Achieving Good Environmental Status

The main goal of the Marine Directive is to achieve Good Environmental Status of EU marine waters by 2020. The Directive defines Good Environmental Status (GES) as:

“The environmental status of marine waters where these provide ecologically diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive” Article 3.

GES means that the different uses made of the marine resources are conducted at a sustainable level, ensuring their continuity for future generations. In addition, GES means that:

Ecosystems, including their hydro-morphological (i.e. the structure and evolution of the water resources), physical and chemical conditions, are fully functioning and resilient to human-induced environmental change;

The decline of biodiversity caused by human activities is prevented and biodiversity is protected;

Human activities introducing substances and energy into the marine environment do not cause pollution effects. Noise from human activities is compatible with the marine environment and its ecosystems.

To help Member States interpret what GES means in practice, the Directive sets out, in Annex I, eleven qualitative descriptors which describe what the environment will look like when GES has been achieved.

Descriptor 1. Biodiversity is maintained

Descriptor 2. Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem

Descriptor 3. The population of commercial fish species is healthy

Descriptor 4. Elements of food webs ensure long-term abundance and reproduction

Descriptor 5. Eutrophication is minimised

Descriptor 6. The sea floor integrity ensures functioning of the ecosystem

Descriptor 7. Permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions does not adversely affect the ecosystem

Descriptor 8. Concentrations of contaminants give no effects

Descriptor 9. Contaminants in seafood are below safe levels

Descriptor 10. Marine litter does not cause harm

Descriptor 11. Introduction of energy (including underwater noise) does not adversely affect the ecosystem


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