Marine life has been and is still under pressure from human activities across Europe’s seas. The combined effects from multiple pressures on marine species and habitats reduce the overall resilience of marine ecosystems.

93 % of Europe’s marine area is under different pressures from human activities and there is hardly any part of this area that is not affected by at least two anthropogenic pressures. Pressures are most intensive along the coast and in the shelf areas, where multiple human activities overlap.

Pollution caused by excess nutrients (i.e. eutrophication) and contaminants is still a concern in parts of Europe's seas. Widespread physical disturbance of the seafloor continues, in particular, in coastal waters due to, especially, bottom trawling. In addition, climate change-related systemic changes further erode marine ecosystem resilience.

Where regional cooperation to reduce certain pressures has been established and implemented consistently, it has worked as shown, for example, by decreasing levels of nutrients and selected contaminants or a lower rate of new non-indigenous species introductions or the increased trend towards the sustainable exploitation of commercial fish and shellfish stocks in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, although this may be limited to specific areas and pressures.

Overall, however, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive’s objective of ‘achieving good environmental’ status, requiring certain pressure reductions and a certain condition of marine ecosystem components, in all EU marine waters by 2020 has not been achieved in relation to key pressures. These include contaminants, eutrophication, invasive alien species, commercial fish and shellfish exploitation and marine litter.

This portal section offers specific assessments of: