UK Marine Strategy

Good Environmental Status

The NIMTF wants to see Good Environmental Status (GES) achieved for our wider seas.

The UK Government has an obligation to achieve GES in UK waters under the UK Marine Strategy Regulations 2010,. The UK Marine Strategy Regulations is implemented through the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the strongest tool for implementing ecosystem based management for our marine environment. 

To achieve GES of UK waters a marine strategy was developed and adopted by UK Governments. The UK marine strategy is revised and updated every 6 years.


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GES is defined in the MSFD 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). 

To assist member states in interpreting what GES will look like, 11 descriptors were devised, illustrating their condition once 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.


Progress to date

In May 2019, an assessment of progress towards GES was published by UK Governments. The assessment showed that of the 15 indicators for determining GES of UK waters, only 4 have been met: eutrophication, contaminants, contaminants in seafood, and changes in hydrographical conditions. 5 have been partially met: cetaceans, seals, pelagic habitats, food webs, and noise pollution. 6 have not been met: birds, fish, litter, benthic habitats, non-indigenous species, commercial fish and shellfish.

As part of this assessment, a six-week consultation was carried out. The consultation set out proposals for updating the UK Marine Strategy Part 1. The consultation document also set out revised targets and indicators that will be used over the next 6 years to progress towards achieving GES.

The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, through the Environment Links UK (ELUK), submitted a response to the consultation. To view the ELUK response click below:

Following the public consultation, in October 2019 a summary of responses and updates UK Marine Strategy Part One were published.


MSUK Part Two 2020: monitoring programmes

In August 2020, the Government published Part Two of the updated UK Marine Strategy. It set out the proposed monitoring programmes to be used to provide the evidence for the 2024 assessment of progress towards achieving Good Environmental Status (GES).

The Northern Ireland Marine Task Force, through the Environment Link UK (ELUK), submitted a response to the consultation. To view the ELUK response click below:

Following the public consultation, in March 2021 a summary of responses and updated UK Marine Strategy Part Two were published.


MSUK Part Three 2021: programme of measures

In 2021, the UK Government is due to publish part Three of the UK Marine Strategy. This document will outline the programme of measures planned to be undertaken by Government and devolved administrations to make sure the UK marine environment achieves GES.