1.1 The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) calls for the achievement or maintenance of Good Environmental Status (GES) in the marine environment by the year 2020 through the development and implementation of marine strategies. GES is defined by eleven descriptors listed in Annex I to the Directive covering biological elements pertaining to the marine environment and pressures thereon. Member States are required to seek achievement of GES, as determined at the level of the marine region or sub-region, for each Annex I descriptor on the basis of a plan of action stipulated by the Directive itself. This plan establishes the following reporting requirements of the Directive:

  • an Initial Assessment of the status of the marine environment;
  • definition of GES characteristics for each Annex I descriptor and environmental targets to guide progress towards achievement of such GES;
  • development and implementation of a Monitoring Programme to assess progress towards achievement of GES; and
  • development and implementation of a Programme of Measures that contributes to the achievement or maintenance of GES.


1.2 The Programme of Measures (PoMs) should be developed in accordance with the requirements of Article 13 of the MSFD. The measures should seek the achievement of Good Environmental Status in the marine environment in consideration of the environmental targets established in the first reporting cycle and by addressing predominant pressures and impacts identified in the Initial Assessment.


1.3 Annex VI of the Directive provides a list of the type of measures to be considered when developing the PoMs. The only type of measures which is however explicitly mentioned in the Directive is ‘Spatial Protection Measures’. In accordance with Article 13, the PoMs should include spatial protection measures contributing to coherent and representative networks of marine protected areas and adequately covering the diversity of the constituent ecosystems, such as special areas of conservation pursuant to the Habitats Directive, special protection areas pursuant to the Birds Directive, and marine protected areas that may be designated pursuant to international or regional agreements. A spatial protection measure is described as any spatial restriction or management of all or certain human activities in order to:

  • Protect biodiversity: such areas should contribute to MPA networks in terms of coherence and representativeness (Article 13.4) and should contribute to the overall achievement of MSFD GES;
  • Support certain industrial or leisure activities which may have synergistic effects on biodiversity protection/conservation.


1.4 The development of the Programme of measures should be sought in consideration of existing measures required under Community legislation, in particular the EU Water Framework Directive, and other international agreements. Within this context, the Programme of Measures should include both existing and new measures which need to be classified in accordance with the categories reproduced hereunder.

  • Existing measures:
    Category 1.a: Measures relevant for the achievement and maintenance of GES under the MSFD, that have been adopted under other policies and implemented;
    Category 1.b: Measures relevant for the achievement and maintenance of GES under the MSFD that have been adopted under other policies but that have not yet been implemented or fully implemented;
  • New measures:
    Category 2.a: Additional measures to achieve and maintain GES which build upon existing implementation processes regarding other EU legislation and international agreements but go beyond what is already required under these;
    Category 2.b: Additional measures to achieve and maintain GES which do not build on existing EU legislation or international agreements.

New measures should be cost-effective and technically feasible, and for this purpose, they should be subject to impact assessments, including cost-benefit analyses*, prior to their introduction.

*Note that in accordance with further guidance provided by the EU Commission, cost-benefit analyses should only be carried out for new measures 2b


1.5 The measures should be coherent and coordinated across the relevant marine region. For this purpose the development of the PoMs needs to consider discussions held at Mediterranean level as part of the project entitled ‘Technical and administrative support for the joint implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) by the Mediterranean EU Member States’*, on the basis of which potential common or joint measures for the Mediterranean region were identified.


1.6 Member States have the opportunity to identify in their Programme of Measures, instances where GES cannot be achieved. Within this context, the Programme of Measures should indicate whether ‘exceptions’ are being applied in line with Article 14 of the MSFD. Such exceptions should be applied only for reasons listed hereunder:

  • action or inaction for which the Member State concerned is not responsible;
  • natural causes;
  • force majeure;
  • modifications or alterations to the physical characteristics of marine waters brought about by actions taken for reasons of overriding public interest which outweigh the negative impact on the environment, including any transboundary impact;
  • natural conditions which do not allow timely improvement in the status of the marine waters concerned.


1.7 The Environment and Resources Authority is compiling reports for MSFD descriptors or themes outlining the existing measures contributing to GES, assessing the gaps in existing efforts towards achievement of GES and identifying new measures and exceptions as relevant. These reports will be compiled into one summary report to be reported to the EU Commission as part of the reporting requirements of the MSFD.


1.8 These reports are being compiled in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders and are being subject to public consultation. They are being uploaded in a phased manner on The public consultation process will run until 28th February 2017.


2.1 As a result of its geographical characteristics, Malta is highly dependent on the marine environment, with a substantial number of economic sectors linked to uses of marine wasters. The management of the use of marine waters emanates from various EU and regional sectoral policies as implemented by different Government entities. By building on existing measures, the PoMs provides the opportunity for a coordinated management regime in the marine environment which takes further existing efforts to work towards achievement of Good Environmental Status in line with the requirements of the MSFD. Furthermore, the measures were developed in close collaboration with relevant stakeholders, which provided the opportunity to streamline environmental requirements across different sectors, also through the proposed new measures, resulting in a concerted effort towards achievement of GES.


2.2 The new measures put forward in Malta’s Programme of Measures would contribute to the sustainable use of marine waters and achievement of Good Environmental Status. Due to the current state of knowledge on the marine environment, the measures put forward at this stage are generally broad measures targeting general pressures on the marine environment. Such measures would pave the way for more specific measures in future reporting cycles. The possible adoption of more quantitative environmental targets in the upcoming update of the Initial Assessment, GES and targets due in 2018 would enable elaboration of measures targeting specific reductions in pressures and impacts on the marine environment.


2.3 The implementation of the Programme of Measures will require financial resources. However, the new measures proposed are building on existing efforts and making use of existing processes or already established mechanisms to the extent possible. This approach ensures streamlining of management efforts and resource efficiency.


The draft Programme of Measures for each descriptor/theme which is subject to public consultation can be viewed at:

Further information may be obtained by calling the International Affairs Unit on 2292 3619, or by email to

Your comments are kindly solicited in terms of:

  • coverage of existing measures contributing to achievement of GES; and
  • adequacy of the new measures to further contribute to achievement of GES;

Comments will be received by email on until 28 February 2017.

Comments received will be taken into consideration in the revision of the Programme of Measures prior to its reporting to the EU Commission.