There are over 180 species of marine birds found throughout Europe's seas, and many of these undertake yearly migrations between feeding and breeding grounds. These include waders and waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, swans, divers and grebes; as well as birds that are usually referred to as seabirds: petrels, shearwaters, gannets, cormorants, skuas, gulls, terns and auks.

In general, birds associated with marine habitats in Europe have a high proportion of threatened species (IUCN and BirdLife International 2014). This is attributable to both human pressures (e.g. bycatch and pollution) and also predation at colony sites by invasive species.

As such, average European seabird population trends are either stable or declining. Approximately 33 % are slightly declining and another 22 % are regarded as 'threatened' (BirdLife International, 2015). In the Norwegian part of the Arctic Ocean, the Greater North Sea and the Celtic Sea, there has been an overall drop of 20 % in seabird populations over the last 25 years for more than a quarter of the species assessed (OSPAR Commission, 2017).

On a positive note, there are examples of recovery of individual species as a result of targeted management efforts, e.g. the banning of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This includes the white‑tailed eagle in parts of the Baltic Sea (HELCOM, 2018).

General outcomes of the  regional assessments 

Within the Greater North Sea and Celtic Sea marine breeding birds have not been considered healthy since mid-2000s, except those species using intertidal and inshore areas during migration or over wintering. A similar pattern was found in the abundance of non-breeding species, except in the North Sea where populations of inshore feeding birds remain healthy (OSPAR Commission, 2017).

In the Baltic Sea similar patterns have been observed with 31% of waterbirds in the breeding season showing declining, compared to 18% of over-wintering species.

Status in the Mediterranean Sea is more unclear due to data availability. However, trends in the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater suggest marked declines.

Outcomes from the MSFD assessments

In 2018, Member States had to update the Good Environmental Status (GES) assessments performed under Marine Strategy Framework Directive Article 8. The present dashboard displays the overall status reported by countries for the features, where the results show which is the percentage of assessments where GES has been achieved, not achieved or is unknown or not assessed.