The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which came into force in July 2008, is designed to deliver “Good Environmental Status” (GES) in European marine waters by 2020. This ambitious Directive requires that Member States with marine territories put in place a series of measures to achieve and maintain GES within a defined timeframe and according to eleven key descriptors of environmental status. But what actually constitutes GES? Moreover, how can appropriate GES targets which reflect environmental status be established for the diverse European marine regions and sub-regions identified in the Directive?
During the European Maritime Day EUROMARES Conference in Gijon, Spain on 19 May 2010, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, presented a keynote address entitled, “Our seas are sick – can knowledge and innovation provide the cure?” With respect to the MSFD he noted that “during this implementation phase, we are learning that the Directive has a weakness ... and that weakness is the lack of knowledge ... A key starting point has to be the coordination of research”. The address of Commissioner Potocnik highlighted the widely acknowledged fact that there is a significant knowledge deficit that may hinder full implementation of the MSFD and the achievement of GES in European waters.
The proposed STAGES (Science and Technology Advancing Governance on Good Environmental Status) project is designed to directly address this knowledge deficit. STAGES will identify relevant European research results and make them available in a usable format for end users, including decision and policy-making authorities, industry and civil society. Through comprehensive scientific foresight targeted at MSFD knowledge gaps, STAGES will identify needs for further research to address these gaps. STAGES will also develop innovative solutions to achieve an effective collaboration between broad ranges of relevant stakeholders necessary to support implementation of the MSFD. This will include a tailor-made proposal for an MSFD science-policy interface, which can channel the best scientific advice to underpin implementation of the Directive in the long-term. In summary, STAGES will deliver a platform to ensure that knowledge generated through European science and technology will be at the heart of Member State efforts to set, monitor and achieve GES in European marine waters.