source: PISCES stakeholders/Defraxvii

Participation in the process will require resources (and generate costs), but will create opportunity for stakeholders to influence what measures are selected, and potentially minimise adverse impacts on them. Early participation may also help businesses plan future investments more effectively. Stakeholders may be able to access funding to help implement measures (see Step 4).

Participation will generate benefits for society as a whole, by enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of programmes of measures, as well as their perceived relevance. Participation by stakeholders will increase knowledge of the condition of ecosystems, their impact on it and the steps needed to ensure sustainable use in the future. It will also foster greater subsequent support and compliance, meaning GES is more likely to be achieved.

Case study 4: Stakeholder Involvement in Implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Northern Ireland

The Water Framework Directivexviii  established a legal framework to protect and restore clean water across Europe and ensure its sustainable use. Involving all interested parties is critical to achieving this objective. Under the Directive, River Basin Management Plans have been developed for catchments (December 2009); including estuaries and coastal waters out to 1nm. As part of the plan preparation, government authorities are required to work with relevant stakeholders to establish the specific water quality issues for their locality.

In Northern Ireland, a WFD Stakeholder Forum was established in 2005 which covered a diverse range of interests; additional engagement of stakeholders at the local level culminated in the: development of 26 local river management plans (covering smaller areas within the three statutory River Basin Management Plans); formation of nine catchment stakeholder groups (each River Basin District contained three sub-catchment areas); and appointment of catchment officers to facilitate stakeholder involvement, act as a link between communities and authorities, and provide the public with updates on progress.

This locally-focused approach provided communities with the opportunity to actively participate in the development and implementation of plans for their water resources; and make their contribution to the overall protection of Northern Ireland waters. The approach used in Northern Ireland illustrates the value of active participation at the local level and using locally specific actions (e.g. training on monitoring and removal of invasive species) as a means of supporting the implementation of national and EU legislation.

Further information

I think it’s really important that legislators recognise the essential role that stakeholders need to play in developing programmes of measures at any scale. Without knowing how the measures could affect their activities then stakeholders will be unable to effectively engage with any process to develop the MSFD.” (Marine recreation sector)

How stakeholders can influence this step

Stakeholders have a significant role to play in identifying measures and should be involved from the outset. They can contribute in a range of ways, such as:

  • Highlighting existing voluntary measures that are already helping to meet MSFD targets, and implementing new ones (see case study 4), potentially reducing the need for additional statutory intervention under the Directive.
  • Where additional measures are required to achieve MSFD targets, making a case for the use of voluntary measures as a means of doing so, and for the inclusion of measures to encourage and support voluntary action (e.g. information, training, incentives and funding).
  • Suggesting feasible and realistic additional measures that will be supported by others, drawing on existing successful examples in their sector (including measures developed under other policy areas) or through collaborating with other stakeholders.
  • Helping to evaluate and test measures, and estimate their effectiveness and costs.
  • Providing information to help determine social/economic impacts, including on business performance (e.g. on revenues, profitability, jobs etc.) and different interest groups.
  • Providing evidence to support over-riding public interest and disproportionate cost arguments, and on how to ensure sustainable development requirements are met.
  • Formally commenting on draft programmes of measures, when published.

All of the above should include relevant stakeholders from the Celtic Sea and elsewhere, including relevant terrestrial stakeholders. Care needs to be taken to ensure balance of representation in order to be in line with the requirements of the Directive.

Case study 5: The Green Blue

The Green Blue is a stakeholder-led environmental awareness programme set up by the British Marine Federation and the Royal Yachting Association, the major industry associations representing the UK marine recreational boating sector. It aims to promote the sustainable use of coastal and inland waters by boating and water sports participants, as well as the sustainable operation and development of the recreational boating industry.

The programme consists of practical projects, free advice and academic research focused on six themes:

  • Oil and fuel, including fuel efficiency and dealing with spills
  • Cleaning and maintenance of boats
  • Anti-fouling and marine paints, including reducing impacts of non-native species
  • Waste management on shore and on the water
  • Resource efficiency on board, at clubs and in marinas
  • Effects on wildlife, including avoiding disturbance.

The project has led to tangible changes in behaviour in the leisure boating sector in the UK. According to a recent survey, some 60% of boaters are aware of the initiative, and 20% have reduced their waste as a result of the information and support it provides. /p>

Further information: www.thegreenblue.org.uk

PISCES recommendations

Stakeholders should...

  • Actively participate in identifying and developing measures to ensure they are relevant, adequate, fair, enforceable and supported.
  • Push for a coordinated approach to the development of programmes of measures for the Celtic Seas sub-region. Information exchange through regional stakeholder forums can help.

Governments should...

  • Involve stakeholders fully in the process to help deliver well-supported outcomes, avoid compliance issues, save public resources and meet targets.
  • Develop and support sub-regional cooperation on the development of programmes of measures. Involve stakeholders in these and make use of existing regional stakeholder forums.
  • Recognise the role of current and future sustainable practices by sea users and integrate into programmes of measures.


  1. xvi.   Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy Annex VI.
  2. xvii.   ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd (2009) ME5101 Scoping Study for Elements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive Impact Assessment. Final report to the Uk Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
  3. xviii.   Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy.

Crab fishing boat